Air India is in trouble. But not in as much trouble as it should be as a commercial aviation company. After all, it is India's national carrier and the government has pledged to save it with taxpayer's money. The Aviation Minister, Mr. Praful Patel, made a statement that the government will step in and bail out the company, provided the company is willing to restructure and become a leaner, profitable operation.
I do not know what options were on table for the Indian government, but the broader question is whether the government should intervene and inject tax money to keep things going. Obviously, it is politically convenient and that's exactly why this will be done. But, is it expedient to do so, and we must assess the impact this will have on commercial aviation in India.
To start with, bailing out a commercial entity like Air India is anti-competitive. Why give one company the access to public funds, and therefore an unfair advantage, over the other companies in the sector who are facing a similar market situation and have to fight it out. I don't see in what ways Air India is a national carrier - other than this is government owned - they don't fly Indians for free, service otherwise unserviced routes or is any cheaper than any other flying options. Rather, national carrier means having no accountability to the passengers at all, running late without apologies, and wasting money on useless campaigns when the basic services fall below desired levels.
This whole thing about 'restructuring' makes me laugh. Restructuring in what way? Air India is notorious for its generally arrogant, insensitive and inefficient staff [with many exceptions, I must add, but the good guys are outnumbered]. They have brought the airline to the brink. Would anyone be fired? Can anyone be fired? The government can not even handle redundancies in Private Airlines; it is unbelievable that they will ever be able to let anyone go in Air India itself.
To clarify, I am not a trigger happy manager myself, or even believe that the fear of getting fired is a good motivator at work. But then, knowing that nothing can get you fired is a great thing. Then, you try to get away with murder. Then you sink the airline by not working and expect the ordinary Indians to contribute their hard-earned money for upkeep of your lifestyle. And, this is exactly what is going to happen in Air India, because the government will bail it out and let it run as an usual business operation. Sometimes, though painful, a better way of sorting a tardy organization out is to let it face the consequences of its ineptness, face bankruptcy and go through the restructuring under fire.
It is painful, but that is the only way to change things. Otherwise, with government money, nothing will change. The IAS fatcats will keep running it the way they did forever. My everlasting image of Air India comes from one time I flew between London and Hyderabad and I must recount this here to justify why I feel so angry that this airline isn't being forced to change.
In short, I tried flying Air India between Heathrow and Hyderabad once. The flight was late, but the staff at the Call Centre did not tell me that or there was any information on Heathrow Web site. So, I land up, check in and then told that the flight is 'a few hours' late. Since I had a connecting flight from Mumbai to Hyderabad, and would be missing it if the flight is inordinately late, I approached the customer service staff for an alternative way. But, then, they would not listen. They said the guys in Mumbai will take care of it, and it is not their responsibility. I was frustrated, because I had a meeting to attend - and had run around the airport figuring out when the flight will go and whether there is any possibility of getting an alternate connecting flight arranged in advance.
Well, I admit that it is not so bad so far. This could have happened with any airline, but the customer service of Air India in Heathrow will possibly be most ignorant and arrogant set of people you will ever meet. But, then, I had two other defining memories that sealed the case of Air India to me:
(1) While boarding, and remember this was a 6 hour late flight and everyone was tired, it was a mayhem. The same customer service crew managed the process and they were clearly incompetent. There was a stampede the moment the door opened, and everyone pushed along without any regard to kids, older men and seat numbers [what is it?]. I remember standing there in disgust, and watching in particular a man on wheelchair who sat in quite silence, watching people streaming past him to get to the aircraft first. Indeed, he was left on his own mechanics, as his handler disappeared, possibly to get himself a cup of coffee. The man indeed look dignified and indifferent of what was going around him. The irony was, of course, that this man was Russi Modi, an Indian business icon and an one-time chairman of Air India. Whenever Air India is mentioned to me, I get this picture back in my mind.
