Amity Institute Of Training & Development

Leading Through Crisis – Air India During The Pandemic Read Time: 40 mins

Speaker - Ms. Amrita Sharan, Director (Personnel) Air India

Interviewed by: Mr. Brig R K Sharma, Director of Amity Institute Training & Development

About: Ms. Amrita Sharan, Director Personnel, Air India Limited, starting out as a management trainee in the erstwhile Indian Airlines in 1989, Ms. Sharan has grown to become the first lady Director Personnel of Air India and a member on the Board of Directors. She manages the full range of HR functions to drive Employee engagement, morale and performance of Employees in an environment which has been perpetually undergoing change, both external and internal. She has rolled out Policies that include changes in the organisational structure, corporate governance and protection of Employees’ interests in view of the disinvestment decision of Air India. She has also put in place, cost efficient policy for HR Efficiency and control of wasteful expenditure. She was awarded Lifetime Achievement Award for HR excellence in December 2019 by Professional Networking Group of India.

Click below to watch the recorded conversation.

AITD: Indian aviation industry is staring at sustained headwinds due to the pandemic. Higher fuel prices, fewer passengers and international travel restrictions have severe impact on airlines in India and rest of the world. Industry experts do not see profitability returning until the end of 2022 to 2023 maybe 2024. To survive the pandemic induced prices, all airlines will look to cost cutting measures like firing their employees or pay cuts or reducing the workload. And it is projected that indeed aviation industry itself will lose a combined $6.5 billion during financial year 2020-21. Right at the outset of the Covid outbreak, Air India rose to the occasion by evacuating Indians stranded at Wuhan. Then it flew to Tokyo, Paris, Rome, eventually, every corner of the world where no Indian carrier has ever flown.

Under ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ Air India has been flying relentlessly in one of the biggest evacuation exercises by any civil airline. Under Mission ‘Lifeline’ Udaan, Air India has been ensuring that critical medical supplies in overseas reaches every corner of India and in other Countries. It is also playing a pivotal role in the vaccination mission by carrying vaccines all over India and even to some foreign Countries. During the last few days, Air India has been evacuating Indian citizens from Afghanistan through a third Country primarily.

So, what are the challenges that Air India faces today? How it is keeping its Employees engaged and its customers satisfied? How it is keeping its workforce motivated in view of the impending disinvestment of the Government? Finally, how Air India has managed to rise to the occasion during this crisis?

As we all know major airlines are facing losses and have lain off Employees, sent them on leave without pay or cut their salaries.

So, what has been your experience in the pandemic and how has Air India dealt with various challenges since March 2020?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: For us, the pandemic is, you have stated the state of aviation in India or the world, you have beautifully captured the difficulties and the problem that this industry is facing, and we are going through a very tough time. But in this tough time, when we are going through a fiscal, there is no operation everything, we had to rise to the occasion and do something which a nation, we are basically second line of defence. So we have certain responsibilities. And this COVID pandemic, even before that we had a fiscal issue, we were not doing very well, this industry was not doing very well and then COVID happened. So the fiscal status has gone worse. And then our responsibility has doubled. So, to handle this fiscal situation, we had cut salary of Employees, we had reduced their perks. But we have not terminated the services of Employees. That’s one thing we have done. But now these Employees who are as it is in a cost cutting situation, as it is facing all COVID, all these Employees had to fly in the most infected area Wuhan. First flight started on 31st January and 1st February 2020. Air India operated two back to back flights to Wuhan to bring back about 647 passengers. That time it was fine. Because, that time the pandemic has not reached the extent and the effect was not there all over. But after that, the continued evacuation exercise that we did and we had taken up, about 4 million passengers have been brought by Vande Bharat Flight. 4 million is a good number.

