Ajay Singh reminisces troubled days, looks ahead as SpiceJet celebrates its 11 years

It was a night of festivity, music and live performances for SpiceJet management as the airline celebrated, with much fervor, its eleventh anniversary. The event saw the participation of civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, secretary civil aviation and other key members of the industry. There was no pretence on Ajay Singh’s part, who very candidly shared how the airline managed to get over a major crisis and took to the skies again. He was congratulated by a well-attended gathering for the remarkable turn-around.  While on the policy front, speaking to TF on the sidelines of the event, Ashok Gajapathi Raju shared that the draft policy for civil aviation was in an advanced stage and he expected some positive development shortly.

It is an anniversary that very nearly did not happen: Ajay Singh

Mr Ajay Singh, CMD, SpiceJet2Thanking the gathering for their presence on the 11th anniversary of, once beleaguered domestic carrier, SpiceJet, Ajay Singh said that it was an anniversary that very nearly did not happen.

“There is no way SpiceJet could have gotten out of the problems that we were in 2014, without the support of the ministry. The airline had pretty much shutdown on 16th of December, 2014. SpiceJet cancelled all its flights. Everything that could possibly go wrong had gone wrong,” he recounted troubled days when the once high-flying company had faced existential crisis. “Leasers wanted their planes back and people wanted their money back; government wanted its taxes and oil companies would not give us fuel, and almost everything was grounded,” he added. Crediting the relentless support of Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Minister, Civil Aviation for making SpiceJet’s revival a reality, he said, “Their support made our revival possible and ensured that SpiceJet did not become another Kingfisher!” He also credited the ministry for its unprecedented levels of transparency in operation and the minister for his round-the-clock availability to help in any issue.

We are different from the previous government: Gajapathi Raju

Shri Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Hon'ble Minister of Civil Aviation, GoI1Ashok Gajapathi Raju, Minister Civil Aviation was all praise for Ajay Singh, when asked about the commendable turn-around of the airline. “They (the airline) have done a marvelous job; you (Ajay Singh) have put it back on its feet.”  He, however, was quick to highlight that the government was keen to be different than the previous regime. “We felt that there needed to be a change from the previous government’s policies that allowed airlines to die out,” he said.  Adding that a policy was sought out to be developed, so that economic activity could happen, he said that a draft policy was put in the public domain. “We got their suggestions and there onwards, we have been developing it. It is an advanced stage now and we think that this policy, which will be unveiled shortly, will be helpful to the larger aviation community and everybody connected with aviation,” said the minister. 

He also said that it would help them plan their businesses as they would better understand the direction in which the government and policy was moving. “Any policy is not true for all times. So, after a few years it will have to be reviewed,” he said.

Indian aviation can grow at a rate of hundred percent y-o-y: Rajiv Nayan Choubey, secretary, Civil Aviation

Rajiv Nayan Chaubey1Asking the gathering to take a guess at the number of times an average middle-class Indian flew, he, after several wrong attempts from the audience, shared that it was abysmally low at once in five years! “Just imagine. Once in five years. It is one way and not a return journey. It is that poor, where as a middle-class Indian has a disposable income, in purchasing power parity term, is equal to, probably, a typical European family. And, still he flies once in five years. You can just imagine the kind of opportunity that awaits, not only, for SpiceJet but all airlines company,” he stressed.

Assuring that the ministry was making gallant strides towards that journey, he shared that the ministry has been trying to make an average Indian fly every time he travels, instead of taking a bus, train or any other mode of conveyance. “We are trying to incorporate all of it in the new Civil Aviation policy. Hindustan Lever, now UniLever, discovered that the real growth will happen in tier-2 and tier-3 cities. And, that is where the challenge lies for SpiceJet, if you can capture this moment – when the civil aviation sector is going to bring in these cities within its network – by doing even small things, I think you would have won the day,” he noted.

“So, while we celebrate today, which is a very well-deserved celebration, remember that there are exciting times ahead for you,” he added.

Highlighting that Indian domestic aviation market had witnessed a remarkable 25 percent growth in traffic as compared to a similar period in the previous year, he said: “no other sector in the country has grown at this rate. No other country has grown at this rate in civil aviation.”

Contesting that global circumstances had an equal impact on all nations and their carriers, he pointed out towards the phenomenon of drop in oil-prices. “Aviation sector in all countries have benefitted by it. But none have matched our growth. Our next target should be growing at 100 percent. If we look at the number of people taking to the skies in the last financial year, 2015, to three hundred and fifty million, which is the current population of middle-class Indians, a five-fold increase in numbers in the next five years, it will, roughly, be about hundred percent per year. Such is the potential of the Indian market,” the secretary said.  He further added that the ministry was on its way to creating an ecosystem which will make it a reality. Commenting on the success of SpiceJet, he said it was a nimble-footed company and not afraid of operating a multi-configuration fleet. “Not many companies generally do that,” he said.

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