Former model Mittu Chandilya will pilot AirAsia in India

mittu-chandilyaCHENNAI/NEW DELHI: To those who don’t know him, Mittu Chandilya is a young rookie plucked out of thin air by Tony Fernandes to pilot AirAsia in India. But those familiar with the 32-year-old say the Malaysian entrepreneur of Indian origin is placing his trust in a confident and sure-footed young man.

Chandilya, who has MBA degrees from INSEAD in France and Singapore and from Tsinghua University in Beijing, went to school in India but has never worked in the country or with any airline before. A part-time model, he was most recently the head of services practice for Asia-Pacific at executive search firm Egon Zehnder. His previous work experience has included a stint at Ingersoll and a startup that he founded. He takes over as CEO on June 1.

However, his friends at Rishi Valley school in Andhra Pradesh – he studied there till Class X and was a year junior to BJP leader Varun Gandhi – are convinced that his inexperience in the sector will not hold him back.

“He is very focussed when he is sure about what he wants to achieve,” said Aditya Challa, director at Jungle Beer in Singapore, who was Chandilya’s roommate at Rishi Valley’s ‘Neem’ hostel and still meets him regularly. “Another thing about him is that he is extremely professional.”

His Rishi Valley friends recall Chandilya contributing poems to a single-page dormitory newspaper.

The newspaper, brought out by the students, could be read in exchange for a single candy of Poppins.

“He was one of the few who contributed regularly to the paper,” said a classmate, requesting anonymity. “He was also a keen volleyball and football player. Cricket, he did not play much.”

From Rishi Valley, Chandilya joined ‘The School-KFI’ in Chennai, his hometown, where he will soon return to take up the position of CEO. “I am a native of Chennai, and I am excited about returning to India to revolutionise the air travel industry here,” he said in a statement. While most of his family are globetrotters, Chandilya’s uncle still lives in Tamil Nadu’s capital and is a doctor at Apollo Hospital.

He is also a self-confessed family man. “Although there are achievements that I am proud of, none compare to that of my two sons, Rishi and Rohan,” he said in an interview with Singapore-based lifestyle magazine ‘August Man,’ which chose him as one of its three A-Listers for 2012.

“Before they were born, I’ve always imagined how I would teach them about life and always be there for them. But little did I know, they ended up becoming my inspiration, strength and peace,” said Chandilya, whose wife Inga is an Estonian.

AirAsia group chief executive and founder Fernandes tweeted in March that a CEO had been identified for the India operation, which is being launched in a tie-up with the Tata Group. “A very smart boy from the South, Madras. An amazing CV…will impress all,” he had tweeted, but declined to reveal his identity. (Source:ET)

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