The departure of Aditya Ghosh as the top boss of IndiGo – the country’s biggest success story in a sector known to be a graveyard for ambitious businessmen and corporate houses – is a chilling reminder of the vagaries associated with the corporate world.
Ghosh was the face of the company as it embarked on its journey to achieve a healthy financial growth and robust passenger traffic.
After being at the helm for 10 years and steering the airline to profitability, Ghosh’s decision to hang up his boots received extensive media coverage and even attracted nervousness for investors.
Ghosh was probably the only Indian who stood out in a crowd of foreigners and expats calling the shots in the Indian skies. In comparison, Jet Airways CEO Vinay Dube is an expat while his predecessor Cramer Ball was Australian. Recently, Austrian Wolfgang Prock-Schaue was the CEO of GoAir and has joined IndiGo.
The question is why are there so few Indians holding top positions at Indian airlines. Jitendra Bhargava, former ED, Air India, feels that part of the problem can be traced back to the working culture of Air India.
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“When Jet started its operations, they took people from Air India and so did other airlines when they launched. Air India was a great airline but it did not have a culture of mentoring people and creating leaders. I don’t see any reason why people who come from outside should be given preference. But there is paucity of talent and no one is willing to take up the challenge and say ‘I can run an airline or revive an airline’,” he told Moneycontrol.
“Though that has changed over the years. After so many years, the sector ought to have produced more leaders despite the Air India baggage because the private airlines have been in operation for more than 10 years and hence the likes of Ghosh exist today,” he added.
With regards to Ghosh’s exit, Bhargava feels that there was room for improvement in the airline but that does not mean Ghosh underperformed.
“If we do a fair appraisal, then IndiGo could have performed much better. They still don’t fly to Europe and USA. I am not undermining Aditya’s performance. He did a great job but IndiGo, given its performance and momentum, ought to have started operations in Europe and USA,” Bhargava said.
The road ahead for IndiGo may not be as arduous as it was 10 years ago but with Indian aviation sector set to scale new heights under the UDAN scheme, it is imperative to note the talent crunch (read: Indians) at the top in leading airline operators.