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Telegram<群组>(www.tel8.vip):Startup airline may use stock options to get staff

admin2022-02-0639

Tough sector: An Air India aircraft prepares to land at an airport in Mumbai. India is one of the world’s most competitive air-travel markets, with many who had wanted to crack the market having failed in the past. — AFP

AKASA, a new Indian airline backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, plans to offer stock options to attract staff, using a lure more often deployed by technology startups in its bid to gain a foothold in one of the world’s most competitive air-travel markets.

The carrier, which is preparing to start flying in late May, is taking the unusual approach of granting company shares to a bigger pool of top employees, rather than a select group of senior executives, as the aviation industry globally suffers from a talent shortfall.

Airlines have retrenched thousands of workers because of the pandemic and many pilots have quit, either taking early retirement or switching careers.

“We want to have an organisation that’s very tight knit in values, but diverse in experiences, genders, locations within India,” chief executive officer (CEO) Vinay Dube said in an interview.

“We were saddened by the plight of employees through the pandemic, some of the bankruptcies that have taken place in Indian aviation, and we wanted to create homes for them where they are happy.”

The degree to which Akasa plans to grant stock options for staff will be “far greater than most airlines in India and hopefully reminiscent of maybe some of the tech startups where they go fairly deep in the way they provide employee stock ownership plans,” Dube said.

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There isn’t a suggestion stock options would be given to air crew or regular pilots, however.

Putting employee satisfaction so squarely front and centre is an interesting strategy in a market that’s historically gone after customers by offering cut-throat prices. Rock-bottom air fares have long been a feature in India, which has a suite of no-frills carriers targeting the nation’s huge flying public.

Akasa, backed by some impressive aviation veterans, has hired around 50 employees for back office functions and is now recruiting pilots, flight attendants and airport staff, said Dube, who is also Akasa’s founder and managing director.

The careers page of Akasa’s website, decked out in the airline’s orange and purple brand identity with a tagline of “It’s Your Sky,” states that new applications have been paused after an “unprecedented number” of inquiries were received.

“It’s flattering, overwhelming, but there’s also a hint of sadness because I don’t want so many people to be either unemployed or unhappy,” said Dube, who says 95% of staff call him by his first name.

“If we don’t treat our employees well, if we don’t take care of them, then it’s very hard for them to take care of customers, which we want them to do.”

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