The bidding Air India employee consortium is up against history. Very rarely to date, any airline buyout by its employees has turned out to be successful. In this ambitious dream, has emerged an unlikely and unheard-of figure trying to pilot the Maharaja of India.
Meet Meenakshi Malik
The person behind this historical dream is the Air India’s Commercial Director, Meenakshi Malik. She has sent even Laxmi Mittal, the NRI entrepreneur wishing to join hands in the bidding process out of the race. The iron lady has managed to gather the support of 219 Air India employees who have pledged to rope in a hundred thousand each to buy 51% stakes in the airline. This support she garnered despite two employee unions lobbying against the bid. Indian Commercial Pilots’ Association and Indian Pilots’ Guild had cautioned their members not to be part of any bidding process.
What has been her career graph?
Born to an IAS Father and a doctor mother, Meenakshi Malik has seen ambition brewing since childhood. She did her BSc (Hons) in Physics, post which she aspired to become a management professional. She then completed her MBA from Utkall University in Odisha. She joined the airline 31 years ago as a management trainee and steadily climbed the growth ladder, being a part of all ups and downs of the airline. Before taking charge as the commercial director, she had been serving as the executive director of the airline. She led the famous Vande Bharat mission lauded for successfully bringing back stranded NRIs in the wake of worldwide lockdowns.
Meenakshi Malik’s Air India dream
It is not easy to own a drowning stake. But there is no stopping the iron-willed lady. She says “we know the airline inside out, we know where the problems lie. We are not bidding to win or lose, we are doing it because we believe that we can run the airline well”. Such is the sense of ownership and loyalty towards the airline that she does not fear the privatization move at all. Her dedication attracted instant support in the form of a business partner to fund the remaining 49% stake. US-based Interups Inc headed by NRI investor Laxmi Prasad had offered to join hands with the bidding employee consortium. Things don’t seem to be working out though.
What happened to the Meenakshi Malik-Laxmi Prasad deal?
Interups Inc has backed out of the race to acquire Air India. Its Chairman, Laxmi Prasad had taken to LinkedIn to announce that no separate physical bid would be submitted by the investment firm. Interrups Inc would be supporting the bidding employees financially from outside.
The last-minute withdrawal has raised many questions though. Why two separate bids were submitted earlier is also beyond explanation.
Have there been similar attempts in the past of employees buying out their airline?
In India, Jet Airways employees had formed a consortium with a UK-based group to buyout their airline. The bid however fell apart.
In South Africa also, a similar story was brewing in September this year. Hundreds of employees of South African Express Airways, the national carrier there, had come together to buyout the airline. It was a futile attempt though.
There have been other instances of failed buyout attempts elsewhere in the world too. The hopes are now settled on the Air India bid to see if history is made or repeated in the aviation sector. The process of submitting the physical bids ended on Dec 29 of the bidding year. The much-awaited qualified bidders are likely to be announced on January 5, 2021. The real fight when then begin with the announcement of eligible players. The final winner of the much-awaited deal will take time to unveil. Till then, keep your eyes glued to the NC Airways blog for all airline related updates.
Also Read: Centre open to 100% stake sale in Air India