Ashwani Lohani, an engineer-turned-bureaucrat, was on Thursday appointed Chairman and Managing Director of the struggling state-run carrier Air India.
Mr. Lohani holds four engineering degrees, has authored two books (one on steam engines and the other on management) and is credited with the turnaround of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation and the India Tourism Development Corporation.
Mr. Lohani, who is the first Railway Service Officer to be made the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, will succeed Rohit Nandan, a 1982-batch UP-cadre IAS officer.
His LinkedIn profile describes him as “a highly decorated officer who is also known as Mr. Turnaround.” He is at present working as Managing Director of MPTDC in Bhopal and was instrumental in promoting the “Hindustan Ka Dil Dekho” campaign in 2006. He is also credited with the turnaround of the ITDC post-disinvestment in 2001-02.
“When Mr. Lohani came to MP Tourism, it was in a very bad shape. In fact, tenders had been put out to sell the properties, but Mr. Lohani turned everything around. He is a very positive man, very approachable and cooperative. Every employee, no matter what the designation is, has direct access to him. He motivates people to work hard,” Suheil Qadir, general manager of MPTDC, told The Hindu.
Another government official, who has worked with Mr. Lohani in the past, said, “He is an honest professional and does not bow to political will. Looking at his considerable experience with public sector undertakings in the past, he could help turn around Air India.”
The task ahead
The job is cut out for Mr. Lohani as his appointment comes at a time when the government is trying to pull out the ailing Air India from its financial mess and put it on the road to profitability. The airline is at present surviving on a Rs.30,000-crore bailout package approved in April 2012 under a Turnaround Plan/Financial Restructuring Plan.
Air India reported a net loss of Rs.5,547.47 crore in 2014-15 on the back of total revenues of Rs.19,781 crore. While the loss was wider than in the previous fiscal, the airline managed to trim it from the 2012-13 figure of Rs.7,559.74 crore.
AI sitting on debts
The national carrier’s financial performance during 2014-15 fell well short of its internal estimates, which had pegged the net loss at Rs.4,346 crore and revenues around Rs.21,290 crore.
Besides, the carrier is sitting on a debt pile of Rs.50,000 crore and its combined losses stand at a whopping Rs.30,000 crore.
Mr. Lohani keeps an updated LinkedIn profile, tweets frequently and also has his own blog. A section on his LinkedIn profile states: “I can handle sick companies and turn them around. I can write well and can deliver highly effective motivational lectures to students and corporates.”