Published on : Friday, October 1, 2021
Salt-to-steel conglomerate Tata Sons has likely won the bid for national carrier Air India.
In its heyday, Air India did much more than ferry people, by putting India on the global map by acting as its brand ambassador.
The king and queen of Sweden flew the Maharaja as did Pope Paul VI when he travelled to India in 1964.
It was not just the elite that Air India served.
The flights to Wuhan to get back Indians stranded there due to the coronavirus outbreak last year were the latest in a long series of evacuations that the Maharaja has undertaken.
The most significant of these was in 1990 when it brought back over 1,50,000 Indians from Iraq and Kuwait when conflict broke out there, a feat that earned it a place in the Guinness Book of Records.
Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) secretary clarified that the media reports indicating approval of financial bids by the Government of India in the AI disinvestment case are incorrect.
Earlier, it was reported that Tatas have been selected by the government panel as the winning bidders for Air India.
Tata Group was among the multiple entities that had put in an initial expression of interest in December 2020 for buying the Maharaja. SpiceJet founder Ajay Singh was also among the bidders.
Air India has been in losses ever since its merger with domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007.
Multiple governments have tried to sell the airline which began life as Tata Airlines in 1932.
But those attempts were either met with political opposition or a lack of interest from potential buyers.
The airline was established by legendary industrialist and philanthropist JRD Tata, who was India’s first licensed pilot.
It originally flew mail in the 1930s between Karachi in the then-undivided, British-ruled India and Bombay, now known as Mumbai.
Once it turned commercial and went public in the 1940s, Air India quickly became popular with those who could afford to take to the skies.
However, with the advent of private carriers in the 1990s, and then a rush of low-cost, no-frills airlines in the mid-2000s, Air India lost its edge in both domestic and international markets.
Suddenly, it wasn’t the only option for flying overseas and its reputation for impeccable service and hospitality began to ebb.
Losses started to mount after its merger with state-owned domestic operator Indian Airlines in 2007 and by 2013, the country’s then-civil aviation minister said privatisation was key to its survival.