tata group: Chandrasekaran likely to chair new Air India board

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NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: A new Air India (AI) board led by Tata Group chairman N Chandrasekaran will be formed soon even as several group executives from TCS, AirAsia India and Tata Steel are expected to move to the ailing carrier to revive operations. Chandrasekaran, who is awaiting security clearance from the Centre to lead the Air India board, will bring in an expat CEO to pilot the carrier. This will be his second expat CEO hire after German citizen Puneet Chhatwal for Taj hotels.
Going by the Tata Group’s current board format, Ratan Tata is expected to be chairman emeritus of AI, which will mark his return to the carrier after years (Ratan Tata, who holds a pilot licence for fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters, was the AI chairman in the mid-1980s).
Since AI is a public company, rules require it to have a minimum of three and a maximum of 15 directors on its board, said shareholder advisory firm InGovern’s founder Shriram Subramanian. “Ideally, it should have a minimum of six directors for enough diversity.” AI until now had seven members on its board.
On Thursday, two government nominee directors — S K Mishra and V A Patwardhan — and its chairman & MD Vikram Dev Dutt resigned from the board after the Tata Group formally took charge of AI from the Centre. AI was originally launched by former Tata Group chairman J R D Tata in 1932 asthe nation’s first carrier.
AI’s four functional directors — Vinod Hejmadi (finance), R S Sandhu (operations), Meenakshi Mallik (commercial) and Amrita Sharan (personnel) —will continue on the board of the carrier. “Security clearance of directors chosen by the Tata Group will.
Several Tata Group executives will be transferred to AI (with some being shifted to handle specific projects — they will have to return to their original employers after completion of the tasks), said a source. Already, many of them had worked on the due-diligence of AI before the conglomerate had put in its bid for the carrier.
Chances are high that AI’s new chief technology/digital officer and the chief HR officer will be from TCS and Tata Steel, said the same person. TCS will be managing AI’s IT and digital operations. While, Tata Steel, which is the first Indian company to have an HR department in 1947, will handle issues relating to AI’s multiple unions. AI comes with a highly unionised workforce with a history of disrupting schedules for demands. Likewise, people from Tata Motors and TajSats will assist the carrier’s ground fleet and in-flight meal catering operations, the person said.
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