PROFILE AGE: 40
PREVIOUS POSITION: Group Head of Corporate Development, Implementation and Investor Relations, AirAsia.
YEARS IN INDUSTRY: I joined AirAsia in 2010.
EDUCATION: Bachelor of Commerce (Banking & Finance) from Curtin University of Technology, Australia, and Masters in Electronic Commerce from Edith Cowan University, Australia.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: “You should strive to do things that you like, something that you’re passionate about; challenges will always be there, but passion will give you the consistency, commitment and drive to overcome your challenges.” – Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, Chairman of AirAsia.
FAVOURITE PASTIME: I enjoy basketball and surfing.
Looking back, what do you consider the defining moments in your first 100 days in this position?
It came when I was tasked with establishing a strong management team, one with great leadership qualities, at the dawn of my days as CEO of AirAsia X Bhd. I believe that I have the best team and people with the airline now, and that was one of the main factors that has made AirAsia X’s turnaround possible. With amazing teamwork and the consolidated efforts from each all-star, we will definitely take the company to the next level.
How do you as CEO stay on top of your game?
To stay ahead, it is crucial to be kept updated of everything there is to know about the fast-changing industry. From finance and engineering, to aircraft technologies, flights operations and more, one simply has to stay on top of everything. Most importantly, we must get to know the people we work with, which is why I always try to make myself accessible to everyone, listen to suggestions and feedback, and also be open about what we do.
What do you foresee are the game-changing challenges facing your industry?
I believe that one of the biggest challenges in near future is the airline industry that is fast outgrowing the airport infrastructure of some countries in the region. AirAsia X is growing rapidly as demand for air travel increases, but we might potentially hit a roadblock in expanding our network to new markets due to capacity and airport constraints.
Single out a leader you wish to emulate and share with us why.
A leader is not only a person that you respect, but also someone that will be able to push you to go beyond your limit and strive for the best in what you can be. There are two great leaders that I would like to emulate as both of them are like my mentors. Tan Sri Tony Fernandes makes me believe that nothing is impossible and to never take no for an answer. That special mantra will always drive me to do whatever it takes and find ways to achieve my goals. Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, on the other hand, teaches me to always think ahead and never take success as the end of your goal. “The road to success is hard, but the road to maintain your success is even harder” is the quote from Datuk Kamarudin that I will always remember.
Why do you think CEOs need a dose of James Bond in their lives?
Among other qualities, I think that you need to have an edge as the CEO. A dose of ‘sexiness’ in you and keeping it fun at work would lighten up the workplace and induce the creativity of the people we work with. But, most important of all, we have to walk the talk, just like James Bond in the movies.
As CEO, what excites and worries you most?
What excites me is how we have enabled long-haul travelling for millions of people from this region through our low fares to amazing destinations like Hawaii, Auckland, the Gold Coast and more. We have given many the opportunity to fly for the first time and see the world, an achievement I am immensely proud of. Being in the airline industry, however, we are always on our toes in case of any unforeseeable events. But as long as we stay on top of our game, these events can be properly managed.
What are your strategies to making Air Asia X the most successful low-cost long-haul passenger carrier in the world?
As the pioneer in the low-cost longhaul carrier sector, it is important for us to keep growing and be the number one, and push ourselves further to maintain that leading position. We always strive to open up new markets and launch exciting destinations, so that our guests can fly to new places, while ultimately we hope to give them the opportunity to fly to every corner of the world.
Share with us any impactful advice you received that inspires you up to this day?
I remember Tony once told me to always be positive and confident in whatever I do; that I should never take no for an answer but always be patient, as it would build my character and make me a better person and a better leader. I carry that with me to this day and it has been proven very sound advice.