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Friday, August 21, 2015

On the move once again!

This time to head the beleaguered Air India, the erstwhile Maharajah of the nation with its trademark logo. The sheen has been lost but not the inner strength is my firm belief and this alone gives me the hope that the skies can be ruled once again. And it shall happen.

My diehard belief in the inherent goodness of men at large who have delivered while I have merely shown them the way is the reason for my optimism. My experience in running commercial enterprises is that leadership by apex management indeed remains the primary issue, while the mundane takes priority and that too in a reactive manner. Providing proactive leadership is the crux and playing on the front foot the easiest way to demonstrate the same is what I believe in.  

Heading Air India had always remained a dream, especially since I was shown the door after turning around Hotel Ashok Delhi and putting on the right track, the India Tourism Development Corporation, for since being turned around myself, the belief that a turnaround is indeed possible had festered inside me.

And now the moment of truth has indeed arrived. All my beliefs, and there are many would now be put to test and I will realize whether I was wrong or right. Yet I have to be right for I cannot afford the ignominy of defeat especially in my last tenure. My firm belief that will power is still the biggest power to overcome any obstacle and impeccable integrity and adherence to value systems the only way to perform miracles would now once again be put to test.

My stint at ITDC helped, for I witnessed a tremendous team-work amongst employees, something that till then was never considered possible. And when the team rises, as I pleasantly witnessed, a turnaround emerges. Yet hard work has to act as the major ingredient of the pie.

And Madhya Pradesh Tourism has been fun. With open support from the powers that be, the men at the corporation rose to the occasion to propel the state to the forefront of tourism in the country and the corporation, a perfect commercial enterprise.

A motorcycle advertisement where the rider blends with his bike and they become one has been one of my greatest inspirations. That is the crux, the CEO has to completely blend with the organization that he heads, almost like sugar in water and then the decisions that he takes would invariably tend to be right. Gut alone provides the right answers in commercial organizations, I have almost always realized.

Like always before I shall not fail this time also, perhaps my last innings in the service of the nation, is a promise that I have made to myself.

May God give me the strength!


  1. Sir, You will certainly get success. Best Wishes

  2. Congratulations sir.I sincerely hope air India will reach new heights under your leadership.As an air India employee I am with you

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  4. Best wishes sir for your new journey. We have full belief that you will turnaround Air India. Aviation industry itself is beleaguered. It is full of unhealthy competition kind of stuff. We need a leader in industry that will turnaround the face of whole industry.

  5. Very well articulated sir ! Air India is not just an airline but an institution that has both withstood and celebrated the travails and triumphs of decades of history . We have survived both World Wars, the Great Economic Depression of the 1920s , the Oil Shock of the 70s, the Chinese Agression , the Indo Pak wars and responded with aplomb each time we have been asked to serve the nation. The Gulf War Evacuation and the recent Yemen evacuation are stellar examples of how Air Indians can outshine any organisation with proper leadership and
    motivation. Despite the financial setbacks that have saddled the airline (by questionable decisions taken by the earlier powers that be ) Air India continues to be one of the worlds safest airlines thanks to its highly skilled work force . All we need is good leadership ( with a bottom up management approach) and teamwork based on professional excellence, trust , ethics, values , honesty and transparency beginning at the very top. We must not forget that Air India flies the flag of a nation of one billion people and a 5000 year old civilization and culture that has withstood the tests of time. We are in the midst of one of the fastest growing economies of the world with enormous opporunities. Let us derive renewed inspiration and strive forward as an unconquerable team. The Maharajah of Air India may be ill but blue blood still runs in his veins. Long live the Mahrajah! And Long Live Air India!! .

  6. This move UP by one who has been a true leader is being seen as an achievement by many! Only yesretday I got a call from Lucknow, asking for Mr Lohani's number and for a request to pass on their complements to him! When a leader progresses, his praja also feels that is has progressed!

    Air India guys -- The Indian Railways staff is handing over its leader to you... it is all our loss and your gain! Make the best of it...

