On a Wing and a Prayer

Letter from the Editor: Arvind Jadhav has the toughest CEO job in the country. He's inherited an airline with no sense of reality

Updated: Feb 21, 2014 12:38:00 PM IST

Arvind Jadhav isn’t an easy man to catch. We had tried several times to set up an interview with the 53-year-old chairman and managing director at his Air India building headquarters in Mumbai. But the man had his hands full. After many failed attempts, we managed to get his office to eke out time for us in the capital. On October 26, my colleague and Associate Editor Cuckoo Paul and I flew down to meet Jadhav. The meeting took place at Airline House, the erstwhile Indian Airlines headquarters, a slightly run-down building just off Parliament Street.

Jadhav probably has the toughest CEO job in the country. He’s inherited an airline with no sense of reality. Jadhav’s predecessors, Raghu Menon and V. Thulasidas, had almost run the operations to ground. Air India has accumulated losses of Rs. 9,200 crore — and just about enough cash to last another four months. Air India employees believe that the government will never allow them to go belly-up. Let alone make any sacrifices, the unions were ready to strike work at the least provocation. A lot of people suspect that they get tacit support from the government. Even now, Jadhav has the government constantly looking over his shoulders.

But he hasn’t wasted any time in identifying the root causes of the crisis and communicated the reality to all stakeholders in unequivocal terms. Cuckoo, who’s been closely tracking his progress, says that he’s ratcheted up the pressure on employees to raise performance levels. And some of that shock therapy is beginning to work. Serious questions are now being asked at the highest levels of the government about how things were allowed to come to such a pass.

But pulling Air India out of the quagmire will take at least three years. And as Jadhav himself admits, there’s absolutely no guarantee that he will succeed. But as Cuckoo’s cover story shows, the man is making a determined bid to save the airline. It’s time competent public sector CEOs like Jadhav got a lot more recognition

Correction: This article has been updated. Arvind Jadhav's predecessor was Raghu Menon and not Raghu Mohan as published earlier.

(This story appears in the 20 November, 2009 issue of Forbes India. You can buy our tablet version from Magzter.com. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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  • Ram Rajan

    Well, it is good to know that someone is trying his best to save the airline. Root cause for the debacle is ill conceived merger without attaching importance to HR issues. Accenture, a big name in the field did not even, as it appears, consult or discuss core ground realities and had advised merger with benefits accruing theoretically. Obviously their recommendation might have been tailor made to suit many, who now has started blaming employees for no fault on their part. Still it may be possible to rescue the company by operating domestic/international route under separate entities with a holding company for policy issues.That way at least HR issues may be solved and the management can direct their energy in enhancing market share.Only there should be willingness.

    on Nov 14, 2009
  • ritarao

    Well trying to save an airline that is filled with corruption-the govt has to take a tough stand and make a strong decision. Whats the use, two days and the pilots go on strike and what sort of employees are these who earn so much but when it comes to saving their organization that gives their rozee roti they go on a strike. Cant they all pit in some of their salaries and save the company, instead playing blame game. anyway what can one man do with so many wolves and hyynas.

    on Nov 10, 2009
  • kakku2722

    He is nobody, he is only HIS MASTERS VOICE, his masters intention is to kill the Indian Airlines which is the only competitor to Private Airlines, whether you like it or not the truth is that. Inspite of all the misdeeds by the Minister and his puppets, it is still giving tough fight to Private Airlines. That is the reason for merging it with the Maharaja and making it as a sick unit, regardless of whatever you get from the High Profile Management...

    on Nov 8, 2009
  • abacus

    Missing.<br /> Think it should be raghu 'menon' above...with the PMO that we have you cant be 'mohan' and be an AI posting. Anyways, that apart...who's instruction were Menon and Thulasidas following ? A certain Patel no? Missing. <br /> No wonder the cover is empty...atleast you drop hints - honest and ethical ones! fab. Thanks

    on Nov 6, 2009
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