And this kind of medical evacuation exercise was something very new for us. This was a major challenge, and to have my own Employees take up this risk job because my air hostess, my crew, they all have to really interact. My frontline staff, they have to interact with these passengers, their requirements, you have to fulfil as a human being, these people were there in the most infected areas, inviting and greeting people who are most infected. The way my employees have taken this forward, it is amazing, simply amazing. And we have gone to about 79 new destination cities. You would not have even heard of the name of the cities, we have gone to. We also had not heard of these cities. But with this pandemic, all closing the offices, there were 10-15 of us in the office. And we were trying to arrange this. And there was lot of procedure required to operate to a new destination. We needed lot of clearances.

So, the work which was to be done by full 10000 employees, it was just 10-15 of us sitting in the office organising everything. And then just directing my crew to do this. Believe me, not a single crew said, “I will not do it”. They had to go there, after that we had to be quarantined because they were scared of going back home and carrying the infection home. So whoever flew had to be quarantined for 14-15 days and still they were very scared that they will infect these people. And even before going they used to be subjected to about 3-4 layers of tests. They were confined to hotel rooms, there will be one test and again four days later, there will be another test and then they used to go. And when they come back, again this is followed. So it was not a pleasant exercise for everybody to do but all my Employees did it. I had not a single employee saying that “I won't be going”.

AITD: The most wonderful thing is this was at a time when your Employees were under certain amount of uncertainty, what is going to happen. On top of that, the pandemic started and on top of that, the flight pressure started.

So, the question was, how did you manage to motivate employees for such as stellar performance which is really praiseworthy of a national carrier. What was the trick that you employed?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: The only trick was that we were there with them in the field and we were communicating. We did our best to take care of them. So the first thing that you realise is how important is Human Resource to an organisation, how important it is. You may have the same kind of digitisation, machine, everything is equal. And in aviation, everything is equal because you got to have one standard kind of machine, standard kind of equipment. Everything is standardised. The only difference a person makes is your HR. And this was so well projected in this particular exercise of ours. The total difference that happened in the whole ‘Vande Bharat Flight’ was the difference made by a human being. And it’s very uncomfortable to be there in the suit, it’s very warm, it itches, you just can’t take it off. But all of them wore it for 12 hours flight, 8-11 hours flight. And they had gone to a very strange state that they could not go down to hotel and relax. They had to come back immediately. All this happened, when I had to cut my salary, salary of a pilot was cut nearly by 60%, near 40-45% deduction they had. So, they had no monetary benefit, they had no physical comfort but all of them rose to the occasion.

As a Director HR, they will come to me and complain and show their face but they never disrupted the flight, they never did anything or showed their disgruntlement to anybody around. And if you ask me how it happened, I can only say it happened only because of the communication. We have always been a second line of defence, be it any exercise that happened. Do you remember the biggest evacuation that happened in 1991 in Kuwait? We had evacuated lakhs of people from Kuwait. If you see Kabul, if you see Kandahar, Kazakhstan, we have done all that. And right now also we are doing it. And it’s very interesting because we started these flights to Kabul and we scheduled it thrice a week but our Insurance Company said they are not very comfortable sending the aircrafts there, lot of hazards, it’s very, very unsafe to be there. I remember our first flight hovered for about 45 minutes before landing. Yes it is still very difficult. But we have changed the entire system; of course, we are going to different stations, airports. But we are still going and bringing back people. And because the airport is closed so we can't do much but we are on standby and within three hours’ notice, we will be able to resume the flight. We have already done 3-4 flights there. But because of closure of airport, we are not able to continue.

So, if you see internationally, we have done Yemen. If you remember 2015, Libya? We have done Nepal when that earthquake happened. Even in domestic whenever there is crisis, the Chennai floods, Uttarakhand landslides that happened. So, for domestic and international, we have done it. And again, coming back to your question, how it happens. It happens because in airlines we really don’t have attrition rate, people don’t leave us. We are there together. And may be the feeling, you go with the name of your organisation, even Indian Airlines, Air India. The name gives you a major boost to rise to the occasion any time and every time.

