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How soon will the Tata group rejuvenate Air India?

R K Sinha

The Tata Group is soon to gain complete control of Air India airlines from 27th January. Earlier, there were speculations that Air India would be fully taken over by the Tata Group on 23rd January. The daunting challenge for the Tata Group will be to recast Air India into a world-class airline. The service of Air India has been deteriorating for the past few decades. Its expenses were increasing while earnings plummeted. Therefore, the Tata Group will have to make concerted and strenuous efforts to bring it back on track. One of the reasons that led to its downfall was pettiness in outlook.

There has been no improvement in its service even after its purchase by Tata Group. Looking at the extent of the work, enthusiasm, and energy of the staff here, it is evident that they have lost their willingness to work. In the circumstances wherein the job is secure and the pay fixed, there is bound to be a lack of initiative. A similar instance occurred with Air India. I recently got a chance to travel to Mumbai, Banaras, Patna, etc. via Air India airlines. The situation seemed to be unsatisfactorily the same across all my travels. As before, the same distasteful food and drinks were served to the passengers on board. Due to all these reasons, Air India has suffered enormous losses worth hundreds of crores every year as passengers shifted to other airlines.

We are all aware that the Tata Group was attempting to acquire Air India for several years. Earlier the government was looking to sell only some stake in Air India, but then the government decided to sell its entire stake to the Tata group, then Tata bought Air India for a whopping sum of Rs 18,000 crore.

The Tata group already owns premium-well-functioning airline companies like Vistara and Air Asia Airlines. Undeniably, the conglomerate must have in store a concrete plan of action to revive Air India. If not, then why would they have bought it at all? The Former Chairman and mentor of the Tata Group, Mr. Ratan Tata, and the Current Chairman, Mr. N. Chandrasekhar, and the group of senior executives must be sitting at Bombay House formulating strategies for the resurgence of Air India. The Head Office of the Tata Group, Bombay House, is the place where the operations of their companies in the steel, hotels, textiles, and power division are executed.

The top executives of the Tata group must understand that even though the board of the Tata group is held in high esteem and regard in India and internationally, it has to adopt new technology and motivate the staff. Then it can regain its long-lost stature and position as the best airline. The Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) can undertake all the Information Technology (IT) related work as TCS is one of the most prominent companies in the IT sector across the world.

The quarterly profits of TCS are approaching numbers over Rs 18000 crore. Thus, on the IT front, Air India need not fret. That can be considered a familial matter. However, any industry, especially the service sector, can only gain momentum when its staff also gears up in terms of commitment. The ground and in-flight staff of Air India displayed a severe lack of seriousness and sensitivity regarding the best interests and well-being of their customers. They seem to be just fulfilling their duty. I regrettably witnessed that even after its acquisition by Tata, its male employees continue to work without shaving their ingrown beards, leaving a poor impression.

Apart from that, during the flight, the passengers were not even given the necessary information required by law. As a stark contrast, there is tremendous energy and enthusiasm to be seen while delivering services in their private airlines. They are working hard to achieve a specific goal and fulfil their vision. The old staff of Air India will now have to give up their obsolete ways. They should give up expectations that younger people would not be positioned in higher ranks. As everything nowadays is merit-based, the same rules shall apply. Those who prove themselves will also get a promotion. The status quo of India did not change because the significance of merit was neglected.

Air India’s staff should also be prepared to be transferred to any part of the country at any time. ​​Earlier, in the event of a transfer, all of them used to line up at the doorsteps of MPs and ministers in New Delhi to ensure that they weren’t transferred under any circumstances. In most cases, the bureaucrats, MPs, or ministers ended up helping them.

For the time being, it also appears that Tata Group will operate Air India from New Delhi. However, in the government deal, Tata’s initial wish was to establish Headquarters of Air India at Bombay House. The Air India Building located on Marine Drive is the pride of Mumbai.

Despite best efforts, the government kept the Air India building with itself. The Tata Group then decided that it is going to run Air India from its Airlines House located on Rakabganj Road in Delhi. The senior officers of Air India will establish their base while they continue to get directions from Mumbai.

The aviation sector in India is taking a quantum leap. There will be ample opportunities for all-tier service airlines to grow by making profits for the several upcoming decades. Indians have been relying more on air travel for long distances. Air travel is now overtaking bus and rail travel. Not only is the number of air travel in the country increasing rapidly, but there is also a tremendous increase in the number of passengers going abroad. If we talk about the year 2019, then 71000 Indians were flying to foreign countries on a daily basis. Since then, there seems to have been an upward trend. That in itself is clear proof that the airlines providing the best service are bound to grow.

The writer is a senior editor, columnist, and former MP

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