Jet Airways collapse | ‘Those were the toughest days of our lives,’ says former HR head Rahul Taneja

Jet Airways collapse | 'Those were the toughest days of our lives,' says former HR head Rahul Taneja thumbnail
The days leading to April 17, 2019 - when Jet Airways suspended its operations - were the toughest for the airline's 16,000 employees, including the Chief People Officer Rahul Taneja.Till then, Taneja and his colleagues continued working "with an endeavour to continue running the airline operations. No one ever gave up. It was only after…

The days leading to April 17, 2019 – when Jet Airways suspended its operations – were the toughest for the airline’s 16,000 employees, including the Chief People Officer Rahul Taneja.Till then, Taneja and his colleagues continued working “with an endeavour to continue running the airline operations. No one ever gave up. It was only after I had released the communication of the suspension of service, did the gravity of the situation dawn on me,” recounts Taneja, who later joined Jindal Steel & Power Ltd as the Group Chief HR Officer.Excerpts of his interview with Moneycontrol:Q. Could you take us through those days before April 17?A: Those were some of the toughest days of our lives. While we all were battling it out, we remained focussed on the task at hand and kept evaluating options after another with an endeavour to continue running the airline operations. No one ever gave up. All employee groups collaborated and worked cohesively all those days, weeks and months leading to April 17.It was only after I had released the communication of the suspension of service, did the gravity of the situation dawn on me. The toughest decision for me, and I am sure for all employees, was leaving each other.Q. As the HR head, it would have been difficult to rally the employees. What were the steps taken to answer their queries and calm them?A: We made sure that we communicated extensively and comprehensively. After each quarter result, we would conduct town halls at over 22 locations and till the last quarter result, we conducted these town halls and open houses across the network. We met with all the employee groups regularly every week and attempted to answer their questions with all the information we had. And when we had no information to share, we went ahead and told them that as well.They all knew that, while we were engaging with them, we simultaneously engaged with the government, financial institutions, regulators and potential investors as well.Commitment was high during the last three quarters. If you were to look at the OTP (on time performance) data, you would see that Jet Airways was amongst the top two for most of the sectors.Q. In our story earlier, we wrote that employees – despite the financial loss – look back fondly at their stints in the airline. What made the company popular? Is it because, as is said in the industry, they were the highest paid among their peers? A: Yes, it was a good pay master as it employed best of breed talent and never compromised on its quality of hire.What stood out for employees was the airline’s impetus on overall personality development. Our development belief was based on a philosophy, ‘enable people with skills & competence (technical, functional and behavioural) to handle adversity with élan’.Q. Despite the problems it faced later on, Jet Airways remained popular among customers? What explains that?A: Founder Naresh Goyal put together some of the finest teams. Be it the folks that oversaw in-flight services, delivered to perfection by the ‘always well-turned up’, ladies in the cabin, what with their striking yellow long jackets and smartly attired guys in the blue bandhgalas; or the ground services team that created what was India’s first and only personalised service that JetPrivilege Platinum and Gold members used to swear by.The airline had the best breed of pilots and an enviable team of engineers who maintained one of the most complex fleets with even more complex sub-fleet, in this part of the world. Not to forget the commercial leadership that always led the markets with its data led, yet intuitive decision making.Q. You worked closely with Naresh Goyal. Your observation on the promoter and entrepreneur.A: Mr Goyal, as we called him, remained till the end, its last and the only chairman. He will always be remembered as a man who dreamt of creating an Indian airline that was modelled on the service excellence of Singapore Airlines and operational prowess of KLM.He believed in service excellence and, for him, customers always came first’ and ensured that all of us lived by those ethos.Q. In hindsight, do you think operations could have been revived before Jet Airways was admitted into NCLT in June?A: There are a lot of ifs and buts, and really a lot has been said about that. I would just say that it was destined to be so.Q. Are you hopeful of seeing Jet Airways fly again?A: I really do not know what to say about that.Time to show-off your poker skills and win Rs.25 lakhs with no investment. Register Now!
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