  7. From a retired employee of AI... Sir, you are entering Air India at it's nadir.It is caught in a morass of financial mess, having to service loans beyond it's capabilities, the morale of the working employees is at it's lowest, it is not even making running costs, the ministry interferes in day to day running. I wish you the best of luck. PLEASE try and take the employees with you, lend them an ear. Do not be taken in by rosy pictures painted by the upper management who have their own axes to grind

  8. Sir, First of all may i extend my sincere and warmest wishes to you on your appointment as CMD of Air India. The airline as i see is right now sitting on the cross roads. There are four lanes to take, but which one? Thanks to the present government under Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi no longer are the middle east airlines able to get more seats per week. In fact it is one of the reasons for Emirates to sink from its pedestal as number one to number three from India after 9W and AI.
    Airlines on the surface is all about glamour, about shining planes, cabin crew, cuisine of business lounges and any other downward integrated things. But the critical components are the pricing, inventory management, thus Revenue Management, of forecasting and optimization, forward selling and above all having a healthy cash flow. In the reservation system you have flights 365 days before departure, and literally this is same as in hospitality industry where you have rooms available 365 days before occupation by guests. Today airlines and hospitality industry both use RM. In hospitality industry you use REVPAR or TREVPAR while in airlines one use Origin & Destination revenue. In the old days hotels used ARR or ADR while airlines used YRPK. In short both used to track yield without thinking of the revenue per available rooms or available seat kilometers.
    Air India in my view needs to look at enhancing revenue and not just yield. A yield of say 20 us cents per seat on a flight is no use if the cabin factor is only say 40%. I not for one moment say that you should not focus on high yield but be aware that all passengers are not of high yield. it is far better to have us cents 15 per seat on a flight with cabin factor of 80%. How do you achieve it, it is my mixing and matching the mix of business available. Also an airline cannot be performing optimally simply by looking at what other airlines do as that is a reactive focus. The airline needs a proactive focus and that can be done through forecasting. Thankfully as i understand Air India has been having RM systems for the past four years and the need is to use it. As you have rightly sated, Leader will give leadership for others to act in a healthy environment and produce. Yet again leadership is about doing right things while management is about doing things right. The need of the hour for Air India is to do things right and here i mean work on all revenue streams with forward vision where the airline will focus on optimizing seat inventory as well as the revenue.
    Finally i must say the middle management of any commercial institution has to be proactive, specially in customer service and marketing. They must be proactive and above all be listeners and not those who do not lend an ear to the clients or to the travel trade. Best of luck in your new appointrment

    1. Sir, In 2012/13 Air India lost rupees 54,901 million according to annual report. In 2014/15 according to news published by NDTV airline has lost rupees 55,474 million. In 2012/13 had a seat factor of 70% and in 2014/15 seat factor of 73.1%. Sir if you look at Singapore airlines annual report 2012/13 it had a seat factor of 79% and break even factor of 80%. At 73% seat factor you have millions of ASK going empty. An empty seat the cost is zero. If you sell that seat to a passenger then all that money goes to bottom line. So the answer here is Revenue Management, that of inventory and price optimization. Through optimal use of RM strategies Air India can easily become profitable by 2016/17 and that I guarantee. India is already the 9th largest aviation market and by 2028 will be the third largest aviation market after China and USA. If the airline is to capitalize on this opportunity it has to be proactive and that will come from Revenue Management Best regards

  9. Man ... you sure are hilarious ! Yet to see anyone more full of himself . Word of advise pal.. first do something.. then talk. Not the other way round. Know what the word "fraud" means ?

  10. Sir,as an employee of Air India I welcome you. I hope you bring your passion into this job too. May I recommend a book for you, ‘Wings’ by celebrated aviation author Robert J.Serling. A must read for any airline CEO. The book is out of print, but one can purchase a second hand copy from Amazon.com or any other online bookstore.

  11. Sir, I wish you the very best for this challenging assignment. It is going to be no mean feat to revive the brand- air India which used to be synonymous with luxury in the skies. It is a challenge but not impossible for an honest, sincere, well meaning Railwayman.Your appointment shows the intention of the government to bring Air India back to its glory. The revival of Air India is important for every Indian, it is a challenge to the nation, if it has the capability of having a national airline, one which every Indian can be proud of. Your success will be a success of India! The entire travel industry will support you for this one. Good luck!!

