Air Asia to initially invest $30 mn for Indian JV

New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) Malaysian low-cost carrier Air Asia initially plans to invest $30 million in its Indian joint venture with the Tata Group, its chief executive officer, Tony Fernandes, said here Wednesday.

"The potential of India was always there in my eyes. I was waiting for the market to become conducive for us so that we can stay here for a fairly long time and I think the tide is now turning very quickly. So we felt that this is the right time to come to India," he said while addressing a press meet.

Apart from this, the company is also eyeing the Indian insurance market through its Tune Money venture.

Fernandes, however, added that airports need to be much more proactive as they are a very large part of the cost pie.

He is hopeful that the operations can start from October. Fernandes met Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh Tuesday. The company has already applied for a no-objection certificate.

Asked how much marketshare the company has been eyeing in the Indian low-cost carrier space, Fernandes said: "I am not here to take away marketshare. But given India's potential of 1.3 billion population, this could be the largest Air Asia operation."

The company is planning to start from south India, with Chennai as its head office. Fernandes mentioned that the airline can have many bases in the southern part of the country like Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi.

Fernandes plans to further bring down airline fares in India as he feels these are now ruling at a higher range. The company also plans to look at international routes from India as Fernandes feels "India is a fantastic location to connect to Africa and the Gulf countries."

The recruitment process for the Indian operations has started, Air Asia India head Mittu Chandilya confirmed.

Speaking about aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices, Fernandes said though these were 30 percent higher in the Indian market, the company will find ways to mitigate this.