AITD: Of course we all know, the newspaper reports that financial bids for the stake maybe received by the month of September, October. So this impending privatisation has been in the air for quite a few years now. We can imagine, I can imagine being an Air India employee, looking at uncertainty what's going to happen, I will be there or I will not be there. Of course, I am talking about the basic staff, corporate staff, ground staff and not crew because they of course will be there. So, there is also large component of your manpower. So this uncertainty, I don't know what's going to happen, what's our future, how have you been able to assure the people that okay we will look after your interest, you will continue with us. It's very difficult, as an Army officer I can understand the pressure, how to keep them motivated for battle.

So how do you keep people motivated and how do you keep them ‘don’t worry, we will look after your interest’? How do you convince them?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: Air India, the kind of dynamism this organisation has faced. There was monopoly, Indian Airlines, Air India, there was no competition. It was a ‘Raja Maharaja’ flying. Then, one fine morning, there was an open sky Policy. So, these Employers all of a sudden were faced with competition, our market share went down, the salary went down and then my pilots started leaving. So, there was one stage when there was open sky policy. The ‘competition’ word was introduced in this organisation. The same crew, the same Employee. I have seen the open sky Policy and then there were three attempts of merger. Then there was merger happened which was a very difficult decision to implement and to take forward. So that merger happened. And after that we went through three exercises of disinvestment, this is the third exercise. So every year things used to come to us. So there used to be no promotions, no recruitments. We have not gone through a proper recruitment for decades now because there was so much of dynamism happening. So, you are talking to this group of people who have seen this kind of dynamism and have really been with the Company throughout and have evolved with all these changes.

Now, we are competing with the best of the airlines, we are competing with Indigo. And my average age of employee is 52, my average age. So these people are competing with the generation next, computer savvy and all those people. They are competing with them. They are able to do this. So, something in the DNA that they have used to this kind of evolution and dynamism.

AITD: I was going through some of these newspaper columns and magazines and we understand that Air India is planning a change in management and to keep embraced with the changing times.

So, what is this business process of re-engineering that you are planning to do? How do you plan to bring in this change because after all you are in a very competitive industry? So, how are you managing this change because we don't know what is it going to look like after a few years, we are still going to preparing for the change? So, what all kinds of modernization and technological changes you are bringing out?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: We are right now in a mode of disinvestment. So, basically we are okay. We have had to have put up a plan for our future and keeping in view the COVID and number of aircrafts I have, the financial situation I have, I have to put in a projected plan. But, right now these changes are basically coming to the market which are there in the market, in the aviation, we are doing that. Now, the only thing is, because by 15 of September we will be able to know whether we will get a good bid or not and we are going through this privatisation exercise. By September, we will have the bidding process simply started. So, whatever changes are these regular changes that we are doing. Right now my problem is what we have to address is that for next two years my aviation does not look very prosperous. It will take time to come back to normalcy. I am not reducing my manpower; I am not reducing my cost because my cost is fixed. So what we are working at is how we survive for next two years, three years? This is the engineering that we are going through. And we are a Government sector and we have got all the legal obligations of the Government sector, everything, all the laws and regulations that were given to us. So, how do we, with tied hands, take forward and survive. We are right now in the mood of surviving. That is what we are working at. That is all these exercises to survive, to be able to pay my employees every month.

AITD: I have a question little off the track because we have been discussing only about Air India.

But I would like to hear from you that how you in your career span of so many years, as a woman in the role and to reach the board, I would like to hear what were the strategies personally that you adopted and how did you manually do this professional glass ceiling that definitely witnessed because you had been into industrial relations which I get to understand so far?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: I am also on the board of Hotel Corporation of India and AIAS and there are two other Companies which are again ground handling Companies. Now, the only thing I can tell you is that I never felt that I am a woman and I have to compete with a male. I have worked as a person, as a human being throughout. May be I have joined an organisation where 30% of my employees is women. So, there also was never a hesitation of me being a woman and rising in the hierarchy, and the hierarchy superseded many men and women. All of them have been superseded. So, right now the only thing I would like to say is that if you want, you have to be yourself. What takes you forward is your inner skill, your skill, your personality. You need not be a man or a woman. This is simply material and people see there is lot of distinction of problem with women. They are not the problem, they are such things which really mature a woman, you have kids, you will have children, you have to look up, in the middle of meetings your child call up, your maid will call up. You cannot snub like a man that this is not my responsibility, don’t disturb me, I am in a board meeting. And the best thing about the men and women diversity is that you act like a woman. And I believe, I am repeating myself that ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’ and when they come together on a table, they bring the diversity and they bring the holistic approach.

