The government plans to rope in professionals for top positions at Air India through a global search process, as part of efforts to revive the national carrier, according to Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu.
With the proposed strategic stake sale of the Air India failing to take off in May this year, the government has been working on various initiatives, including hiving off a significant chunk of over Rs 55,000 crore debt into a special purpose vehicle, to turn-around the ailing airline.
Against this backdrop, the government is now actively considering the proposal to professionalise Air India management. Talking about steps for reviving the national airline, Prabhu said there are plans for complete professionalisation. “I have already ordered a global search for professionalisation of Air India completely. All top positions in Air India should be filled by some sort of a global search. That proposal is now under active consideration of the government,” the minister told PTI in an interview.
A source in the know said the government plans to set up a search committee that would look for aviation professionals from across the world who can be brought to Air India.
Currently, the national carrier — which is staying afloat on taxpayers’ money — has nine members on the board, including two officials from the civil aviation ministry. The chairman and managing director is senior IAS officer Pradeep Singh Kharola while two well-known businessmen — ITC chairman Y C Deveshwar and Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla — are independent directors on the board. Ravinder Kumar Tyagi, Syed Zafar Islam, Daggubati Purandeswari are the other independent directors. Air India Director (Finance) Vinod Hejmadi, as well as Civil Aviation Ministry’s Additional Secretary Gargi Kaul and Joint Secretary Satyendra Kumar Mishra, are also part of the board.
Prabhu said debt is one of the biggest problems for the revival of Air India, adding that the civil aviation ministry is already working with the finance ministry to address the issue. The carrier is estimated to have a debt burden of over Rs 55,000 crore and about Rs 29,000 crore is to be transferred into a special purpose vehicle.
On December 27, the Civil Aviation Ministry told the Lok Sabha that the government has prepared a revival plan for Air India. A comprehensive financial package, including the transfer of non-core debt and assets to a special purpose vehicle, implementation of robust organisational and governance reforms by the board and differentiated business strategies for each of the core businesses of Air India are part of the plan. “Higher levels of operational efficiency by strengthening management and implementing best business processes” are among the major elements of the plan.