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Volume IconWhat does Air India board composition say about its future direction?

Last week, Natarajan Chandrasekaran was appointed the chairman of Air India. This will give the airline a leg up ahead of resumption of international flights. How is his onboarding help the airline?

ImageArindam Majumder New Delhi
N Chandrasekaran

The transition was smooth. And the mood reflected in the visuals too, when a beaming and relaxed Tata Sons chairman Natarajan Chandrasekaran met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a glossy green lawn, just before the takeover.

Sitting on antique cane chairs across a round glass table on the bright winter afternoon of January 27, both the leaders are likely to have discussed the future of the airline.

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Everything went according to the plans, barring a small departure. Tata’s love for expatriate CEOs, which is almost as old as the group itself, gave it a little trouble this time. Its decision to select Mehmet Ilker Ayci -- the former chairman of Turkish Airlines – raised eyebrows in several quarters back home. Ayci’s previous political links with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan led to a row. Erdoğan is considered to be a Pakistan ally. Ayci put an end to the controversy by declining the offer.

Last Monday, Tata Sons approved the appointment of Chandrasekaran as chairman of Air India. With this, Air India, under the Tata Group, has taken off on several new notes. The first big development was the appointment of Chandrasekaran at the helm of the airline.

Chandrasekaran or Chandra, as he’s popularly known, would also be the accountable manager of the airline. Regulatory requirements say that CEO, COO or managing director should be the accountable manager

Sources told that Chandra’s appointment as chairman of Air India is linked to this very requirement of a senior level executive being named the accountable manager of Air India. Not only that. Chandra leading the airline, till a CEO is found, also gives confidence to the employees.

The accountable manager has corporate authority for ensuring that all tasks of the airline are financed and carried out to the standard required by stipulated law. In other words, the buck stops at the accountable manager’s position.

Even as the hunt for Air India’s CEO is on, Chandra has his hands full. International travel is resuming from March 27, which means that Air India will again face stiff competition from foreign airlines on the international front-- something which it was insulated against for the past two years under Air Bubble arrangements.

While Air India firms up its much needed strategic turnaround plans, the new composition of the airline’s board is a sign of things to come.

This is how it looks now. While Chandrasekaran is the chairman, Sanjiv Mehta, CMD of FMCG giant Hindustan Unilever and Alice Vaidyan, former chairman and managing director of General Insurance Corporation of India have been inducted as non-executive independent directors.

Air India's four functional directors- finance, commercial, operational and human resource have also been retained as of now. There have been efforts to give the Air India board a corporate makeover earlier too. But the recent changes may give wings to the airline like never before.  

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First Published: Mar 21 2022 | 8:30 AM IST

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