Almost three months after Rajiv Bansal took the reins of the national carrier, Karnataka cadre IAS officer Pradeep Singh Kharola has been appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India. Kharola is presently the Managing Director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Ltd. The appointment comes days after Bansal was given an extension for three months. The change of guard at the helm of Air India also comes at a time when the government is in the process of finalising the modalities of the strategic disinvestment of the national carrier.
Known for his management skills, Kharola had turned a loss making public transport undertaking into profitable. He rose to the height of his career during Bengaluru's 'Silicon Valley' moment when it emerged as the outsourcing capital of the world. In 2000, Pradeep Singh Kharola joined as the head of Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation (BMTC) and turned it profitable. During his tenure, air-conditioned buses were introduced for the first time in the country. The Bengaluru Metropolitan Transport Corporation has always been profitable since then. He also played a key role in kick-starting the Bengaluru Metro, though it was not an easy ride considering the rocky terrain of the city; the 42-km Metro line took a decade in completion.
The government had earlier moved Ashwani Lohani, hailed as a turnaround specialist, from the now operationally profitable Air India to the Railway Board as its chairman, while giving interim charge of the national carrier to senior IAS officer Rajiv Bansal. Amid the ongoing disinvestment buzz around the government-owned carrier, Bansal had told Air India employees that the national carrier will continue to expand its network as well as fleet. Bansal had also urged his staff to be economical and adopt thrifty work practises without compromising with safety and quality.
Bansal, Additional Secretary and Financial Adviser at the petroleum ministry, was appointed Air India's interim CMD. According to the release, Bansal had served as a director in the civil aviation ministry and played a crucial role as a board member of the National Aviation Company of India Ltd (NACIL) during the formative years of the merged national carrier. He has also served as the board member of the Alliance Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, the release said.
A Nagaland cadre IAS officer, Bansal had been a joint secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) where he had handled the areas of digital payments, IT Act, Aadhaar, and internet governance. A civil engineer by profession, Bansal graduated from IIT Delhi in 1986. He also has a Diploma in Finance from ICFAI, Hyderabad and an Executive Masters in International Business from IIFT, Delhi.
With PTI inputs