  12. Best brain is on move now. Good days of Air India are ought to come. We are counting on you sir & sure of your success. All the best

  13. Small cities ki connectivity with other non metro cities is most important

  14. Inter state connectivity of small cities (non metro)can provide growth in passenger as there is requirement of such connectivity ..example.. raipur jodhpur has full on rail connectivity with too much load of passenger but no direct air connectivity whereas the businessman can afford the flight charge if direct connectivity... there is possible growth if un necessary flight ..just being running bcoz of dull policies... are used in a better profitable way

  15. Dear Ashwani ji,
    You blog covers all what ur mind and feeling for going to play the last inning that is power play,where you may shine or may loose ur past glorry it all depends how ur create leaders with in the organisation and habit of time bound reply or solution to the call.
    There is a great potention to rise for its low cost air india express ,your kind attention is required to this airline because of high rate of churning and resignation of captains and cabin crew .The reason is no career progression,less salary,exploiting environment and people sitting on middle management do not respond to email and phone calls of employees.There is a barrier between them.what you will say if 40 captains and nearly 150 cabin crew lefts any company.And in a job vacancy no captain apply and hardly few candidate turne for cabin crew.
    Jai Hind.

  16. Best wishes for this very challenging assignment, Sir! Hope a success story is in the making! :-)
    Regards, Archana Mittal

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  22. Sir, your aim should not be just to turn around the company but also to ensure that it does well forever. No point in turning it around for a short term and then the company going on a downward spiral again after your tenure is over. For that you have to have a dedicated and committed workforce. Based on Justice Dharmadhikari report the company has decided that all future appointments of pilots and cabin crew will only be on contractual basis. Pilots and cabin crew are two section of employees who have a direct impact on the day to day functioning of the airline. How will they show any dedication if they are hired on contractual terms? Justice Dharmadhikari may be an expert in legal matters but he has absolutely no knowledge of commercial airline operations. If the management has decided to run the airline based on his recommendations a turnaround will be impossible. Maybe on a short term basis, but definitely not in the long run.

  23. Your metaphorical transformation example is fitting however in my opinion in the case of Air India the blending of the machine into a man is what is imperative.
    PS: Thus far ALL predecessors have blended into the "bike", we all very well know the outcome

  24. Your metaphorical transformation example is fitting however in my opinion in the case of Air India the blending of the machine into a man is what is imperative.
    PS: Thus far ALL predecessors have blended into the "bike", we all very well know the outcome

    1. What Mr Lohani is correctly implying is that one has to effortlessly blend with the organization to lead it effectively. Earlier predecessors have driven the bike over the poor employees and often lost sight of the road !

  25. Sir, Welcome aboard Air India
    Let me congratulate you for your appointment as our CMD.
    Your blog is like a soliloquy, very clear, very honest. You have accepted the responsibility which nobody wanted to take in today’s situation of Air India. You must have planned your way to improve the situation as it was a dream come true for you and I believe everyone does one’s best to fulfill one’s dream.
    You precisely judged that though the sheen might have lost but not the inner strength and let me assure you if any leader shows the trust in us we will not let him down. You said very sharply that the leadership of the apex management is the primary issue of the growth of the organization and proactive management takes the organization to a high altitude(If I read it correctly).,
    Since you feel the moment of truth has arrived where all your beliefs will be put to test to prove yourself, which will ultimately prove whether you were right or wrong and you cannot afford the defeat in your last tenure. Let me tell you for us also it is the last chance to prove the entire world that we were not responsible for today’s status of Air India and if got a leadership which is determined, dedicated, visionary, believes in team spirit, leading the team like an administrator then we can do the wonders. I pray your vast experience revive us from today’s mundane state of affairs.
    It’s a Herculean task and you experience with ITDC may be helpful to a certain extent but not totally.
    I am saying this because ours is a merged organization haphazardly bonded together without any vision, concern for the employees as well as both the organizations future. We had a delicate bonding, a respect. a pride for our respective organizations, when we were bonded, the utmost care was taken to create a confusion, feeling of uncertainty, insecurity, which lead us to today’s situation The moral of the employees is all time low. Even after we finished almost eight years of merger, our status is like mixing oil and water which gives an immiscible solution where only shaking will not help but one has to emulsify the solution to get desired result.
    You have an experience with MP government and hope you know how to deal with the power, which sometimes is a major hindrance in the progress. Here leadership of the top management has to be dedicated, determined and clear about the concept, which is one of your credential.
    You.said ” now the moment of truth has indeed arrived. All my beliefs, and there are many would now be put to test and I will realize whether I was wrong or right. Yet I have to be right for I cannot afford the ignominy of defeat especially in my last tenure. My firm belief that will power is still the biggest power to overcome any obstacle and impeccable integrity and adherence to value systems the only way to perform miracles would now once again be put to test” .
    Let me assure once again if you believe in above then we believe in you.Together we can make impossible, possible.To get you the best credential in your account which will give you the satisfaction that you were always right.
    Wish you all the best for your entire tenure with the feelings “Together Towards Tomorrow”
    Ms Minoti P Tendolkar
    A Proud Air Indian

