“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!!!