So, I have always been a woman, I never wanted to be a male and go forward but it's just that when you go for work, you be yourself. You do not identify yourself as a male or female, you be yourself, you perform yourself and as a female you should bring out your femininity in the atmosphere, in the workspace. This has been what I have felt. And the only thing is that as a mother, you should also bring your daughter and your son. They should be exposed to the, they should not be a difference in their growth; you should not give importance to their gender. But give importance to the quality, to the lives to the ability. I have been brought up, I have come from very middle class family, and I have been brought up as a woman, as a girl. I was used to a few biases. My parents always said and they have never done that. My brother went to college, I had to stay back. All these things I tell my people but it has never inhibited you. So, my only lesson to every woman and man is that be yourself, just be yourself. Come up with your own originality and that will take you forward.

AITD: Lovely, that shows how empathetic leader you have been.

Ms. Amrita Sharan: And one thing is that a leader should not have followers. Leadership makes leaders, they are the leaders and COVID taught us that. The manager, the way he came forward and took his team forward, you realise there are so many leaders around and you should not have 10 people saluting you, you should have 10 people saying that I have learned from you. So, a leader should make leaders, they should not make followers. That is something very important.

AITD: Yes, there should be inclusive management.

The follow up question here in Air India specifically, is there any inclusive management strategies that you have so that you ensure that their participation is always there? Most of the organisations do have. We would like to hear from Air India.

Ms. Amrita Sharan: Yeah, I will again say that 30-35% of my workforce is women. So, I don't know what is inclusive, but I don’t have a discriminatory Policy in my office. There's no discrimination. You are not identified by your gender. So, that is what we do. And you appreciate it as a gender, as a mother, as a wife, as a woman, you appreciate it. That's what we want to do in my organisation.

AITD: It’s generally easy to manage low performers because it’s easy to tell that you do this and that and there is a talent management gap.

I wish to hear from you, how do you manage high performers in an organisation?

I am sure in an organisation like yours where they are always there to take up responsibilities. In fact, you mentioned that there were no benefits that you were able to give them so they must be star performers.

So, how do you, as an HR professional manage these high performers within your organisation?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: In a Government organisation you are governed by the guidelines. There are no major carrot and stick rules here. So, there is a difference here. As I said, I really believe that if I make leaders, I encourage them to come out and become leaders. I develop them. You recognise them, you talk to them. Yes, there have been instances where we have recognised them. In Wuhan, the staff that operated, Prime Minister gave awards to them. So, we do have incentives and before the merger there were incentives. There were parameters laid down and based on that people were incentivised. That has come down after merger.

In Government sector, there are many things you want to do but you cannot really, you do not have the liberty of really awarding somebody because of the excellent performance and taking action against somebody who have not performed. But yes, we have our ways of appreciating them, recognising them, taking them forward. And yes, I have also come through. So, there are people who have, in this network have come up based on performance, simply based on performance. This is something difficult to take forward. And when we get privatised, this is something I would like to address. Lot of ideas I would like to take forward with this.

AITD: I will ask you a question which must be sometime taking a lot of your time. This is about the Employee Unions. You have got 8 Unions in Air India, your commercial pilots, Employees, cabin crew, engineers, technicians, all sorts of Unions.

