Air India may not have found any taker for its stake sale but there's no dearth of its admirers who believe the government can turn it into an opportunity if it makes some changes in the airline's functioning. The first to come out in defence of the beleaguered airline is Mahindra and Mahindra Chairman Anand Mahindra. The business magnate thinks poor response from private carriers shows the government has the opportunity to make it a success, which could also be a smart move politically. "I think that zero interest in the sale has demonstrated to the people that tough action towards a turnaround is needed. There will be widespread support for swift & decisive action. This is a political opportunity," tweeted Mahindra.
The government on Thursday had said it didn't find any takers for the Maharaja of India. The Ministry of Civil Aviation said no bids were received for Air India's strategic disinvestment as the deadline for the submission of Expression of Interest (EOI) ended on Thursday.
On Mahindra's tweet, a user, quoting an Economist report, said Mahindra's views were quite the opposite about the airline earlier when he said "I see myself as a generally courageous person. But I confess...I don't possess THAT much courage."
Accepting his divergent views on the debt-ridden airline, Mahindra tweeted that he had said it then but that "this is now a matter of national pride". Mahindra also offered a turnaround formula to catapult the loss-making government carrier into a profitable entity by suggesting five major changes in the business strategy.
First, he asked the government to make a resolution that it would sell the airline once it becomes profitable. Second, he asked the government to appoint a government official with the potential and passion of 'Metro man' E Sreedharan as the CEO and Chairman of the airline. Sreedharan is credited for changing the face of public transport in India, especially Delhi where he served as Delhi Metro Managing Director till 2012.
Mahindra's third solution for the airline revival was to provide full autonomy to the chairman and CEO keeping in mind the turnaround target. His fourth and fifth solutions were to provide the chairman complete insulation from political pressure and provide full moral support to take all tough decisions that are required to make it profitable.
Meanwhile, Mahindra's tweets suggest genuine concern for the government's inability to find buyers for the airline, though it seems unlikely that he would dive into the airline business. The government plans to sell 76 per cent stake in Air India, 100 per cent in its subsidiary Air India Express, and 50 per cent in its ground handling staff. Apart from that, the prospective buyer is supposed to pare half of its total debt of Rs 54,000 crore. The successful bidder will also need to take on about Rs 33,392 crore of debt and retain the airline staff for a year.