Welcome back, Air India – this was Ratan Tata’s Tweet earlier this evening as he announced the news of Tata group winning the bid for Air India. This is, both, an emotional and a moment of pride for Ratan Tata, who recounted how the airline was founded and managed under the able leadership of Jehangir Ratanji Dadabhoy Tata.
Welcome back, Air India 🛬🏠 pic.twitter.com/euIREDIzkV
— Ratan N. Tata (@RNTata2000) October 8, 2021
The winning bid of Rs 18,000 crore for Air India was made by Tata Sons. Along with the Tata group, Spicejet Promoter Ajay Singh had also put in financial bids. Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran hailed the development as a “historic moment” after the conglomerate successfully won the bid to acquire Air India. “This is a historic moment, and it will be a rare privilege for our Group to own and operate the country’s flag bearer airline,” Chandrasekaran said.
Here are few lesser-known facts about the national carrier:
- Founded in 1932 by J R D Tata, the airline was named Tata Air Services. This became the first Indian commercial carrier to transport mail and passengers within India. In the absence of proper facilities, the firm was initially based out of a small hut with a thatched roof at the Juhu Airstrip in then Bombay.
- In its very first year of operation, Tata Air Services went on to fly 2,57,495 km, carry 155 passengers and transport over 10 tonnes of mail. The same year, it also launched its longest domestic flight – Bombay to Trivandrum with a six-seater Miles Merlin monoplane. As these aeroplanes were tiny, the occasional passenger had to travel while sitting on top of mail bags!
- Six years later, in 1938, the airline was renamed and came to be known as Tata Airlines. Subsequently, in 1946, the aviation division of Tata Sons was listed as Air India, and in 1948, Air India International was launched with flights to Europe.
- This public-private partnership was the first of its kind in India. The government of India held 49 per cent stake, while Tata Sons held 25 per cent of the shares and the rest was owned by public investors.
- In 1953, the airline was nationalised and continued to be that way until now when Tata Sons won the bid.
- For the past decade, the national carrier was surviving on taxpayers’ money as it was reeling under heavy debt.
- In December 2020, 219 employees of Air India submitted their Expression of Interest in bidding for control of the airline. This was the first time in corporate history that employees of a public sector undertaking decided to be part of the bidding process.
- Tata Sons will now perhaps look to consolidate all their aviation investments. With 51 per cent stake in Vistara as well as an 84 per cent stake in AirAsia India, the group is all set to take over the aviation sector.
(Edited by Yoshita Rao)