So, what has been your experience of dealing with these Unions, engaging with them, bargaining with them because most of them are against this disinvestment plan of the Government and they are all worried about the future and they want to save the best for their Union members? So what has been your experience dealing with this so many Unions in Air India?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: Dealing with Unions that have been in industrial relations for over 20 years. So dealing with unions gives me a kick, talking to them. I love to talk to 20 people all. And dealing with Unions within organisation does not pay you well, not able to give me a better facility, has a different colour altogether. It is difficult to convince them. See we have a problem because we had a merger. So, we have erstwhile Air India Union, we have got erstwhile Indian Airlines Union. And this new fabric that has come up in the Union has been very difficult in the sense of our higher point of view. And our Unions are very strong. Our pilots, engineers, they are very strong because they can really disrupt, stuck the organisation. It can come to a standstill left by pilots which we used to fly. But so far in this disinvestment exercise they have been quite cooperative. And with them we first analyse the issue that we have. All the HR issues that need to take forward and we learned from our mistakes. During merger HR issues were not addressed properly. So, we took 13-14 years to really settle down after the merger. It was a Political decision and then the two organisations were merged and then optimally we started addressing the HR issues which was very difficult. It was a very difficult exercise but we have gone through that. After going through that, disinvestment we are still waiting for.

But basic issues that they had about their Provident Fund, their security, gratuity, all we have been able to address. So again I had a Union meeting with them about transfer of Provident Funds because from the fabric of a Government organisation to go to a private organisation, there are lot of things to look after, lot of issues to be addressed and especially now when my workforce is such, I mean my pilots and crew, they will get a job but otherwise it’s basically a ground job, they don’t have that kind of employability outside. So, we are genuinely taking care of them, we are looking at it. Even the Government, the Ministry is quite supportive. So all the HR issues which we feel will be a showstopper, we are able to address that. That is how we are taking it forward, addressing it, genuinely addressing it.

AITD: It's a very important and very difficult thing to achieve. You mentioned about that you are a Government organisation. Of course we all know that the culture in a Government or public sector undertaking is quite different from private organisation, it’s totally different. And as privatisation takes place now, you are going to be under a private player and now people will have to now start thinking, it’s a different ballgame. I mean I came from Army, I am in a private office, I know the difference. It’s not easy to adjust.

So, how will you prepare your people, how will you change the culture?

It’s a different way of thinking. Here people think no, I am a Government servant. You can't even think about those lines.

So, how you are preparing to bring about this change in the people's mind-set because otherwise a new private player will say okay I don't require these people, I don't want them, they can go home?

But, if you find someone very active, very productive, and with a new brand new culture, they may have second thought - let's keep these two people because hiring new people will be more expensive.

So, how are you preparing your people for a culture which will be different in a few months?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: The only thing I can say, the main thing I can say is that these people who are going to be privatised, the competition is on private players. Indigo, SpiceJet people who are ex-Indian Airlines, they are all there and pilots. So they are basically aware of what’s going to happen and they all are basically waiting for this disinvestment. Because otherwise we are in a very bad state. But preparing them, is something, what we all are saying right now is, one blessing is that this is going to continue as an airline. As an airline when you continue and you have this kind of experience, this kind of workforce which has brought up all the private airlines, they know the quality of these people and these people know that now they have to perform to be there. And they know that in one year time you can't have total employee change. You cannot replace the entire workforce.

So, my highly skilled sector, my flight dispatchers and my flying crew they know that they have to work in a different way but they know that they have a security. My other people, who are there at the airport, they know that if they perform, they will continue. That conviction they have. So, that is what we are saying that if you go on doing your job, maybe a little bit of Upskilling is required; we may have the edge on redeployment of people. But as long as we are very positive and proactively taking this competition, you will be able to survive.

AITD: Once they prepare for this change and become value in the eyes of the private players, nobody wants to hire fresh people. I give an example of another PSU which is under disinvestment and they are really looking forward to it. They say we are really looking forward to it because we are under so much of control, we can't hire people, we can’t fire people, and we can't make Policy change. So, to that extent it's something to be looked forward to and not something to get worried about. So, that is the culture.

