Can the Tatas revamp Indian aviation’s sagging image?

Having gone over half a century without a major presence in the Indian aviation sector, the Tatas are finally ready to make their triumphant foray, back into this segment. The Indian conglomerate, with an interest in almost every conceivable industry – from cars and tea to healthcare and telecom – is reportedly in talks with jet fractional ownership pioneers Avantair regarding their new venture. This tie-up with the US could significantly raise the global profile and presence of the already massive and highly-respected industrial juggernaut, returning it to its rightful niche when it comes to the aviation sector. At present, the Tata Group runs air charter services under the Taj Air banner and also has a 62% stake in Singaporean jet operator BJETS. Last year, the Tatas went a step further acquiring a stake in aircraft manufacturer Piaggio Aero Industries.

The Tatas have long been considered the pioneers of India’s aviation industry having founded Tata Aviation, which later took on the moniker – Air India, after being nationalised by the government.

If successful, this new venture could result in the ‘salt-to-software’ corporation playing a significantly higher role in the Indian aviation.

Although restricted to general aviation and business charters for the time being, the Tata’s association with this industry will no doubt play a very vital part in giving the rather derelict aviation sector some much needed credibility. And even though it might be a while before the Group enters the domestic market, it’s extremely reassuring to have the ex- aviation major back, with its Midas touch, especially in times when the industry is bogged down by price hikes, cost cuts, raised fuel surcharges, employee dissatisfaction, overbooking, the subsequent offloading of passengers and a lack of clarity on fares.

The plaguing Air India crisis recently took a new turn with the reshuffle in top management, once again bringing the company’s ever-growing debt into the limelight.  While cheap air ambulances continue to crash on residential areas, international carries face numerous landing difficulties and airport technology plays spoil sport, the aviation industry’s days of bad press are far from over.

The Tata’s have long commanded respect across India, for their public reputation of maintaining ethics in business and for their corporate dealings. Their clean track record and social inclination will also come in handy as we look to the first family of Indian aviation to bring us back on course.

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