MAY 29, 2022
Tata Group-owned Air India has started hiring mid- and senior-level executives from its sister airline Vistara, indicating deepening synergies in the conglomerate’s aviation portfolio as it plans to eventually merge the airlines under a single holding company. According to information sourced from professional networking platform LinkedIn, people in crucial departments such as IT infrastructure and network planning have started moving across the aisle from Vistara to Air India.
For example, Vistara’s deputy general manager-network planning Kartikey Bhatt, who has been with the airline since January 2016, joined Air India as lead-network planning earlier this month. Similarly, Vistara’s vice president-IT Prasan Verma was appointed Air India’s head of commercial and operations IT earlier this month. Verma had been with Vistara since February 2016.
This month, Air India also recently appointed former head of cabin crew at Vistara Sandeep Verma as its head—inflight services. Prior to being named head– inflight services at Air India, Verma led a team comprising Taj Hospitality group executives to improve the airline’s in-flight amenities following its takeover by the Tata Group.
“There are more such parallel appointments happening from Vistara to Air India across other specialised departments such as commercial, revenue management, partnerships, etc,” a person aware of the developments said on condition of anonymity. Notably, the Tata Group is mandated to retain Air India’s employees for a period of one year as per the disinvestment conditions, following which it can offer a voluntary retirement scheme.
These appointments also assume significance because they are happening in the backdrop of a new incoming Air India chief. The Tata Group named Campbell Wilson — CEO of Singapore Airlines’ wholly-owned low-cost subsidiary Scoot — as Air India’s chief executive and managing director. Singapore Airlines had underscored that Wilson’s appointment at Air India was being done with its “full blessings”. He is expected to join next month.
Vistara is a 51:49 joint-venture between the Tatas and Singapore Airlines.
Responding to a query sent by The Indian Express, Air India’s executive director-corporate affairs Aruna Gopalakrishnan said: “Any recruitment/filling up of positions involves different factors like skill set required, succession planning, business requirements etc. We do not poach from sister companies. Inter company transfer is an established policy in the Tata group because talent is considered a group resource. Group transfers take care of talent as well as company’s interest”.
“Our existing Human Resources possess the requisite skill sets and experience required to make Air India a world class organization. Every AI employee is working with a common goal to make AI a world class organisation,” she wrote, adding that the airline always looks for talent from within the company and the group “before looking outside”.
An e-mail sent to Vistara asking if the appointments being done by Air India were in agreement with Vistara did not elicit any response.
A Vistara official said on condition of anonymity that Prasan Verma’s appointment at Air India was done on the basis of “mutual understanding”. Prior to Vistara, he worked at Tata Consultancy Services.
The Tata Group is looking to bring together all of its aviation assets under one roof, and it has held exploratory talks with Singapore Airlines for a potential merger between newly-acquired Air India and Vistara. Last month, in what marked the beginning of consolidation of the Tata Group’s aviation portfolio, Air India sought approval from the Competition Commission of India to acquire AirAsia India. The low-cost airline is currently majority owned by the Tata Sons.
Furthermore, the salt-to-software conglomerate has also chalked up plans to house its five aviation companies — Air India, Air India Express, Vistara, AirAsia India, and Air India SATS Airport Services — in a same corporate office in Gurugram.