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Tatas to control AirAsia India: Story behind

People in the know said the Tatas sought the amendment after being nudged by the aviation ministry, which is yet to give its nod for the airline's foreign operations

Kanishka Gupta  |  New Delhi 

From now onwards, all the core operations, including commercial, finance, training and operations of India will be directed independently by Tata Sons, not its Malaysian parent, Berhad, holding 51 and 49 per cent shares respectively.

This happened after both agreed to amend a controversial brand licensing agreement, which was signed in 2013, and handed power and rights to use the brand.

However, it was mired in controversy as key decisions needed approval from the parent. Besides, this also raised concerns that the daily management was being handled by foreign nationals. India’s civil aviation regulations mandate the effective control of airlines jointly owned by Indian and foreign entities lie with the Indian firm.

People in the know said both entities were finalising the revised agreement. A draft agreement submitted to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and reviewed by Business Standard says that sales and distribution, revenue management, network planning, catering and in-flight services, finance and corporate finance, customer experience, engineering, and leasing contracts will now be under the sole discretion of

These require approval from the parent under the present agreement. A spokesperson of AirAsia Berhad directed the queries to the Indian unit, but the spokesperson refused to comment.

In case you don’t know, AirAsia Berhad has similar agreements with the other three affiliates — Thai AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, and Indonesia AirAsia. These, along with AirAsia India, pay annual fees for using the AirAsia brand.

In view of this recent move, a Tata group executive said and I quote “Earlier, a lot of core functions such as revenue management, sales, and leasing needed expertise of the joint venture partner, but now the airline is fully capable of handling the functions.”

The Tatas have already appointed key executives from its group firms in Air Asia India. In 2018, it appointed Tata lifer Sunil Bhaskaran as chief executive. Last month, it appointed Titan’s Vikas Agarwal as chief financial officer. And has appointed Tata Steel executive Ranganathan R advisor to the CEO, recently.

The commercial unit now has a full-fledged office at Gurugram and has established a crew training unit at Bengaluru. Recently, it appointed former IndiGo executive Ankur Garg as chief commercial officer.

However, people in the know said the Tatas sought the amendment after being nudged by the aviation ministry, which is yet to give its nod for the airline’s foreign operations.

The Delhi High Court had also ordered an investigation by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in 2017, following which the DGCA had given it a clean chit.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had, on May 29, raided the offices of AirAsia India. This was after it had filed a complaint against Tony Fernandes and others on May 28 for allegedly lobbying with the government for overseas flight permits and violating rules preventing foreign airlines from controlling Indian operators.

Despite having more than 20 aircraft, the carrier is waiting for permission to fly abroad as government officials remain cautious...

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First Published: Wed, December 25 2019. 13:56 IST
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