  26. Dear Sir....Centaur is looking forward to your MAGIC TOUCH after your success with ASHOKA/ITDC... 👍

  27. Hope Air India will not block the site from its employee from viewing on Air India Network.
    Below is the message we found while visiting this site at T3 Terminal, IGI Airport, New Delhi.

    Dear ,

    This is a message from the IT Department.

    The web site you are trying to access:
    is listed as a site within the category Spirituality

    Current Internet Access Configuration for you does not allow visiting sites within this category at this time.

    If the website has been erroneously blocked, please submit it for re-evaluation.

  28. May your dreams manifest......and the confidence you have placed in AIL be truly justified.....yes one has to blend .....to be....there was another advertisement......about the Taj.......when a figure walks through the property touching each area.....thecaption read..."She is the Taj.....I too was inspired by it.......when the music...the instrument and the player become one.....magic happens........welcome to this beautiful company.......may it be the best one ever for you.......the final soaring note.....carried on the wings of an eagle....

  29. Dear Sir,

    Wish you all the best for your new assignment. Having known you, I have no doubts that "Acche Din" of Air India will return under your leadership.

  30. I was always fond of the Tatas for a whole host of reasons. A few of these was their faith in their employees, a sincere and deep rooted concern for them and the belief that if the employees are given a favourable working environment, success of the company would be a natural consequence. I see a distinct similarity in your approach. After joining Air India, I came across the book "Beyond the last Blue Mountain' by Mr RM Lala. The book is great - particularly the section on Air India. Sir, if you have not already read this, you must. Importantly if this section can me reproduced as a booklet with the permission of the publisher (Penguin) and distributed to all Air Indians, it, I firmly believe, would go long way in instilling the lost pride for the ranks and files of our company. May the force be with you.

  31. Sir, as you would be well aware by now. Air India is bleeding not because of the employees but for reason better left undisclosed. There are merger issues which still are left unresolved, like Erstwhile AI and IC still maintain separate attendance registers, leave and passage records, ONE SET can avail PL for N number of occasions, the other only thrice. One set can avail first half as CL other half cannot. One set works 5 days a week and still gets 14 Holiday OFFs mostly conveniently placed near weekends and other the other set works 6 days a week, loses the 52 saturdays or second day off and is left to crib calling it work requirement. Three regions in the frontline dept in North, East and west avail two offs a week, why should the southern region staff be deprived! Is it not de-moralising when the region has made multiple pleas that have fell on deaf ears. Personnel Dept which makes the HR policy enjoys 5 day week while denying the same for Frontline staff. Talk about fairness!

  32. Sir I was delighted to learn of your taking charge at the helm of affairs at the national carrier. I am sure this stint of yours will create a vibrant and commercially successful airline in the same class as the best in the world. Wishing you the best and hoping our paths cross again sometime soon; For every time i have met with you, I have been positively enthused to do MORE. Yeh Dil Maange more.

  33. Very well written Sir,
    All the best with this new assignment. I personally feel Air India can be revived, of course it will take time and money.
    Spent almost 24 years, last few years as a Training Captain. Left AI as there was not much remaining for a Professional.
    India needs more people like you in the bureaucratic system.

