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Thursday, May 27, 2010

My Life - Air India Chairman!!!

“Govt crushes AI strike; 17 union men sacked, several suspended”

This is the news headline in the TOI, and that set me thinking. Can Air India ever get out of its perennial problems? Maybe privatization is the key, maybe restructuring is the key. Or maybe, plain shutting it down is what would help it from making further losses.

Anyways, this post is not on air india, and I m not trying to give a bail out plan to get back air india in its days of glory. This post is about Arvind Jadhav – the man at the helm of affairs at the distressed airline, chairman of air india.

Getting to be the top guy at an airline steeped in losses, neck deep in debt, under the intense scrutiny of the media and dreaded by customers is not really a job everyone would ask for. But here, we have this one guy who is braving it all, and trying to bring some positive change.( true, it is not easy to handle the pressures in a messed up atmosphere)

Along with the existing set of problems, He also has to deal with recalcitrant unions, employees who are not too happy with him, and an excess of bureaucratic red tape. The day he took over he found a balance sheet in tatters, a declining market share, poor loads, poor on-time performance, business-class seats occupied only by the airline’s own staff and their families, aircraft flying to routes that do not make money and not flying to routes where everyone else seems to be making money. In other words, a “typical” public-sector organisation that was spiralling down towards a debt trap. Its net worth is slowly, but surely, getting eroded. To add to this, he found an “organisation where people felt nothing has gone wrong” and “that they were doing their best" ( How much true. This is the same that happens in any area where defeats have become the norm of the day!!!)

Okay, now why exactly am I talking about this guy in THE BHARAT JHURANI BLOG? This blog is no news article. Well, there is a strong connection.

Post merger with Indian airlines, the worries have only doubled.( nor did the demerger here in my own situation, help!!!)

To say that this guy has a lousy job is putting things mildly. The airline has accumulated losses of Rs 7,200 crore and is bleeding Rs 300 crore a month. The organisation’s structure is massive and unwieldy because of the incomplete merger between AI and Indian Airlines — there are two sets of managers for practically every position and nothing is shared. Its staff strength is roughly three times what an airline of its size should have. It has strongly entrenched unions who oppose tooth and nail any effort to cut costs. It has a terrible reputation for service and an even worse one for on-time arrival and departure. It has an ageing fleet and working capital loans in excess of Rs 15,000 crore. And it has ordered 111 aircraft for over Rs 40,000 crore, which it cannot pay. ( If your infra itself is not right, there is little you can do to show results. the basics should be in place for you to perform!)

That is not the worst. Being government-owned, AI has to contend with requests from politicians and bureaucrats — requests that it cannot refuse. More importantly, political considerations play a role greater than economic logic when any strategic decision is taken.( Interference for personal gains, and short term wins for some)

When Jadhav took charge last year, he started off with a fair amount of goodwill. He was seen as a competent, sensible and proactive bureaucrat with “fire in his belly” who would understand the underlying problems of the airline and take the correct steps.( Seriously!! that was the reason!!!

Unfortunately, Jadhav managed to alienate practically the entire staff of the organisation shortly after taking charge. He publicly lashed out at the work culture, at the sloppiness at every level of management, and the general lack of energy and ability among his staff who he felt were too pampered and overpaid.(Well, did not get much chance to do this. but yes, everyone is now on their heels and little should you care if they like you!!!)

Jadhav also pointed out that he was saddled with 32,000 people when he needed no more than 12,000 or so. There are many in the aviation ministry and outside who think he is not wrong. ( Works even more against if the opposite was the case. imagine working with 25% of vacant positions at any point of time!!!)

Jadhav’s personality has played no small role in his plummeting popularity ratings. The man tends to tell it like it is; can be perceived as abrasive; does not trust anyone easily; and can be obstinate. He was a shock for the AI workforce, which was used to considerably more placid bosses. (That is a good trait of an effective leader. only if things were happening like the way they ideally should, these same characteristics would have been the talk for his success)

The main criticism that Jadhav’s detractors level against him is that he has “not done enough”. Although the minister claimed in Parliament that things had improved , there is reluctance to give any credit for AI’s marginally improved performance to Jadhav. “The committee of secretaries (CoS) and the Cabinet have been seeking a recovery plan. But Mr Jadhav has failed to produce one so far,” says a senior ministry official. He says that Jadhav has been running around like a “headless chicken”, one day to the east and one day to the west. “He makes presentations, but they yield no result,” he says. They claim that marginal changes in the airline’s performance are at best a drop in the ocean and that the CMD is not at “grips with the situation”.( Oh My God, is this like the standard response everyone in such a situation gets?? " you are not on top of things". The improved aspects are seen as happening naturally. great!! So, why am i here??)

