Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran and TCS chief executive Rajesh Gopinathan are personally involved in analysing Air India’s cost optimization and tech-led transformation needs, the sources, who are aware of the discussions, said.
Some key TCS executives are also expected to move to Air India to oversee how the airline’s systems can be overhauled across operations, supply chain and customer experience, they said.
TCS has deep experience providing technology for Tata’s JV with SIA – Vistara – and as well as for AirAsia, in which the Tatas have a majority stake.
TCS also provides a range of IT solutions for global airlines like Lufthansa Group, Virgin Atlantic, Star Alliance, Singapore Airlines, Malaysia Airlines, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines.
“Gopinathan and Chandrasekaran are planning and assessing the flight operations, overall reliability, growth and transformation activities and they are also closely involved in the assessment process,” one executive said. “It will be an end-to-end digital transformation from an operational, supply chain, and customer experience perspective.”
Discover the stories of your interest
Last month, Chandrasekaran had during a virtual address to Air India’s staff said the group would ensure Air India is financially fit, upgrade aircraft, bring in new fleet and make it the “most technologically advanced” airline globally.
TCS has already started working on the initial assessment of Air India’s technical needs, but a formal implementation of programmes will begin only after the erstwhile government-owned entity gets a new CEO.
“TCS already has an aviation line … So, all the best practices including some talent will get injected into Air India. There will be an exhaustive review of existing processes first,” another executive added.
Last month, the Tatas had announced the appointment of former Turkish Airlines chairman Ilker Ayci, but he rejected the offer on Tuesday.
In response to ET’s queries, a TCS spokesperson said, “We are excited to welcome Air India back to the Tata Family. At this stage it is too early to comment on any engagement, nor can we comment on speculation.”
Air India’s technology is currently outsourced to several vendors, such as air transport data giant SITA and ticket reservation and distribution platform Amadeus, and the airline has faced issues with both in the past.
Last year, a data breach at SITA led to data of 4.5 million passengers being compromised. In March 2021, Amadeus won a 7-year passenger service system contract from the airline, but that was briefly disputed by a competitor.
“All those contracts have to be studied; the central reservation system is the one that brings efficiency…,” the second person said, adding that work is on to assess who handles the airlines’ data centre and its financial accounting software.
“The stock-taking will take place and the whole objective will be to rationalize and consolidate because there is the in-house knowledge of not only the two airlines that we run, but also the airlines that we serve as service providers,” the second executive said. “So, that’s the double benefit that the House of the Tatas have.”
As per the sale agreement, Air India’s existing structure will continue for a year.
“So, that will continue in terms of recruitment also. While the airline will continue to hire, it cannot disturb any (existing) employees,” the source added.
Air India’s customer service experience, digital brand presence, flight scheduling, maintenance tracking and management, as well as paper-based process management system could be up for an upgrade.
“…we will do that by ensuring that we bring in the best of technology in every aspect of Air India – be it in terms of apps, website, mobile channel, social media, Tata NEU app, whatever may be digital reach that we will have to provide for consumers to access Air India, or in our front office systems or backoffice systems,” Chandrasekaran had said.