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Vistara is an Indian airline, SIA only helped us to establish: Sanjiv Kapoor

There should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind about the fact that Vistara is an Indian company that aims to serve the community, says Sanjiv Kapoor.

, ET Bureau|
Mar 07, 2016, 04.00 AM IST
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There should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind about the fact that Vistara is an Indian company that aims to serve the community, says Sanjiv Kapoor.
There should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind about the fact that Vistara is an Indian company that aims to serve the community, says Sanjiv Kapoor.
There should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind about the fact that Vistara is an Indian company that aims to serve the community and bring people and regions closer, says Sanjiv Kapoor, the new chief strategy & commercial officer at the TATA SIA Airlines-run full service carrier. Kapoor joins the airline at a time when incumbent carriers are raising questions over the effective control of Vistara, along with that of Tata Sons’ other venture, AirAsia India. In his first interview after assuming charge at Vistara, Kapoor tells ET’s Mihir Mishra that his entry is an evidence that the airline is hiring people from the industry. Edited excerpts:

What are going to be your focus areas at Vistara?

My focus areas are going to be strategy, network, pricing and revenue management, sales, distribution, marketing, and ground and in-flight services. The idea is to make Vistara a world-class airline that Indians can be proud of both domestically and internationally. Advantage here is that anyone who has flown Vistara, without exception, sings its praises. I was recently at a gathering, where some had flown and others had not. The ones who had not said that they wanted to fly but where do you fly is what they asked. So, it suggests that there is a visibility and awareness gap and we need to bridge that gap through targeted marketing campaigns.

Vistara is the only airline that offers premium economy in the domestic market and recently announced to reduce seats in the premium class, including premium economy. How does it go from here?

In the airline industry, you learn a lot from the historical data. From one year of our experience, we realised that the premium class seating needed to be adjusted. India is a price-sensitive market and a large number of people travel economy. But with a superior product coupled with attractive pricing, we believe, there is a segment that will return to premium classes. I believe there is a space for premium economy. It is the right product to have. We will make adjustments to the offerings like pricing differential on various routes, time and other factors.

Would we also see aggressive expansion by Vistara?

The airline started conservatively because you need to walk before you run. Utilisation started off conservative but its increasing from the summer schedule. With the same fleet of nine aircraft, we expect to have 20% more flights in the first part of summer. By the end of summer schedule, we will have 13 aircraft and we will be operating 80% more flights than today. One aircraft is coming in May then one each in June, September and October. We will be adding new stations as well, including non-metros.

The Federation of Indian Airlines has alleged that the newer carriers do not follow effective control. Do you think your joining Vistara should address those concerns? My entry is an evidence that Vistara is hiring people from the industry depending on the requirements they have.

Singapore Airlines (SIA) surely had deputed experts with a mandate to establish the airline first and then move back when their job is over. A few of them have already completed their term and gone back to SIA. That was our startup phase when we needed expert support from SIA as they are known around the world for service excellence.

As far as Vistara is concerned, it is an Indian company that works under the supervision of the chairman, who too is a long-time Tata veteran. We are encouraged to learn from our own experiences. For example, the Vistara mobile app, like every other technology, was designed by the airline itself with the help of TCS. So, there should not be any doubt in anyone’s mind about the fact that this airline is absolutely made in India to serve the community and bring people and regions closer.

You left SpiceJet only after it started making profits. Did you time your exit?

I certainly did not want to leave before the job was done. The airline changed hands in January 2015 and SpiceJet reported profits in less than two months later in March. Clearly, the platform was well set for the new owner. The funding coming in with ownership change and oil prices coming down helped the airline achieve profitability faster that one might have expected earlier. But the job was still not complete. There is a new promoter and you just do not want to leave. You do not want the staff who stood by you, to feel you are abandoning them. However, after a few quarters, the situation was stable and it was time for me to move on.

However, I will always be proud of what we achieved with SpiceJet at a time oil prices were at a record high and despite having no funding.

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