Article: For us, people come first: Anjali Chatterjee, AirAsia India


For us, people come first: Anjali Chatterjee, AirAsia India

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Anjali Chatterjee, Head, People & Culture at AirAsia India, throws light on how people come first at AirAsia India and the efforts being put in by the organization to help its people reskill for the future.
For us, people come first: Anjali Chatterjee, AirAsia India

While many of us are uncertain and unsure about the future world of work that awaits us, there are others who look excitedly to what new things will it bring. One of them is Anjali Chatterjee, Head- People and Culture, AirAsia India who believes that it is an evolving world and we need to evolve along with it. And for people to evolve with changing times, it is imperative that organizations put in place plans to enable them.

In an exclusive interaction with People Matters, Anjali Chatterjee, Head, People & Culture at AirAsia India, throws light on how people come first at AirAsia India and the efforts being put in by the organization to help its people reskill for the future. Anjali comes with 30 years of experience and spent a significant part of her career across multiple facets of HR such as Global Talent Acquisition, Compensation & benefits, Talent Management & OD, Learning & Development, and Diversity Planning & Business HR. Anjali was most recently with Tata Communications where she spent more than 15 years handling various roles in HR. Prior to that, she has worked in companies like LG Electronics, Jet Airways, and ABC Consultants in Chennai, Delhi, and Mumbai.

Aviation in India is going through tough times. What do you think ails the Indian aviation sector? What are the main challenges it faces?

We all know what is happening in the aviation sector and it is sad but it is what it is right now. However, every challenge opens an opportunity and people cannot afford to ignore the opportunities in this sector as well. 

“The fact remains that travel industry is booming and we have a huge population of train travelers who are yet to convert to plane travelers.” 

Also, with more slots opening up for the current players in the sector, it is adding up to the aggressive growth plans of Air Asia as well, which is banking on its speed, expertise, and ability to capitalize on the growth opportunity in the sector.

How do the prospects of building a career in aviation look like? What are the key things candidates should keep in mind while deciding on a career in aviation?

As the travel industry is growing, more and more jobs are getting created. As a result, we are hiring across functions. The key things candidates need to keep in mind apart from the obvious technical and functional qualifications is the mindset. Candidates need to develop a mindset of guest care and guest empathy, service orientation and an overall a wow guest experience. In this way, every single employee in Air Asia is an HR tasked with creating a wow guest experience.

What defines culture in Air Asia? What are the two-three key ingredients which define it?

The best part about Air Asia India is that it is a JV between two amazing and exceedingly strong organizations (Tata Sons and AirAsia Malaysia). In both these organizations, people come first. Keeping this as a background, the top two ingredients of the culture is that it is an open culture and the entire top management is totally accessible. The employees are free to approach anyone including the CEO. The other most important thing is the focus on the value of integrity- again which draws upon the combination of Tatas and Air Asia. Also, we do not call our workforce as our employees but all stars. 

“The same way we take care of our employees, we expect them to take care of our guests. So care starts with our employees in the workplace itself.”

What are some of the steps being taken by Air Asia to promote employee engagement?

The culture of our office-i.e. the open office helps us connect with our employees and engage with them. I sit in an open office and do not have a cabin. We also create fun at workplace and all our communication is through work chat and not by emails, which creates a very flat structure.

How does Air Asia invest in skilling and upskilling its employees? What are some of the learning practices that have been put in place?

We have a very strong learning plan and we invest a lot in skilling and upskilling of our employees. We have tied up with many organizations including LinkedIn for functional and technical development. In addition, we are looking at developing our all-star people further on managerial skills. We are also working on a project for reskilling for the future. We give all our all-star opportunities to apply for open positions before looking into the market. Anyone can become anything here. A learning culture must be supplemented with a strong internal job portal so that people are learning to grow and build a career and not simply for tick marking learning.

Sydney-based consultant CAPA (Centre for Aviation) forecasts the current number of pilots in India at 7,963. In a decade, airlines will have to hire 17,164 more. Airlines are doing everything to fight this shortage. What are some of the steps being taken by AirAsia?

Apart from doubling down on hiring, we are launching a pilot’s cadet program this month. The program will be a regular process which will help us build a supply of pilots to take care of our need as well as keep pace with the growth happening in the aviation sector.

What are going to be your key priorities in your new role at Air Asia?

AirAsia is expanding fast and we are supporting that growth by doubling down on people. We will also be continuing the path to further develop values and culture in AirAsia-more is always less! We are also working on building a learning organization so that people can keep on growing even outside their own function. Another aspect we are focusing on dearly is the process of digitization in the organization. We are one of the most tech-savvy amongst all the airlines and we will continue to walk down this path.

With times and technology, you need to change. So along with tech, reskilling for the future becomes very important. So if earlier I was focusing on recruitment offline, now I am focusing on recruitment online. So in the next 20 years while we will see more digitization, we will also see more learning. Jobs will be there but will be different. Thank God I am doing something different today otherwise we would die of boredom! So I am happy today I am doing something more valuable!

“It’s an evolving world out there and we should evolve with it.”

For someone who is looking to grow in Air Asia, what are the one or two things he/she should focus on? What is your piece of advice to these individuals?

You have to dare to dream because you have to have passion and ambition to grow. So dreaming, having a learning attitude, and going there and getting it done will help you grow not only in Air Asia but anywhere in this world!

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Topics: Culture, Talent Acquisition

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