Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO of Tata Sons, was named chairman of Air India on Monday. The news comes only days after Ilker Ayci, the former chairman of Turkish Airlines, declined the Tata Group’s invitation to become the CEO and Managing Director of Air India.
In February, Chandrasekaran was reappointed as Tata Son’s executive chairman for another five years.
He joined Tata Sons’ board in October 2016 and was named Chairman for the first time in January 2017 following the dramatic departure of former Chairman Cyrus Mistry. He also serves on the boards of various group operational businesses, including Tata Steel, Tata Motors, Tata Power, and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), where he served as CEO from 2009 to 2017.
In mid-February, Ayci, who led major cost-cutting at Turkish Airlines, was appointed as the debt-ridden carrier’s first CEO. On March 1, however, he refused the offer. The cause for this was not disclosed. According to some sources, his close relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sparked controversy in India once his nomination was revealed.
Chandrasekaran was the chairman of Tata Consultancy Services before becoming chairman of Tata Sons. He was the third non-Tata to occupy the job, following Nowroji Saklatwala and Cyrus Mistry.
In 1987, the 58-year-old Tata veteran began his career as a software programmer. He progressed through the ranks to become the company’s CEO at the age of 46, making him one of the group’s youngest CEOs. He joined Tata Sons’ board of directors in 2016 and was appointed chairman in 2017.
The Tata company owns four distinct airlines in India and has been attempting to enforce a healthy shift at the top of Air India in order to revitalise the faltering carrier. According to a PTI report, the airline’s board of directors approved Chandrasekaran’s nomination as chairman last week.
With a proposal of Rs 18,000 crore, the Tata Group emerged as the winning bidder for 100% of Air India (including the airline’s 100% share in budget airline Air India Express and 50% stake in ground handling business AI-SATS) in October last year. Tatas were to assume Rs 15,300 crore in debt and pay the government Rs 2,700 crore in cash out of this amount.