Background Of Tony Fernandes
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Tony Fernandes was born on 30 April 1964 in Kuala Lumpur to an Indian father who was originally from Chennai, India and a Christian Eurasian mother of mixed Portuguese and Malaccan descent. He was educated at Epsom College from 1977 to 1983 and graduated from London School of Economics in 1987. He had worked briefly with Virgin Atlantic as a Financial Controller. He was also the youngest CEO to lead the Warner Music Records (Malaysia) before deciding to set up Tune Air Sdn. Bhd. and ventured into the airlines business. Fernandes’ initial intention during his meeting with the then Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, in June 2001 was to get the prime minister’s official endorsement to become a new operator in the Malaysian aviation industry (Ismail, 2010). At the time of the meeting, Fernandes had already registered a company called Tune Air Sdn. Bhd. in Kuala Lumpur with three other partners.
Instead of issuing a new license, Mahathir suggested that Tune Air could acquire an airline by taking over the ailing AirAsia, a sister airline of Malaysia’s national carrier, Malaysia Airlines, that was set up to cater flying domestic routes not serviced by the national carrier. Mahathir felt that the needs of the Government and Fernandes’ ambition were deemed to be suitable and a good match at the time. Fernandes had reinvented and remodeled AirAsia based on the highly successful Irish budget airline, Ryannair. It targeted millions of Asians who had never flown and wanted inexpensive basic transportation, fitting well with its slogan of “Now everyone can fly”.
As a Low-Cost Carrier, AirAsia imposed major cost-cutting measures such as using a single type of aircraft, online and paperless ticketing to eliminate travel agents commission, charging for in-flight meals and seating, reducing turnaround time on the ground and ensuring frequent flights. By the year ended 30th June 2006, AirAsia had served 65 cities and carried 9.3 million passengers (Ismail, 2010). Fernandes is now running a profitable enterprise, a remarkable revival of the lossmaking state-owned enterprise that he took over from the Malaysian Government.
5.2 Leadership Style
Tony Fernandes’ foresight and vision has turned AirAsia to become one of the well known airline brands in the world. Many observers have attributed the success of AirAsia due to the strong leadership of Tony Fernandes. He was able to create good organisational culture and stressed the importance of working as a team. As the leader in a big organisation which has 10,000 employees, he is easily approachable and accessible to all his staff. Schien (2004) noted in his study that organisation leaders play a key role of establishing an organizational culture that articulated the behaviours, rules and values critical to the achievement of an organisation’s mission and strategies. There is no bureaucracy involved in his office and all employees are free to access his office if there is anything important to be discussed and needed an urgent solution (DesiAnwar, 2013; Sutha, 2012; bfmvdo, 2012; Siva, 2009).
As what he believes in the current business scenario where business has becomemuch more competitive therefore, having too much bureaucracy could impede the growth of the business. The work culture in AirAsia introduced by Tony Fernandes has made a big impact on the growth of the organization as the employees were very happy to move forward in the same direction. Employees have been treated as family hence, they feel very proud to be part of the team. Any contribution of ideas for the benefit of the organisation is well accepted and the management rewards these outstanding ideas. Tony Fernandes’ leadership stresses the importance of good interaction among all the staff as he maintains a non-hierarchy practice in the office. The internal integration within the organisation articulates the good working environment (Schein, 2004).For such a good leadership practice, he has gained trust and respect among his dedicated employees (Tracey &Hinkin, 1994).
On leadership philosophy, Tony Fernandes is known to be a leader who believes in openness. He does not believe in hierarchical structure. Believing in talents within the organisation and inspiring employees to achieve their dream as he believes everybody have their own dreams just like him. He strongly believes in teamwork and treats all his employees as ‘All stars’.Hence in one of the interviews by Harvey, (2012) the founder of AirAsia, Tony Fernandes, was quoted by saying this. “In AirAsia, we consider ourselves basically a dream factory. We deliberately decided that we wanted a company where people can pursue their passion and we wanted to make use of all the talent that we have in-house.