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Thursday 2 April 2020

Lohani, who joined Air India to steer it from crisis, to help sell it

Ashwani Lohani, an engineer of the Railways, had retired in 2007 but, in view of his managerial skills, the then government brought him to AI

Editorials

In India

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The man who had been added to the company to steer it out of its financial crisis is now going to help sell it. After several attempts, the government decided last year to disinvest Air India due to the airline’s failure to sustain. The bid for the Maharaja has been called and the last date for submission of tenders is 17 March. Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Air India Ashwani Lohani was brought back to Air India for the purpose of extricating it from the massive loss it makes year after year, but he failed.

Lohani was made the head of Air India in September 2017 before being made the CMD. After 2007, for the first time in FY 2017 under his leadership, the airline had made a working profit of Rs 105 crore. It may be recalled that Air India and Indian Airlines were merged in 2007. Since then, the Maharaja has been in constant loss.

In September 2017, Lohani was transferred from Air India and made the Chairman of the Railway Board. He retired in December 2018. That very year, there was an attempt to sell 76% of the government stake in Air India, but the attempt failed. Yet, Lohani was made the CMD of Air India for the purpose that he would rejuvenate the Maharaja.

Lohani is an Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineering (IRSME) officer of 1980 batch (SCRA 1975 batch) who became the director of National Rail Museum in 1993. He became the director of tourism in the union government in 1998. In 2001, he joined India Tourism Development Corporation as chairman and managing director. In 2004, he also became commissioner and managing director of Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation, a position that he held for almost six years in three different spells. At the end of 2009, he also served as a divisional railway manager, Delhi Division; after two years, he joined Northern Railway as the chief mechanical engineer. He then served as the chief administrative officer in the Ministry of Railways.

In 2015, Lohani was appointed as the chairman and managing director of Air India. Moreover, he has been a non-executive director of Air Mauritius Limited since October 2015. In 2017, he became the chairman of Railway Board. In February 2019, he was reappointed as the chairman and managing director of Air India.

Air India has a debt of about Rs 80,000 crore. The state-owned airline suffered a net loss of Rs 8,556 crore in the financial year 2018-19. On 7 January, a group of ministers headed by Home Minister Amit Shah approved the proposal for its privatisation. The government holds 100% shares in Air India and Air India Express.

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