Under the government, the airline has not recruited for non-aeronautical positions since 2006
The takeover by the Tata group has made Air India an attractive destination for airline executives, with the former state-owned airline poaching top talent from rival airlines as it bolsters its team.
Air India did not favor industry executives under the government. The airline also froze hiring amid cost-control measures for years before the salt-to-steel conglomerate acquired it last year.
“We need to bring in external perspectives and talent along with training existing employees as the airline has not recruited since 2006 for key non-flying positions that require exposure to modern software and technology,” Air India CEO Campbell Wilson told ET. “We want to build a talent pool and prepare leaders for succession planning.”
Industry insiders said the airline is offering 40-50% more salary than industry standards to rebuild its core team.
These, along with the Tata group’s aggressive expansion plans, are the main reasons why executives are choosing Air India as their career path, they said.
Air India aims to increase its domestic and international market share to 30% and triple its fleet size in the next five years.
Arun Kashyap, former head of engineering at SpiceJet, has joined Air India as chief technical officer and is in charge of building the airline’s engineering and maintenance capabilities.
Air India has been dependent on its engineering subsidiary AI Engineering Services Ltd for years for its maintenance needs and is now looking to develop its own capabilities. Kashyap has experience with narrow bodies such as the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 and wide bodies including the Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 aircraft.
In particular, the Tatas have focused on strengthening Air India’s legal and network planning and sales team, which has not seen new hires or training of existing employees for years.
Manish Puri, who spent 15 years with India’s largest carrier IndiGo, is Air India’s new head of sales. Zubin Masani, IndiGo’s associate general counsel, who has been behind the airline’s record aircraft and engine orders, has joined Air India as head of the company’s legal team.
“The initial response to our various jobs has been overwhelming as an entire generation of employees have missed out on the opportunity to work for Air India due to limited recruitment over the years,” said Suresh Dutt Tripathi, Chief Human Resources Officer, Air India. “We are trying to bridge this gap. Our talent acquisition initiative is focused on ensuring that our human resources capabilities keep pace with the growth dynamics and needs of the organization,” he said.
Air India has also strengthened its network planning team with former Vistara executives who have been involved in the development of the airline’s network since its inception in 2015.
“Tata is putting together a formidable team and most people who have joined see an opportunity to be part of an extraordinary turnaround in a very professional environment along with a competitive salary,” said a person who joined Air India from a rival carrier.