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How Tata Group Has Stepped On Gas To Turn Around Air India

The process has started with the Air India launching a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) for its employees. This is the airline’s first thrust to prune headcount and hire fresh talent

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Air India flights. AP/File Photo

Tata Group, which recently acquired beleaguered national carrier Air India, has eventual plans to synergise its aviation portfolio.

The process has started with the Air India launching a Voluntary Retirement Scheme (VRS) for its employees. This is the airline’s first thrust to prune headcount and hire fresh talent.

According to media reports, Air India has concurrently initiated a recruitment drive and is holding walk-in interviews for cabin crew in several metros – Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Mumbai.

The airline is also poaching mid- and senior-level executives from competitors for crucial departments such as revenue management, engineering, IT infrastructure and network planning.

Besides, Air India is also hiring mid- and senior-level executives from its sister airline Vistara and other companies within the Tata Group.

This indicates Tata Group’s ultimate plans to merge the airlines under a single holding firm, as this is the only way to save costs and achieve scale in the aviation sector, which is bracing for another fight for market share, in the wake of the entry of Jet Airways and Akasa Air recently.

Poaching Aviation Talent From Rivals

The Tata Group is bringing in executives from sister concerns as leaders in Air India’s engineering department. Arun Kashyap, who was the head of the engineering department at low-cost carrier SpiceJet, has joined the airline (Air India) as head of engineering, according to a Business Standard report.

TCS veteran Rajesh Dogra, who headed the company’s Passport Seva programme, is now heading the customer experience and ground handling department at Air India, whereas, Satya Ramaswamy, who was the head of strategic initiatives at Tata Digital, is now the airline’s chief digital and technology officer, according to the report. Adil Noshir Tantra, head of TCS for South Africa, now oversees the project to overhaul Air India’s call centre and website, it added.

Hiring Talent From Sister Concerns

There are several parallel hirings happening from Vistara to Air India across many specialised departments. For instance, Vistara’s deputy general manager-network planning Kartikey Bhatt was earlier this month appointed as Air India’s lead-network planning, India Express reported.

Furthermore, Prasan Verma, who was vice president-IT at Vistara joined Air India as head of commercial and operations recently, among several other executive moves across the aisle. According to the disinvestment conditions, Tata Group is mandated to keep Air India’s employees for a period of one year, following which the conglomerate can offer a VRS.

The said hirings are happening in the backdrop of new incoming Air India CEO and MD – Campbell Wilson – who is presently the CEO of Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary, low-cost carrier Scoot. Wilson is likely to join Air India this month.

Vistara is a 51:49 joint-venture (JV) between the Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines.

The Tata Group is planning to consolidate all of its aviation assets and is also holding talks with Singapore Airlines for a possible merger between Air and Vistara.

In what ushered the beginning of the said consolidation of the Tata Group’s aviation portfolio, Air India has approached the Competition Commission of India (CCI) to acquire AirAsia India. The low-cost carrier is presently owned by the Tata Sons.

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