Debt-ridden Air India, which has not made a profit since 2007, has hired a former railway bureaucrat who has written a book on steam engines to fix its financial woes.
Ashwani Lohani, who describes himself as “Mr Turnaround”, will take over as the airline’s chairman and managing director this week. As well as his book on steam locomotives, Lohani has also written a book on management. Lohani’s previous roles include stints at India’s railways and the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation.
Lohani holds four engineering degrees and is credited with the turnaround of the Madhya Pradesh tourism operation and the India Tourism Development Corporation, The Hindu newspaper reports.
Airwise.com points out that Lohani faces a major task. Once India’s biggest carrier, Air India’s market share has shrunk to just 15%. The long-established legacy airline faces increased competition from low-cost carriers in the private sector.
Air India has debts of INR 500 billion (USD 7.6 billion) and annual interest costs of USD 600 million. It received a USD 5.8 billion government bailout in 2012 but is likely next month to post another operational loss for the 2014-15 financial year.
Fleet modernisation, sale of assets and lower fuel costs should help the airline – and ‘Mr Turnaround’ will no doubt help as well.
Lohani is the first railway service officer to be made chairman and managing director of Air India.
His LinkedIn profile describes him as “a highly decorated officer who is also known as Mr Turnaround.” He is currently working as managing director of MPTDC in Bhopal.
Written by Peter Needham