Ms. Amrita Sharan: Yeah, so we are also really looking forward to this change because for us we know that this is the only thing we will survive in. So, we are very positive about the change and my workforce is very positive about it. See we have not had any strike, any demonstration against it, nothing against disinvestment. And my organisation is so media friendly that if anything happens, it's doubly exaggerated and put up in the TV. But so far we have been very blessed, we have been very comfortable. All of us are waiting for this change. So we are prepared and ready for this change and we know people who are really not comfortable, they have the option of opting out also. So that flexibility is also there. Now you know how you have come from Army and you are so adjusted, you came here of choice.

AITD: Yeah, I came here of choice and when you come to a private organisation, that security is not there but then there are other things, other freedom, other challenges and opportunities. And your freedom to express yourself, you are ready to take risks which you are not used to in a government organisation because there SOPs are laid down. So, I am sure once people get used to this, they will look forward to this change.

This pandemic has been really very tough on everyone. Organisations had to close working on the campus and move to remote mode of working, online working. And another side they have been lot of stress, worries for the well-being because many of the Employees, people lost their family members. Lot many things have happened. But it is said that during tough times, building the resilience and positivity is very important and help them to cope with the stress and uncertainty because even today we don't know how long it will take, when you will get into the normal. We don’t know yet when exactly we are going to live in the new normal. So, under this condition where you have different categories of, altogether very different skill sets, the pilots, they have different skill sets, the technicians will have a different skill set. All together the different skill sets, your cabin crew, engineers, ground staff and all.

So, how your organisation Air India will deal with this problem, taking care of the well-being one side, taking care of managing the stress and having all the tender positivity because in your organisation employees feel lot of challenges, bringing the citizens from the different parts of the world, risking their own life? So, you being the HR head, what did you do that you continue to build the Employees to deal with these uncertainties and to make them high performer, positivity all the time? So would like to hear from you couple of initiatives which has been taken?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: COVID has been a major educator. We have learned a lot from this COVID. First of all, it's an ‘aha’ moment for HR because personally board members of the HR are the most important persons handling HR, we realise that; I mean first we have to deal with that internal customer. Employees are given the major importance. So, what we did initially was, first of all, within two days we had to shift work from home, within 72 hours my IT department was able to shift not totally but we were quite operational. And lockdown for us has not been a lockdown. We have been coming to office throughout.

All of us, most of us have been coming to office especially executives, they have been coming to office throughout because the ‘Vande Bharat Flights’ were there so we could not just dump our flights and people to do the job and we sit at home. All of us have been there, totally at the airport and at workplace. So basically there were few things that we wanted to do before. I wanted to know, before COVID accelerated, my digital learning, my Upskilling through digitisation. There was lot of resistance before but my pilots and my cabin crew used to be refreshed regularly. There was a DGCA requirement, they have to be trained. There is a time table laid out. So, they have to go for a refresher after one month for certain trainings. The good point of COVID was that we could digitise it, we could do things online and my interviews were online. There were major changes which have come in the organisation and we want to carry it through. We have started having meetings online the way we have interaction today. Earlier for one meeting we had to go to London, US and to sign one paper. All that is now happening on Zoom and on Webex. So, it's been a major learning for us and digitalisation is something that we have been after. We were really lagging from customer point of view.

But this entire thing got accelerated because that way handling employees is better. My interviews were online and I have not spoken to my Employees the way I have spoken to them online. It was so easy to talk to anybody sitting in Chennai otherwise you had to go to Chennai to speak to them. But the whole group used to come to my office and I could speak to them. I have spoken to people sitting in New York. And this I would have never imagined. The communication is very strange but it has become better because I could communicate to people sitting at home. I could communicate to them when this work from home happened. So, just communication has been one which has really taken us forward. We have been able to digitise as a Government Company and my employees with 50% background. There were little resistance but that aspect has been taken care of. So it has been very positive side of COVID.

