“His business model for AirAsia is based on the motto of democratizing air travel so that everyone can fly, and has crafted a strategy aimed at targeting unexplored & un-served locations”
A serial entrepreneur, famous as an airline business magnate and challenger to the establishment, Tony Fernandes has brought low-cost travel to a large populace of Asians who have never flown before, and to destinations spanning vibrant air travel hubs to lesser known locales that were deemed “off the map”
GETTING THE FOOTHOLD
With the start of other business activities such as Tune Group, a conglomerate of hotels, telecommunications, financial services, sports, media and creative industries subsidiaries, it’s really hard to make out what box to put Tony in.
A graduate from London School of Economics, Tony is well-known for transforming debt-ridden AirAsia from a struggling airline into one of the top low- cost airlines in the world, and in doing so he has followed his passion, which bestows AirAsia a unique way of doing business. An eternal optimist, his belief that people should dream the impossible and pursue their passion has become a part of the organisational DNA.
DISTINCT MANAGEMENT STYLE
His management style is truly distinctive. His business model for AirAsia is based on the cherished motto of democratizing air travel so that everyone can fly, and has crafted a strategy aimed at targeting unexplored and unserved locations and luring disregarded market sectors – essentially making a significant impact in the Asian aviation industry by playing at low price points and presenting customers with travel options nobody else had offered before.
To unlock creativity and bring out the best from its people, he believes in creating a conducive environment where people can take risk without the fear of failure, where every success, big or little, is celebrated and admired and where creativity finds its roots.
With the setting up of AirAsia Foundation, he believes in giving back to the communities it serves. AirAsia Foundation works with social entrepreneurs to promote a wide array of ethical purposes and at the same time creating fair, inclusive and sustainable businesses.
ADOPTING BEST PRACTICES
To provide best flying experience to its customers, Mr. Fernandes is highly positive on using data and technology to improve AirAsia’s reliability and on- time performance and learn more about their customers. At the same time, he believes in adopting the best practices to benchmark its operations and processes. “I don’t benchmark myself against other airlines – I benchmark with who’s the best in the world. Amazon is one of the best in the world in terms of e-commerce, so we’ve got to try and be as good as them. They’re very good at replying to customers quickly, live. So that’s the big drive for me,” he shares.
PROVIDING UNMATCHED WORK EXPERIENCE
He is committed that the aspirations of people – be it employees or customers – find a meaningful expression in all the business endeavours it undertakes. He doesn’t have a strategy of cherry-picking new destinations; he says if there are a considerable number of people, AirAsia can fly there.
Not having a straight-jacketed corporate working culture, his connect and bonding with his people is akin to talking to a good friend. He has created an incredible, inspiring culture at AirAsia. To move up the ladder of success and to bring phenomenal success to AirAsia, Mr. Fernando, not even by mistake, underestimates the power of branding. He believes that the fruits of branding do not reflect in the bottom line in short term, but bring profit in the long run.