AirAsia India has appointed Vikas Agarwal, a Titan executive, as Chief Financial Officer (CFO). The appointment became essential as current CFO Deepak Mahendra decided against further extension.
Mahendra, who was appointed in February 2017 for a two-year period, had extended his term by five months.
In his previous role, Agarwal was vice-president at Titan, in which the Tatas hold 25 per cent stake. Prior to Titan, he had worked in Madura Garments (a division of Aditya Birla), GE Motors, and Coca Cola.
The Tatas hold 51 per cent stake in AirAsia India, while the remainder is held by AirAsia Berhad. “Vikas, a chartered accountant, comes to us with 27 years of experience with large businesses across engineering, FMCG, and the apparel and retail industries, where he has demonstrated the ability to turn around businesses, drive growth, and improve efficiency and profitability with adoption of technology and through change management,” said an AirAsia India spokesperson.
Vikas AgarwalAgarwal’s appointment comes at a time when the airline is preparing ground for growth and putting its controversial past behind. The airline’s growth remained muted due to investigations into alleged bribing, financial bungling, management control, and corporate governance issues, by the Central Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement Directorate. The CBI had, last year, named Tony Fernandes, Bo Lingam, and R Venkataramanan (managing trustee at Tata Trusts and director at AirAsia), in an FIR, alleging that they had paid money to middlemen for bribes to public servants for securing the air operator’s permit. As a consequence, the airline is yet to secure an international flying permit, despite fulfilling all conditions.
Following that, the Tatas appointed Sunil Bhaskaran — a former Tata Steel executive — as CEO, in a first. Previous CEOs were selected by partner AirAsia Bhd, said sources in the know. Further, the airline had appointed Sanjay Kumar, former chief commercial officer of IndiGo, as chief operating officer last year. Since then, it has seen a steady increase in market share, partially helped by the closure of Jet Airways. Currently, it commands 6.4 per cent market share. “That Tata is now consistently appointing top executives of the company is a good sign. It means they are confident and invested in the future of the airline,” said an executive of a rival airline.