It has been quite the quarter for top management announcements in Indian Aviation. Earlier on, we heard of IndiGo promoter Rahul Bhatia taking on the role of the Managing Director of the airline and the other promoter, Rakesh Gangwal stepping away from the Board of Directors as he plans to divest his equity in the airline. Sanjiv Kapoor joined as the CEO of the entity that would eventually become Jet Airways. Campbell Wilson was announced to be the CEO of Air India. William Boulter will ultimately step away from IndiGo. And now, another big one.
Ronojoy Dutta to Retire
In a surprise move, IndiGo today announced that CEO Ronojoy Dutta would retire. Rono, as he was usually referred to, started his career at United, and IndiGo was his second stint as a CEO of an Indian carrier, with Air Sahara being the first. Rono arrived on the scene in 2019 and played an important role in keeping the ship stable during the Covid-19 pandemic. Dutta will leave by September 30, 2022.
I’ve been a big fan of his oratory skills and grasp of the key metrics at IndiGo, which he seems to remember and rattle off every earnings call easily.
Announcing his retirement, Ronojoy Dutta said:
I leave knowing that IndiGo is in the good custody of Mr Elbers and that the future for IndiGo employees is secure and bright. I would like to thank all the employees at IndiGo for the kindness and affection they have shown me over the past four years. As I move forward to the next chapter of my life, I will look back with nostalgia, fondness, and a tinge of separation regret.
Commending his service, Rahul Bhatia, Managing Director of IndiGo, said
The Board of Directors and I would like to thank Rono for effectively leading our business for almost four years with a steady hand through what has been the most turbulent period in the airline’s history and aviation globally.
The departure of Dutta is one of the many changes in the management of IndiGo as the airline exits the Covid-19 pandemic. The airline has seen Rahul Bhatia take charge as the Managing Director after many years of operating just as the promoter of the airline and leaving operations to the professionals. On the other hand, the other co-founder, Rakesh Gangwal, has stepped down from the airline’s board and will exit the airline over some time. Between Gangwal and Bhatia, who have an almost equal split of shares, they control 77.4% of the equity of IndiGo.
IndiGo’s Chief Commercial Officer William Boulter will also be leaving the airline in the coming months, as per his recent interviews. An official announcement has not been made yet by the airline, though.
Pieter Elbers will take over as CEO of IndiGo
During the hunt for the CEO of Air India, I’ve been a strong proponent of Pieter Elbers heading the airline. However, never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that he would be headed to IndiGo, India’s largest airline.
— Ajay Awtaney (@LiveFromALounge) January 15, 2022
Pieter Elbers, 52, has served as the President and CEO of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines since 2014 and is also a member of the Executive Committee of Air France-KLM. Elbers, so far, has been a lifer at KLM, having joined the airline in 1992 and over time, grown in the airline across managerial positions. He was recently let go from KLM, where his term will end in May 2023. It is rumoured that while Elbers was always trying to keep KLM strong, group CEO Benjamin Smith wanted to keep the group (Air France/KLM) strong. Although he was widely loved inside the airline, that could not help him save his job.
IndiGo will get a new leader as it prepares for its next growth phase. Currently, IndiGo is focused on replacing all the old Airbus A320CEO aircraft with the new A320neo aircraft. But in 2024, IndiGo will also start to induct the A321XLR into its fleet, an aircraft which will take IndiGo beyond Asia into Europe and perhaps Australia. Elbers’ experience could help with this global expansion.
Rahul Bhatia, welcoming Elbers, said
We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Mr Pieter Elbers as the Chief Executive Officer of the Company. India promises to be the last bastion of ginormous growth globally and given Mr Elbers’ deep understanding of the business, his legendary leadership qualities coupled with his energy and passion, we are ever so confident that under his stewardship, IndiGo will play a pivotal role in this growth opportunity.
Pieter Elbers, responding to his appointment, said:
What IndiGo’s employees and leadership have jointly built, since its start 16 years ago, is, by any standard, truly impressive. I am very honoured and do look forward to building upon this, working together with the entire IndiGo team. I am delighted to become a part of the next stage of IndiGo’s incredible journey, further fulfilling the vision of what the airline can do and will be for its customers and for India.
IndiGo will see Ronojoy Dutta hanging his boots as the CEO, and KLM CEO Pieter Elbers joining them later this year as CEO. This should bring in new expertise in the business from a leader who knows the long-haul international business well. Pieter Elbers will join the company by October 1, 2022.
What do you think of Pieter Elbers being appointed as CEO of IndiGo? Oh, and if anyone wanted to send me a slice of the finder fee on this assignment, just drop me a note…
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