Air Asia chief executive Tony Fernandes has called Kingfisher Airlines "bad biryani", which you don't see much in India.
Air Asia, a low-cost carrier, plans to launch operations in India by the end of this year. The airline is waiting for an NOC and an air operations certificate from the government.
The airline would be operated as a joint venture between Tata Sons and Air Asia, with Air Asia holding 49 per cent of the airline. The joint venture would also mark Tata Sons' return to aviation industry after 60 years.
When asked what the learnings from Kingfisher Airlines experience were, Tony Fernandes said: "Focus. I have said it to Vijay many times. This is damn bloody tough business. People saw me running around in a T-shirt and a cap and said well if that Indian guy can do it then I can. Vijay was one of the many billionaires who got into the airline business, but it is a very, very tough business. You can lose a fortune very quickly. You have to be meticulous and it needs focus. The Air Asia model has been the same for 11 years. We did not even think about India because we knew we would get killed in the early stages. Vijay went from a low-cost to a premium, to a long-haul airline, to a short-haul airline, to a turbo prop with the buying of Air Deccan. You know it was like a biryani. It was all mixed up. It was bad biryani which India does not have much of."
Mr. Fernandes also said that notions about the Indian bureaucracy were a myth. He said: "There is a myth about Indian bureaucracy. I have not seen it. We don't have any problems with the bureaucracy."
Speaking about mergers and acquisitions, Fernandes said: "We will never ever work with a premium airline again." The CEO of Air Asia India, Mittu Chandilya, rubbished reports of Air Asia poaching senior Indigo pilots.
When asked about how Air Asia would deal with the decline of the rupee, Mr. Fernandes said: "We are battle hardened. We have dealt with fluctuating currencies in the past and we will face this as well."
AirAsia started an airline three days after 9/11, he added.