Tata Sons has partnered with Singapore Airlines to launch Vistara, a three-class Indian airline. CEO Phee Teik Yeoh explains why the two industry powerhouses thought it was time to bring full service to India’s aviation sector.
Air travel in India has become functional instead of experiential; many travelers are made to feel like they are just another seat number.
An airline like Vistara couldn’t have existed in India until recently. What has changed?
The Indian government realized there is immense potential in the Indian aviation market, as an engine for growth and development. In 2012, the previous government allowed foreign carriers to acquire up to 49 percent stakes in Indian airlines. Today, the new government’s investor-friendly outlook could potentially open up the Indian skies even further.
What gaps did you identify in the air travel market?
We carried out an in-depth consumer research to learn about their experiences, expectations, pain points, and what their need gaps are. We learned that air travelers are in an emotionally vulnerable state. This vulnerability can be summed up as dependence, anxiety and the loss of individuality.
While air travel in India is still limited to a very small segment of the population, this group’s basic needs are most compromised. Air travel in India has become functional instead of experiential; many travelers are made to feel like they are just another seat number.
You’ve said in the past that India’s aviation sector is “at a cusp.” What did you mean by that?
Yes, I truly believe the aviation sector in India is on the cusp of a change, in keeping with the transformation in the broad business and economy sentiment. In fact, I can already see the signs of transformation. India is a high potential aviation market. It is set to emerge as the third largest aviation market in the world by 2020. A CAPA study found that the number of domestic airline seats per capita was very low in India. All of this means the Indian aviation sector is moving very rapidly in the right direction.
What challenges are you anticipating in the Indian market?
Some of the critical issues plaguing the aviation sector remain the high cost of aviation turbine fuel, need for low cost infrastructure, and restrictions on international flights. These challenges impact the entire Indian aviation sector. India’s fiercely competitive aviation sector must overcome these major issues and other obstacles to achieve sound financial health. We don’t see any issues at the cultural level. We see a clear demand for a better flying experience from passenger.
The aviation sector in India has huge potential. The recent initiatives taken by the government show that they are cognizant of the need of the hour –that is making air travel accessible for everyone.
How do you think Vistara will change how customers view air travel?
Vistara will offer personalization of service and seamless travel that has so far not been experienced in the Indian market. Our core belief lies in the deep-rooted Indian saying, “Atithi Devo Bhava” which means “The Guest is our God.” We would like our obsession with quality to make a significant difference at every stage of their air travel experience.
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