The head honcho’s appointment is designed to bolster and synergise Tata Sons’ aviation business.
Subject to regulatory approvals, Mehmet Iker Ayci is expected to assume the role of CEO and MD, Air India, from April 1, 2022. From 2015 until January this year, he was Chairman of Turkish Airlines, leading its recovery from the devastating business impact of the pandemic.
The industry is excited to know more about him. “Ilker is an aviation industry leader who led Turkish Airlines to its current success during his tenure there. We are delighted to welcome Ayci to the Tata Group, where he would lead Air India into the new era,” N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons, commented.
Acknowledging the appointment, Ayci said he is “delighted and honoured to accept the privilege of leading an iconic airline and to join the Tata Group”.
“Working closely with my colleagues at AI and the leadership of Tata Group, we will utilise the strong heritage of Air India to make it one of the best airlines in the world with a uniquely superior flying experience that reflects Indian warmth and hospitality,” Ayci added.
Apart from his strong credentials in the aviation industry, Ayci, has also notched up other prominent business leadership roles through his career. He has served as the CEO of several insurance companies.
However, most prominently, he was the President of the Prime Ministry Investment Support and Promotion Agency of Turkey. In 2014, he was appointed Chairman of the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies. Interestingly, in 1994 Ayci took up a position as Advisor to the then Mayor of Istanbul, Recep Tayip Erdogan, who is now the President of Turkey.
Born in Istanbul in 1971, Ayci is an alumnus of the country’s first private varsity, Bilkent University, Ankara. He graduated from the Department of Political Science and Public Administration and is fluent in Turkish, English, and Russian. He continued his education with a research stay in political science from the Leeds University in the UK. In 1995, he completed his Master’s in International Relations from the Marmara University in Istanbul in 1997.
Imperatives for Air India
In October 2021, Air India came full circle for the Tata Group. Its winning bid of Rs 18,000 crore netted a 100 per cent share of Air India, the airline it started in 1932 but lost to nationalisation in 1953. After the acquisition, Tata Sons seems to have a problem of plenty. It owns Air India, Air India Express, Air Asia India and has a significant stake in Vistara. Aviation industry analysts expect Ayci’s tenure to coincide with strategic moves such as the merger of low-cost airlines Air India Express and Air Asia India. Synergies could also be explored between Air India and Vistara, though the latter is likely to remain a separate entity.