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Aditya Ghosh boards Akasa to make aviation comeback after three years

Will Ghosh’s 10-year stint at IndiGo help him make a success of India’s newest ultra-low-cost carrier?

July 31, 2021 / 07:59 AM IST
Akasa will mark Aditya Ghosh’s “return to the aviation industry” after his exit as President and whole time director of Indigo in 2018. (File Image)

Akasa will mark Aditya Ghosh’s “return to the aviation industry” after his exit as President and whole time director of Indigo in 2018. (File Image)

Aditya Ghosh is all set to make a comeback to domestic aviation after exiting as president of IndiGo in 2018, having helmed the airline for over a decade.

Ghosh, billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and former Jet Airways chief executive officer Vinay Dube are said to be the cofounders of ultra-low-cost airline Akasa. Ghosh will reportedly own a 10 percent stake in Akasa, which is modeled on RyanAir, the Irish airline that offers cheap air transportation, mostly on inter-European, short-haul flights.

Ghosh has a background in law. He had not been to business school and neither had he worked with an airline before he joined IndiGo when it started.

He was working with a PR consulting firm, which IndiGo’s parent company InterGlobe Aviation had hired before the airline was launched. At that time, Ghosh was said to be putting together IndiGo’s legal documentation and he eventually joined IndiGo as its legal counsel.

In 2007, Ghosh was inducted onto the IndiGo board and became its president the following year, heading all operations and the management of IndiGo. Ghosh was the second president of IndiGo after founder-president Bruce Ashby returned to the US.

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Ghosh made a success of his innings at IndiGo. The airline was listed on the stock exchange in 2015 with the largest IPO in India’s aviation history. Ghosh was the face of the airline, meeting the media and answering queries on the IPO, not IndiGo’s owner Rahul Bhatia.

However, some of Ghosh’s decisions came back to haunt him. Among them was IndiGo’s “unsolicited bid” for the international operations of Air India and Air India Express.

Mystery departure

It all came to an end in July 2018, when Ghosh left IndiGo. Mystery surrounds his departure and many theories abound.

Experts point to indications such as the entry of people from outside 9-10 months before he looked at revenue management and other issues, including the airline’s network planning. Wolfgang Prock-Shauer joined the airline as chief operating officer in January 2018, reporting to Ghosh. Many in the industry said this was a signal of Ghosh’s imminent easing out.

Experts said another possible reason for Ghosh’s departure was that the promoters were left handling too much of the airline’s operations while he was at the helm. There was the issue of the faulty Pratt & Whitney engines on some aircraft.

Then there was the matter of how the airline suo moto decided to bid for Air India, only to pull out once the terms and conditions and the bidding criteria were made public. IndiGo’s bid for Air India, which Ghosh made, saw the airline’s stocks take a tumble.

In November 2017, an incident of a passenger being manhandled by IndiGo’s staff at New Delhi airport came to light, denting the airline’s brand. All these landed at the door of the airline’s president.

After leaving IndiGo, Ghosh was snapped up by Oyo and has been with the hotel room aggregator since then. He is currently also on the board of directors of Fabindia.

“Ghosh at IndiGo was a person displaying a different successful picture and it was a different story at Oyo. Now in the role of a 10 percent investor (in Asaka) he will redefine and reinforce his role back in the aviation industry,” said a person with over two decades of experience in the aviation sector.

Another aviation stalwart said Ghosh was a fast learner and a very sharp and smart person who learnt the ropes of the airline business quickly.

“But it must be remembered that the two co-promoters kept a close watch and tight leash on IndiGo’s business,” the person added.

Customer-centric person

“Ghosh is an extremely customer-centric person who is sensitive to the needs of the customers. He firmly believes in the concept that the world wants quality at a low cost without it being cheap,” said a person who worked closely with him.

However, one person who worked closely with Ghosh said it remains to be seen whether he has the ability to be involved in all aspects of the airline business.

When IndiGo started, it ordered 100 aircraft, making history as the first low-cost startup airline to make such a large purchase. It wasn’t Ghosh who placed the order.

“Ghosh is an intelligent person who is good with the crew, pilots, airport staff but whether he is in a position to manage the domestic environment, be it the airport or ministry of civil aviation or the political environment needs to be seen,” the person said.
Ashwini Phadnis Senior journalist based in New Delhi
first published: Jul 31, 2021 07:59 am
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