Second thing was my priority for medical attention. So we had COVID centres made. We have made arrangements with their hotel where people after flight, they used to go there. Anybody infected, they had a COVID centre. We have a medical department. So health of my people was very important to us. So we have COVID Centres. We have made sure that everybody is taken care of and their family is also taken care of. And vaccination is another drive where 70% of my staff has gone through vaccination drive. So, that's how we are taking care of. We are also giving medical assistance to our retired Employees. There's no limit, the numbers are very high. Taking care of them is again one aspect we have looked into and we have tried out best. And again it's because our concentration was on computers, we could talk to them at home and speak to the people. So Zoom and WebEx have been a boon for us. So COVID has been a major educator for us although we paid a major price for it. We are learning a lot from this.

AITD: That’s true that it has been great learning for everyone, adopting the technology, being more flexible. I think the well-being and care and being more connected has been more intense than ever before. Air India, the great organisation, you have been with this organisation for 30+ years. I know many of the very senior people, Mr. Narula earlier at Air India. So, now you being the first woman Director HR and also you being the Board Member, breaking the glass ceiling and all that, you have reached to that level. I just want to know because you are a role model for many future women leaders, so what have been your journey since you joined Air India because you have not only seen the changes and development in yourself but you have also seen changes in the culture, changes in the strategies and the growth of the organisation, you have changed the turnaround situation also in this organisation. At times you have seen from the distance but then you have seen being a part of it, driving it.

So, my question is, what message you would like to give to young women in the country in the corporate world, what clicks to come to the top and how to maintain your goal set right? And what strategies to adopt? But the development should be the, because you have the responsibility of the family, managing the family, managing the career, reaching to the leadership role, all kinds of things. How did you manage it, what message you would like to give to the young future leaders?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: First of all, don't think of glass ceiling. There is no glass ceiling. So don't have the restrictions of anything controlling you or stopping you. Don't even think of there is any glass ceiling, you just up reach to anything and believe me the kind of ‘Shakti’ we have inside us, the kind of magic, a woman can do, just rely on your ‘Shakti’ and go forward. I would like to say that you have to do a job when you are passionate about it. It’s difficult because many people have to do because of economic reasons. So, if you are not passionate, make it passionate. If you do not bring in positivity, if you do not enjoy. Once you start enjoying being a mother, definitely you enjoy, you enjoy being a wife, a housewife and you enjoy being what you are doing. As long as you are just in the present moment and you don't think of any excuse of leading a life, you will be very happy and everything will come out. As a woman, I really feel the ‘Shakti’ that we have, we just have to rely on our Shakti and it can do wonders. There is no doubt on that. And there is no competition with men. Men are men and women are women and both of us will take this forward. It's not that a rise of woman is a fall of man. No, it is not that.

Basically, women rising is an economic issue. 50% of the population will start contributing to the economy if the women come up. And I think here again I have a major role as a mother to play. How we bring our children, how to bring both girls and boys and how to educate them. So, our role as a mother, as a professional mother is very important. But yes, I repeat there is no glass ceiling, there is nothing a person can’t do. And believe you can do much better. I see my husband handling my children and house and kitchen is not done. This is not what we want but we can handle all of them together. It's just live your life, enjoy every moment, I really feel that. And if you start having believe in yourself, you will not look for excuses. You will look to anything coming to you in a positive way. So, its lots to do in life and each moment can be lived to the fullest. And as long as you don't think there is a glass ceiling, there is something covering you up, there is a compartment which you have to break through.

AITD: I would like to ask you a very hypothetical question. First of all we are very proud of Air India. Because it is Air India and it is our national carrier. And it has done wonderful job in spite of all its financial problems. It has done a wonderful job and it has risen to the occasion so many times as you have brought up during today's conversation. Now, as a private player takes over, he may not have that kind of response to the requirements of the Country or the nation or the Government as for him other interests would be there.

So, is it possible that it gets privatised but still remains a national carrier?

It still has that brand value of a national carrier and does not become any other private airline ABCD and so many of them. We would not like to see that day. After all, Air India is the symbol of pride.

