N Chandrasekaran is Air India boss, Mehta from HUL aboard

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI: Tata Sons boss N Chandrasekaran has taken over as Air India boss, the carrier he bought from the government in January.Hindustan Unilever (HUL) Chairman and MD Sanjiv Mehta and former General Insurance Corporation Chairman Alice Vaidyan have been inducted into the Board of Air India (AI) as Independent Directors.

With these appointments, AI’s Board of Directors has grown from four to seven members. Current AI employees Vinod Hejmadi (Chief Financial Officer), Captain RS Sandhu (Chief Operating Officer), Meenakshi Mallik (Commercial Director) and Amrita Sharan (Chief Personnel) are the other four board members. The rules require an airline to receive government approval before new board members take office. All three nominations indicate that they have obtained a security clearance. All three took responsibility last week, a person familiar with the development said.

Although Tata Sons acquired the IA in January, his candidate ointment (Chandrasekaran) application to the carrier’s board has been slow as his reappointment as head of Tata Sons was cleared on February 11.

Additionally, membership in the Chandrasekaran board on Air India required government approval.Typically, the chairman of Tata Sons also chairs the boards of the companies he promotes, especially the larger ones. Artificial intelligence is a key part of Tata Sons’ aviation portfolio, and circling the loss-making airline is one of Chandrasekaran’s goals during his second term at the helm of Tata Sons. Among his priorities is hiring a CEO for the carrier after Turkish citizen IIker Ayci turned down the top job following controversies over his appointment.

In a virtual speech to AI employees on February 16, Chandrasekaran said the plan was to modernize the carrier’s fleet and hospitality, fly to many more destinations, improve customer service and make it financially fit and the most technologically advanced airline in the world.

Chandrasekaran is the third chairman of Tata Sons to lead Air India. JRD Tata was chairman of the carrier until February 1978. His successor Ratan Tata served as chairman of AI from 198687 until early 1990.