He is just 33 - one of the youngest airline heads in India. Mittu Chandilya, who takes charge as AirAsia's CEO for India from June 1, has made his mark in the fashion world, too. Last year, readers of August Man, a fashion magazine in Singapore, elected him for the A-list award for style and elegance, from among 300 participants.
Chandilya, who had a brief stint in modelling before charting a corporate career, had said after winning, fashion had been in his "blood and spirit" through his mother.
The MBA degree holder has no airline background. "Mittu has always been a passionate follower of the aviation industry," AirAsia said in a statement today. His previous job was at management consultancy firm Egon Zehnder, in Singapore, as principal and head of service practice.
AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes is convinced about his abilities. "Mittu is coming home to change Indian travel and make it affordable for all Indians to fly," he tweeted. Fernandes also said he was an "outstanding young man with great entrepreneurial skills. He is passionate about the low-cost carrier business and possesses the understanding on how our business model works."
Fernandes is known to select executives from non-aviation backgrounds to head his airlines. Azran Osman-Rani, CEO of AirAsia X was a senior director of a television channel, while heads of his airlines in Thailand and Philippines worked at Warner Music before joining aviation. Terming himself as a "native of Chennai", Chandilya said he was looking forward to bringing "a whole new meaning to the word flying' to consumers in India".
"Challenges are immense but so is the opportunity. Leadership, with an equally focused team, is the key," Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation's Kapil Kaul said on the new appointment. AirAsia, which hopes to start with two-three Airbus 320s, will face competition from low-cost airlines IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir, which control 55 per cent market share. Sector analysts, too, do not expect AirAsia to make a major impact in its initial phase.
"It will be interesting to see him try out innovative solutions. He may connect well with the aspirations of India's growing base of young flyers and AirAsia's workforce," said Amber Dubey, partner & head (aviation), KPMG.