Ilker Ayci episode: Can companies compete globally when blackmailed by trolls or agenda-driven NGOs?

When the Tatas announced on February 15 that the group had appointed Ilker Ayci as CEO of Air India, it took the aviation world by surprise. But not for the reasons he turned down the post he was to join from April 1 on Tuesday. Ayci was not a “rock star” in the aviation community. In fact, he was largely unknown as the CEO of Turkish Airlines, a relatively small airline compared to the big ones, not to mention even smaller than the merged entities of Air India, Vistara and AirAsia, the three airlines in which the Tatas now have a majority stake. .

Given his far from unimpressive track record – which includes the turnaround of Turkish Airlines, of which he served as chairman from 2015 to January 2022 – one wondered if he was the right person to lead Air India and oversee the complex merger it involved with AirAsia, and Vistara, subject to Singapore Airlines, the other partner, agreeing to the mergers.

The fact that Ilker is a close friend of Recep Erdogan – and that he was his adviser twice, when the latter was mayor of Istanbul and again when he became Turkish president – suggested that he could There could be friction, given that Erdogan raised the issue of Kashmir at the UN General Assembly in September 2021, which the GoI had called “totally unacceptable”.

Tatas choosing someone close to politicians was another matter. But the group, with extensive experience in dealing with global companies, was thought to have done their homework and be cautious. On top of that, there were rumors on social and mainstream media from RSS affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch objecting to Ayci’s nomination for having ‘unwanted links’.

Perhaps realizing that the atmosphere he found himself in might not allow him to discharge his role freely, Ayci announced on Tuesday that it was not “achievable or honourable” for him to accept position “under the shadow of such a narrative” in which “certain sections of the Indian media” have attempted to “color [his] rendezvous with undesirable colors”.

Social media comments, reviews, and even slanderous rumors are one thing. Organizations ideologically close to the ruling dispensation in India who wish to overthrow the due process of one of India’s most trusted industrial houses – and, by extension, the government that made possible Air India’s transition from PSU to a private company – are another.

Aviation and Home Office rules are crystal clear. All board members and CEOs, COOs and CFOs must have security clearances approved and approved by all intelligence agencies before they can be appointed by an airline. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch should have allowed the Home Office to do its job, without fear or favour.

For their part, the Tatas should have strongly defended their right to appoint the best candidates to the highest positions in their companies, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity and religion, subject to the laws of the land. For example, they reportedly caved when they released their rather heartwarming advertisement for Tanishq jewelry which showed an interfaith baby shower. Why? Because a section of social media felt that it was promoting “love jihad”. Can companies honestly compete globally when blackmailed by trolls or agenda-driven NGOs?

Dara Khosrowshahi, an Iranian Muslim immigrant, is the global CEO of Uber in the United States, a company that has revolutionized taxi service. Hamdi Ulukaya is the king of Greek yogurt who runs Chobani with a billion dollar turnover in the United States. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, 51% of American tech unicorns have at least one executive-level immigrant. Two of the world’s three most valuable companies are run by American immigrants from India – Microsoft’s Satya Nadella and Google’s Sundar Pichai. Twitter’s Parag Agrawal and Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen are not considered “outsiders” at the helm of these American global giants.

A few years ago, Nadella said that if India was to compete with the United States, it had to create an ecosystem where a Bangladeshi immigrant would one day become the CEO of Infosys or any immigrant could set up a unicorn in India. . He looked forward to such a day while reminiscing about his own rise to Microsoft CEO.

We must shed our insecurities, prejudices and parochialism – and challenge them in others – if we want India to become a global trade and economic power. When India Inc considers hiring overseas talent, especially from the non-British-American sphere – in the case of Tatas and Air India, from Turkey – we give up on best practices and top talent due to a mix colonial hangover and culture. of xenophobia.

The Rigveda says: “Let noble thoughts come to us from all directions. To this we can add: “May the most brilliant minds populate our land.