Well, for those who know me, and have been interacting with on a personal basis for the last couple of months sure would understand the connection between this article, connection between this man and me!!!

Saturday, May 08, 2010

FRUSTRATED

Behne de.. mujhe behne de…

Sitting in the more than delayed train at some random station, and just waiting for it to move. These songs seem to be the only respite. I have plans. I want to be there. I want to go there and have fun, river rafting, kay kaying, rappling. Now that would be adventure. But thanks to Indian railways I am here in this damn hole called the bogie, in a small berth trying to fit in my legs.

Like everything else in life, here I am frustrated with two things. As economists would call it: a micro and a macro reason.

Let us first start with the macro reason – The Indian Railways. Can it never improve? Do we Indians not deserve punctuality in time? Are we not privileged enough to be asking for such basic necessities? Why, even after 150 years of operation, the operations part of the Indian railways is still a farce?

Thinking about it, it has little to do with the Indian railways in particular. It is the Indian government. Anything that the government puts its murky hands into, turns into crap. The Indian railways network is the largest in the world, and it also boasts of the largest employer in the world. Why not? There are so many of them who I am sure just sit at home, and draw their salaries.

Totally dejected I am, and not without any reason. I really used to like that dialogue from RDB – “ koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, use perfect banana hota hai..”, but in the case of india, till this kind of government machinery exists, till the railways is just one big lucrative ministerial portfolio, till people are just interested in buying votes, and then making money out of the electoral process like a business, nothing is going to improve.

Seeing things like this, one rather starts believeing in, “you can’t beat them join them!”. Unfortunately that is what has been happening across the years in india, and nothing much has changed. Nothing.

Now coming to the micro reason of my present frustration here in this cramped berth. I hate side seats in the Indian trains. what average height of the Indian was assumed in making this. Indians are sure not this short.

Zindagi.. do pal ki.. intezaar kab tak.. hum karenge bhala.. ( playing on my winamp)

I was supposed to be there on the way to the resort to trek, raft, rapple, and do a host lot of other crazy things. I hate it. Why am I here? The Indian rail to blame, but more than that, why am I travelling on a Saturday morning? Why have I not retired on Friday evening itself for the weekend? I could have taken a flight yesterday evening, and slept comfortably at home.

No one to blame here, except me. People have told me, take a break. Have a life. There is something called work life balance. But I guess then I need to correct things out there. I need to do that extra thing to ensure things are done in my way. I am just behaving like a pure plain crazy workaholic. Am I really one? I am not too sure.

More than six months and have not been home, and have promised myself that I would not till I achieve my goals. I have not realy freaked out much in the last four months after taking over, I will not till everything is set.

My room has the poster, “I CAN REPAIR ALMOST EVERYTHING”, and I will repair it. But then dude, have a life!!! Huh! This is not the first time I am hearing this, and I have never ever felt bad working on weekends, working late into the nights, doing all the crazy travel, but then this time it has spoiled my plans. It has screwed my plans of doing something that I love.

Chill, big deal. I just enquired it would take another two hours to reach Bangalore. Two more hours. It is already two hours late, and two more hours. Perfect. Could not have asked for more. Why am I frustrated? Why? Damn!

For a journey which takes 8 hours, the train is delayed by four hours. Awesome. 50% more time to cover the distance. The driver was fucking drinking and sleeping around the night. Bas%&^.

Was just talking to mom the other day, and she was reminding me of my hatredness towards railways and was asking the reason why I was travelling on rail. I am an idiot (and not the aamir khan types!), that is why.

HATE IT!!!!

Oh girl you're mine... oh girl you're mine!!!!!