Air India has been running on a bit of an auto-pilot in the past few months. See, they had a Chairman and Managing Director in Mr Ashwani Lohani who was finally there long enough and moving things around to ensure that they were getting back to being operationally profitable. Then, due to an unfortunate event in the Railways, he was pulled back into the Railways department in August 2017. That left his agenda unfinished. A new Air India CMD was not immediately appointed.
There was a temporary assignment in Mr Rajeev Bansal who was holding the fort while the Government of India decided on the next full-time person to take on the job. And they did make that decision yesterday.
Last evening, Pradeep Singh Kharola has been appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India. Before this, he was the managing director of the Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation, where his feat was that he successfully managed to run the company into profit. Before this, he used to run the Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation, which was loss-making and turned it around.
It was important that Air India got a steady full-time hand on board, given that the airline is up for sale and a lot of things are going to need his vetting before going through.
I don’t know how this will proceed from here, given the government has been slacking on their timeline to sell the airline. But I hope he has one of the two jobs, either to make sure the airline operates efficiently or to ensure that the sale process goes through. Because getting involved with both together is going to be an impossible thing to do.