Saturday , 19 October 2019
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Daunting Stint for ‘Mr Fix It’

WITH his proven track record of changing the fortunes of India Tourism Development Corporation and Madhya Pradesh Tourism, ‘Mr Turnaround or Mr Fix It’, Ashwani Lohani will be the new chairman and managing director of state-run Air India Ltd for three years. His LinkedIn profile describes him as “a highly decorated officer who is also known as Mr Turnaround.” He is currently the MD of MPTDC in Bhopal and was instrumental in promoting the “Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho” campaign in 2006.  His experience in running PSUs goes back to 2002, when he was the ITDC CMD and turned around Delhi’s Ashoka Hotel by making it profitable following years of losses. The public carrier is living on a Rs 30,000-crore government bailout.  With  total debt of Rs 40,000 crore, as on 31 March,  it is expected to turn around not before 2018-19. What are the problems he will face?  Air India’s manpower and overheads. Optimizing these costs and changing the corporate culture will need very tough political will. Also he has to face the whims and fancies of  politicians, though he has tweeted that he would love to be given a freehand to perform. Mr Turnaround can hard play on the infrastructure he has. Route-network wise and fleet-wise, the turnaround will be easier more so as Indian airlines now has two major airports which can be used as hub centres. So, to turn Air India’s strategy to take on Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways and Emirates by positioning Mumbai and Delhi as alternative hubs from Australia and South-East Asia to Europe and China to Africa and Europe, will be manageable. Air India still has the Centre’s backing and hence the “capability” at least for some more time. Lohani has to be given some time to treat the ailing public carrier and we should not expect magic.

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