So how do you see the brand being retained even after privatisation?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: See it's just as an employee of the Company, I feel that we will be able to do this; we will find the same Air India, same values that we have to continue with that. But yes, sitting in this position I can't really think of what my new boss will think and how do we take it forward. But the brand of Air India will continue. We will be an airline flying as Air India. And Government has certain obligation of propagating the same values of continuing the integrity, the sincerity with which this Company has contributed to the nation. We hope that Government also support and we as an Employee of the Company, we still have few years to go, we cannot turn out to be very indifferent to a national cause in two years. Thirty years of service. All of us are very elderly in this organisation. I really believe that we will continue to be like this at least for few years.

AITD: The question was, what the future private owners, how will you make them change their minds?

Profit is always there at the back of private player’s mind. But there is something as the national obligation and pride of being a national carrier, how to bring that change in those people rather than they bringing those changes into you people?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: I really feel that people who come to buy a brand, Air India has a very powerful brand. So, they will buy that brand and with the brand they have to buy the culture also. But let's see, believe me it’s a very difficult question. I think if there is a call of nature and as a natural reaction, all these existing Employees would like to go forward. So, there will be only 20-25 people who would not like to go forward but if we will make profit and service together, it will be a win-win. We need to make profit; there is no doubt in that. So we may ask the Government to pay us and then we continue with the same service. Yes, profit and our duty can come together.

AITD: As a young leader, what are the 3 things that probably these potential managers to pick up and learn so that they can actually do very well in their career. Any 3 quick tips?

Ms. Amrita Sharan: Tips can be 1, 2, 3 but it’s very difficult to confine to the tips. I just want to have one message conveyed, that is again I am repeating, ‘be passionate, be sincere in whatever you do’. If you don't want to do it, don’t do it. But when you do it, do it with a passion and just be yourself. We need not compete with others, we need not copy others, as long as we are passionate about our job and we do with our sincerity and with the hope of achieving the goal, so the goal is something very important. We should have a vision and work for that vision, without any constraint or any inhibition of not being able to do the way you want to do it, just go forward. Believe, I have seen people, again I am repeating, with the Covid experience. A junior person, the way he came forward, he had gone to places he can’t even name. I can't pronounce the state but the guy how he managed to do that and come out with one simple idea whom to talk to. That's what I want to say when crisis comes then you realise what your worth is. So I won’t say that people should go on crisis. But make every day a one day that you live for. Just live for the day. That's all is required.

AITD: It reflects in the way you speak. We should actually congratulate you for carrying this positivity, even though we are in online. I think you have actually vibrated the audience with a smile and vision that you are able to spread.

Ms. Amrita Sharan: The only thing, one message that I have is, you have to be positive because whatever comes in your life, all of us has gone through. Life has to teach you lesson. You just have to be positive and take it forward. And in my age I can say that inner peace is what can take you forward. But believe me; you should give the remote of happiness to yourself. It should not be that because boss has snubbed me so I am unhappy, my son has snubbed me so I am unhappy, my husband did not speak to me, I am very unhappy. Happiness should be there inside you. All these variations if they are there, if you are happy and if you are pleasant, you will change all the variations. If you are smiling, your son will smile properly, your boss will not snub you so much, so you can spread happiness but have control of your life. Not the external circumstances, no promotion, 1%. This happens in life, it does not mean that takes away, steals away your happiness, all your pleasures of life. Happiness is to be happy. Just look for happiness and positivity inside you. Life is beautiful. Everybody has to go through the turmoil of life. I really want to talk to my youngsters these days.

Astrology is good; I am not saying it’s something incorrect. There are stars. But I believe that your own Karma that whatever is destined, you can really change it. If you work, if you have positivity, if you see the challenge and want to work it, whatever obstacle, whatever destiny has written for you, you have the power to change it. I really feel. Karma really works. I really feel that your Karma will take you forward. Whatever happens, there is no fault, astrology is a science, I believe in that. But astrology restricts you, tells you that this is going to happen. This is spirituality of your own positivity that liberates you. So, you are liberated by your own positivity, you are able to be what you are by your own positivity and the Karma that you do.

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Moderated by: Brig R.K. Sharma


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