“Privatisation of Air India is one of the options”

New civil aviation minister P Ashok Gajapathi Raju wants Air India to pull up its socks if it wants to evade selloff

sweta-ranjan

Sweta Ranjan | November 15, 2014



Photo: Arun Kumar

The beleaguered national flag carrier may soon get privatised. The Maharaja carrying a red balance sheet may not remain a public entity. In an exclusive interview to Governance Now P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju, civil aviation minister, clearly said the government was seriously considering the issue of privatising Air India. He said, “Air India is an airline. Once upon a time an airline which had the largest number of aircraft. Probably, it still has the largest reach within India. So it has its strengths. On the economic side, it has a red balance sheet, which is a major impediment there, and whatever decisions they have taken, a large number of them do not make commercial sense. In that sense the airline is burdened. We are not against or for public sector. They have to perform.” Asked if the government was clear about the privatisation of the Maharaja, he said, “Yes why not? It’s one of the options. There are few options available. This could be one.”

Don’t you think it should remain as a public entity?
Why, what is the thing? What is so sacrosanct (about Air India)?

But the challenge is to turn the loss-making public entity into a private one.
The challenge aside. What should be the focus of the government…?

To make it profitable…?
It has to be a sustainable airline. This paramount (point) we should keep in mind. How it is managed, how it is owned, I think, is immaterial.

Who do you blame for the disaster?
I don’t want to blame anyone.

The work culture…?
The work culture has a lot to do with it. How you motivate a team is important and where your focus ought to be. I am not against public sector at all. I won’t be able to justify this to the country. So, they will have to pull up their socks and they will have to work.

All major airlines operating in India, except IndiGo, none of them is making profits.
One should have a business plan. IndiGo is also flying in the same skies.

What difference you see when you compare Indigo and Air India work culture?
When we look at it, we find all people working in IndiGo take pride in their job. I have traveled as a passenger in IndiGo. I have traveled as a civil aviation minister also in IndiGo, they fly on time. They take pride in their work. Somehow, I don’t find the same pride (among Air India employees). So, if you take pride in your work you do that much better. In today’s context it is basically hospitality industry. Customer has to feel good. There are people who feel good on Air India, there are also people who do not feel good.

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