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Air India unveils a new transformation plan named “Vihaan.AI”

Air India has unveiled a new transformation plan named “Vihaan.AI”. The plan is aimed at establishing the airline, once again, “as a world-class global airline with an Indian heart – the absolute best in class in customer service, in technology, in product, in reliability and in hospitality”. The announcement comes just days after Air India announced that it is leasing 30 aircraft including 5 Boeing B777-200LRs for immediate expansion.

Vihaan.AI

“Vihaan.AI” is a Sanskrit word that signifies the dawn of a new era. As part of the new plan, Air India says that it has “put into place a detailed roadmap with clear milestones focussing on dramatically growing both its network and fleet, developing a completely revamped customer proposition, improving reliability and on-time performance, and taking a leadership position in technology, sustainability, and innovation, while aggressively investing behind the best industry talent”.

Over the next 5 years, Air India wants to increase its domestic market share to at least 30%. Simultaneously, the airline also wants to grow its international network.

The airline’s CEO, Mr. Campbell Wilson along with senior management members who are together driving this transformation, unveiled the Vihaan.AI plan with the entire organization through Workplace, its virtual communication and engagement platform. Over the coming days and weeks, the management team will engage employees across regions, departments, and locations through a series of physical and hybrid sessions.

This is the beginning of a historic transformation for Air India, and the dawn of a new era. We are laying the foundation for a brave new Air India, with a renewed sense of purpose and incredible momentum. Vihaan.AI is our transformation plan to make Air India the world class airline it once was, and that it deserves to be again. We are absolutely focussed on being recognized as a world-class airline serving global customers, with a proudly Indian heart.

said Campbell Wilson, Managing Director and Chief Operating Officer, Air India.

The transformation has already started – a slew of initiatives in areas like refurbishing cabins, serviceable seats, in-flight entertainment system are already underway. We are also adopting proactive maintenance and refining flight schedules to enhance on-time performance. Our fleet expansion will involve a combination of both narrow-bodied and wide-bodied aircrafts to cater to varied network needs. The excitement and shared commitment to drive Vihaan.ai is palpable across the organisation and stakeholders will recognise the changes as the new face of Air India emerges.

added Wilson.

Air India says that Vihaan.AI has been developed after extensive feedback from Air India employees on their aspirations and hopes for the airline’s growth. The plan focuses on 5 key pillars:

  • “Exceptional” Customer Experience
  • Robust Operations
  • Industry-best talent
  • Industry Leadership
  • Commercial Efficiency and Profitability

While the immediate focus of the airline remains on fixing the basics and readying itself for growth (Taxiing Phase), the more medium-to-long term focus will be on building for excellence and establishing scale “to become a global industry leader” (Take Off & Climb phases).

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A very optimistic plan

India is the third largest aviation markets in the world while also being challenging and dangerous. Profits in Indian aviation industry are paper-thin. Low-cost carriers dominate with more than 75% combined market share.

Air India and Vistara are the only two full service carriers operating currently. While Air India has been making losses for quite some years under the Indian government, Vistara has not recorded a profitable quarter (let alone a financial year) since its inception.

Air India’s 5 year transformation plan is very aspirational to say the least. Rising fuel costs combined with the Indian rupee becoming weaker and weaker against the dollar makes surviving in the Indian aviation industry one of the most challenging tasks. We have seen the likes of Jet Airways and Kingfisher airlines, both of them being full service carriers, exit the market due to financial problems.

Jet Airways is making a comeback some time this year or early next year. It’s rumoured that it will follow a hybrid-approach, meaning that it will continue to have a full-service Business class like before but the Economy Class experience will be like that of IndiGo (which is a low-cost carrier). Jet Airways is not making the same mistakes as it had made before, realising that low-cost option is the way to go in the Indian aviation industry. I am not saying that full service carriers do not make profits and can’t survive but it is just that low-cost carriers have more advantage in India, going by the performance of those (particularly, IndiGo). Efficient operations combined with right implementation of cost-effective measures can mean that full-service carriers can easily survive and operate profitably.

As Campbell Wilson stated, the product refurbishment is already underway. Making the hard and soft product great is key to gaining passengers’ loyalty and it’s good to see that Air India is working on that as any airline would do as a priority.

It has long been rumoured that Air India is looking to induct new aircraft into its fleet, both narrow-body and wide-body. Campbell Wilson has confirmed that a aircraft order from Air India is imminent. We can expect the airline to install latest-generation hard products on those new aircraft.

All in all, it’s good to see Air India “officially” entering a transformation phase. All I can do is wish Air India the very best on this transformative journey, which hopefully will pay off.

Featured image by Airline Geeks

What do you think of Air India’s transformation plan, Vihaan.AI? Let me know in the comments section below.

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