(2) The second bit is a happy memory. I did manage to make a fuss about missing my connecting flight in Mumbai and managed to call my travel agent, who called her contacts in Air India, including a GM in Air India. I was of course immediately upgraded business class, received by a senior officer in Mumbai airport, driven through the crew routes and fast tracked through security and put onto a Kingfisher flight. This was so different from the first bit that I was mightily impressed, but I obviously knew that this exceptional [which would have been usual in case of another airline] customer service is being provided because my travel agent knew which strings to pull. I usually make my tickets online and do not involve a travel agent. I instinctively knew that Air India is not for me.
So, honestly, I don't mind calling Jet Airways or Kingfisher Airlines our national carrier. I actually think that this will be less embarrassing. The Air India unions of course has taken the Indian government and the public for granted and they are demanding that the Prime Minister should intervene immediately. And, that displays precisely the sense of entitlement that has brought Air India to the brink: if the government is ham-handed still, the same erosion of India's image will be allowed to continue.
Popular posts from this blog
A friend has recently forwarded me a quote from Lord Macaulay's speech in the British Parliament on 2nd February 1835. I reproduce the quote below: "I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation." The email requested me to forward me to every indian I know. I was tempted, but there were two oddities about this quote. First, the language, which
Introduction : The Business of Gift Giving Business gift giving has always been common and contentious at the same time. Business gifts are usually seen as an ‘advertising, sales promotion and marketing communication medium’ (Cooper et al , 1991). Arunthanes et al (1994) points out that such gifting is practised usually for three reasons: (a) in appreciation for past client relationships, placing a new order, referrals to other clients, etc.; (b) in the hopes of creating a positive, first impression which might help to establish an initial business relationship; and (c) giving may be perceived as a quid Pro quo (i.e. returning a favour or expecting a favour in return for something). The practitioners of gift-giving generally argue that doing business is often an aggregation of personal interactions and relationships, and gift-giving should be seen as a natural way of maintaining and enhancing these relationships. ‘Business gifts, especially one given in the course of the festive s
There is no other city like Kolkata for me: It is Home. The only city where I don't have to find a reason to go to, or to love. It is one city hardwired into my identity, and despite being away for a decade, that refuses to go away. People stay away from their homeland for a variety of reasons. But, as I have come to feel, no one can be completely happy to be away. One may find fame or fortune, love and learning, in another land, but they always live an incomplete life. They bring home broken bits of their homeland into their awkward daily existence, a cushion somewhere, a broken conversation in mother tongue some other time, always rediscovering the land they left behind for that brief moment of wanting to be themselves. The cruelest punishment, therefore, for a man who lives abroad is when his love for his land is denied. It is indeed often denied, because the pursuit of work, knowledge or love seemed to have gotten priority over the attraction of the land. This is particularly
Today, Helen Goddard, 26, a highly popular music teacher of a City School for Girls, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison. Her crime was to carry out a year long lesbian affair with one of her pupils, who appeared in the court and admitted that the affair was consensual and it was she who pressured Helen into the affair. For Helen, a bright musician and a devout Chistian, this is an extraordinary lapse of judgement. Also, she was teaching in the £13,000 private girls only school in London. She was surely aware what the consequences of her action will be. The fact that she still could not stop herself tells us that lovers do not always act rationally, something we always knew. There is more in this affair than personal tragedies. For a start, this has all the dramatic elements: a bright, beautiful teacher more in Julia Roberts mould [as in Mona Lisa Smile], a stiff upper lip school [not unlike Wellesley] and a story like Notes On A Scandal with an added twist. Indeed, Helen
Buzzwords have disadvantages. Right now, experiential learning is one, and that means we put the label on everything and it stops to mean anything. Also, this means reasonable conversation about experiential learning becomes difficult - at times such as this, either you preach experiential learning or you are traditional, antiquarian and hopelessly out of touch. But, overlooking the limitations of experiential learning can cause big problems. Experiential Learning does many things - putting practice at the heart of learning is an important paradigm shift - but not everything, and it is important to be aware what it does not do. Usually, we equate the terms Project-based Learning (the method) with Experiential Learning (the idea) and Learning from Experience (the ideal), treating them as one and the same and using the terms interchangeably. Any talk about distinctive meaning of these terms is usually seen as pedantic, but really represent very different ideas about education.
