Sanjay Aggarwal joins Kingfisher Airlines as CEO – a great coup for Dr. Vijay Mallya

Dr. Vijay Mallya, Chairman of Kingfisher Airlines has scored a coup of sorts by bagging one of the most “eligible bachelors” in Indian aviation today — Mr. Sanjay Aggarwal, appointing him as Chief Executive Officer of the airline.

I am pleased to announce the appointment of Sanjay Aggarwal as Chief Executive Officer of Kingfisher Airlines Limited with immediate effect.

I will continue in my role as Chairman & Managing Director and Sanjay will report directly to me. All Executive Vice Presidents and other officers currently reporting to me will, henceforth, report directly to Sanjay.

Mr. S.R. Gupte, Vice Chairman, will continue to Chair the Executive Committee of which Sanjay will become a member with immediate effect.

Sanjay Aggarwal was CEO of SpiceJet till June 30th this year when he tendered his resignation soon after the take over of the Gurgaon based low fare carrier by media baron Kalanidhi Maran.

I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with Sanjay on many an occasion, his pragmatism, lateral out-of-the-box thinking, and professionalism is without parallel.

Dr. Mallya is strong on hospitality, and likes all Kingfisher Airlines passengers to be treated as his guests. Just as in the world of Disney, the airline refers to customers as guests not passengers. Mallya is renowned for his flair, style, and panache, and offers domestic passengers a Kingfisher First instead of just a business class and an international business class that is a cut above the traditional international business class.

Despite these customer centric offerings, and his extreme passion for the airline business, Mallya lacked a hard-nosed person, well experienced in the tough world of airline business, to manage the day to day affairs, and the sorry financial state of the airline today, reflects this gap.

With his background at US Airways, Marriott International, and private jet provider Flight options, Sanjay brings a unique combination of hospitality, transportation, style and panache, that blend very well with the product positioning at Kingfisher, married to a hard-nosed business operator who has turned ailing airlines around, skills that the airline desperately needs.

At both of his other major and very successful businesses, United Spirits Ltd., and United Breweries Ltd., Mallya has very strong and capable CEO’s in the form of Vijay Rekhi and Kalyan Ganguly. Sanjay Aggarwal comes from the same mould of capable professionals.

Many of Aggarwal’s initiatives at SpiceJet showcased his learning from these diverse, yet customer-centric industries, and are widely credited with his successful turn-around of the carrier.

The question on the minds of many will be that can he do a repeat of his turn-around for SpiceJet at Kingfisher?

The simple answer depends on whether the Chairman will let go his passionate grip on the airline, and give Sanjay the CEO, the autonomy and freedom to execute; and therein lies the challenge.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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