    Jai Hind

  34. Dear Sir,
    Congratulation on your new assignment. I truly agree with your statement that the CEO has to blend with the organisation. Air India has traditionally been run from the Ivory Towers. There is now a big disconnect between the management sitting in the ivory towers and the masses on the floor shop. There is a need to get your hands dirty with the men. Let your team of directors spend as much time with the men rather than hiding behind in the cubicles.
    You will have to lead your team from the front and spend atleast one week in each department working with the men. Once they are comfortable with your presence and realise that you are one of them they will go to any extent to do a great job.
    Please reward good work publicly and glorify , at the same time come down heavily on the non performers.
    The management should not get top heavy because decision making takes long and key personnel are not approachable or correct information does not pass on to them.
    7/11 at the Taj is a great example where the staff sacrificed their lives for the company. Let us raise the the employee's morale and take them together.
    In the last 2 years, more than 100 pilots have left for greener pastures. Has anyone stopped them, found the casue and addressed the issue? As per data in 2014 IndiGo upgraded more than a 100 co-pilots to captains but AirIndia managed only less than 50. There is a severe crisis of shortage of crew but AirIndia refuses to react and allow them to leave.
    If we follow the famous 80:20 rule. Solve 20% of your issues, they will take care of the remaining 80%.
    I wish you the best and am sure you will lead AI to glory.

  35. Well, that employee moral is low and that they need motivation is as much a fact as it is overstaffed. Plus there are people who are willing to leave and may never come back excited for a variety of reasons. The simple thing would be to offer VRS to people 15-20 years of remaining service that way the cost over the years on them could be saved and contractual and fresh staff can be infused. This is unburden the extra costs the airline will pay long term, plus younger people are more likely to take the plunge and help in reduction of numbers. There is a small possibility of losing good staff but thats not a very big risk since there are many more enthusiasts eager to join and perform. The staff who are disgruntled will continue to add only deadweight and giving people an option will at least provide freedom of choice and the ones who stay will be more devoted and efficient. Hope Sir, that you read this comment.

    1. This must not apply to specialists such as pilots. The only way to keep an airline operation safe is to have experienced , skilled pilots and such pilots on large wide body aircraft cannot be plucked off a shelf. The airline ought to have pilots who are so good that they can join any of the world's best airlines anytime they want yet treat them so well that they never leave. This is how the world's best airlines are run.

  36. It was great effort to meet with the pilots who had resigned. It will go a long way in establishing a rapport.
    There is a need to have a buyin with the employees. Once the employees are involved in decision makers making, they will feel responsible for compliance.
    Training is key. If IndiGo can train 100+ Pilots in a year, why not AI. There has to be a plan and transparently communicated. Anxiety spreads when communication stops or plans are not clear. Management should be approachable, sympathetic and quick in decision making.
    All the best.

  37. Dear Sir,
    In order to expedite training of Captains, there is need to give greater flexibility to CTE, the profit center. CTE needs to have the flexibility to hire flight simulator to train pilots around the world. As the Chief Pilot Training at IndiGo I was incharge of training pilots at 7 locations around the world simultaneously. This is how I achieved the target of training Captains.
    If AirIndia has the Trainers available, then they must hire simulator slots at CAE in Grater Noida and FSTC in Gurgaon. Both can meet the current requirements. They must over hire co-pilots through a tough selection process and begin training for a long term solution. The manufacturers like Airbus and Boeing can be pressurised to make available training slots at short notice.


    Capt Amit Singh

  38. Dear Sir,
    Further to my comments above. I would suggest that the performance of AirIndia express and Alliance Air be reviewed. They need to be merged with the main line and the crew and other resources shared. The cost of operating multiple types of fleet is very high as compared to single fleet. Moreover in the economy class, all airlines are mostly in the low cost mode.


    Amit Singh

  39. Hi Mr. Lohani,

    I have been a victim of potential fraud at Air India and have written a complaint to call.del@airindia.in and sent you a copy at 11:06 a.m. on November 21, 2015. Kindly treat this as very urgent and liaise with Mr. Mubben from Customer Service to resolve my issue as soon as possible.


  40. Dear Sir
    I am an Air Indian from Chennai. I read your blog just now. Your courage and optimism is heartening and is a morale booster for all Air Indians. We shall overcome. Together...
    With Regards
    R Savithiri