In most societies today, making profits are accepted as moral, if not especially praiseworthy. This was not as obvious as it appears today – people used to be embarrassed about making a profit not so long ago. Crazy as it seems today, it is worth thinking why it was so. Profits, as economists will put it, is the reward for risk-taking, for putting a business enterprise together in the pursuit of an objective. In this definition, remember, profits are not what it is commonly understood to be – the gross middle-line towards the bottom – but a figure net of entrepreneur’s earning [wages for his labour], dividends and interests on borrowed capital, and provisions for building and other physical assets [a sort of rent, offsetting what these assets could have earned if leased out]. This pure profit – surplus – accrues to a business as a reward to its organisation, for the act of entrepreneurship itself. Economists were divided on how this surplus comes about. The conventional wisdom was,
Nations are ideas. We try to fashion them as territories. But how can a river, a mountain ridge or sometimes an imaginary line in the middle of a field can explain the wide division in the lives, thoughts and futures of the people who live on different sides? Nations are not the people too. Indeed, people build nations and become its body. But the soul of the nation is an idea: People come together on an idea to build a nation. While that's what a modern nation is - an idea - and that way exceptionalism is not an American exception, very few nations are as completely defined by an idea as Pakistan. There was hardly any political, geographic or military rationale of Pakistan other than the idea of an Islamic homeland in South Asia. [In that way, the ideological brother of Pakistan in the family of nations is Israel] This, abated by the short term political calculations of some backroom colonialists, created a modern state which must be solely sustained on that singular idea. Reli
India's employment data is sobering ( see here ). The pandemic has wrecked havoc and the structural problems of the economy - service sector dependence, uneven regional development and health and education challenges - are more evident than ever. Something needs to happen, and fast. To its credit, the government acknowledges the education challenge. Belatedly - it took more than 30 years - India has come up with a new National Education Policy. It is a comprehensive policy, which covers the whole spectrum of education and perhaps overcompensates the previous neglect by advocating radical change. As I commented elsewhere on this blog, it shows a curious mixture of aspirations, cultural revival and global competitiveness put under the same hood. However, despite its radical aspirations, the policy document often betrays same-old thinking. One of these is India's approach to foreign universities. The NEP makes the case for allowing foreign universities to set up operations in Ind
Introduction: Hastings in the history of Indian Education Whether or not one includes Warren Hastings in the history of Education in India is a matter of perspective. If writing the history of education means writing the history of schools, the impact of Hastings' administration would be quite limited. If anything, the rapid implosion of local rulers in Eastern, Southern and Northern India during Hastings' tenure had meant a bleak period for the indigenous education system, as patronage and funds would have dwindled away for many of them. The Company administration really concerned itself with the schooling of the natives only after 1813, as Nurullah and Naik rightly pointed out ( see my earlier post ) and one can legitimately start the story at this point. However, if history of Education in India is to encompass the transformation of Indian Scholarship, on which foundation the new, colonial, system of Education would be built, the story must start with Warren Hast
It's not often that I get to do things I like, but, as it happens, the lockdown came with a little gift. I was asked to develop, by an Indian entrepreneur with a strong commitment to education, a framework for a Liberal Education for one of his schools. And, as a part of this exercise, I was asked to develop a critique of Indian Education, if only to set the context of the proposal I am to make. I claim to have some unusual - therefore unique - qualification to do this job. I am, after all, an outsider in all senses. I have lived outside India for a long time, but never went too far away, making it my field of work for most of the period. I have also been outside the academe but never too far away: Just outside the bureaucracy but intimately into the conversations. I worked in the 'disruptive' end of education without the intention to disrupt and in For-profit without the desire for profit. Along the way, the only thing I consistently did is study educatio
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.