“Sky is the limit for those who aspire”
Mr. B. Kartikeya Editor of Aviation Update in discussions with the superwoman of the aviation world Mrs. Radha Bhatia (Chairman, Bird Group) on the role of women in the aviation world, current scenario and family values.
An author, a businessperson, a philanthropist, and a cook, how do you manage to don so many hats?
I strong believe that - “When you take up any work, you must devote your full time to it”. I tried to put my best effort in each and every sector and the results are here. As an author, my first book was “Lassis of India- Smoothies with a twist,” where I tried to mention not only about the beverage but also about our rich culture and history. My grandchildren would never know what “Lassi” is,because they know more about smoothies. I felt there was a need to pen down a book on Lassi because the young generation might remain unaware of such a delicious beverage.
You cannot write a book without any research, and I did some research on this as well. In the ancient age, there were no hand pumps or taps. One had to fetch water from some water source located far away. The water was not only used for drinking, but also to bath the gods because it’s in our culture. After bathing the gods, the water was considered holy and was served as “Charanamrit.” This “Charanamrit” also had some elements of Yogurt.
In this book, I have briefed about our family values, traditions, and ancient Indian history. I have primarily mentioned the benefits of yogurt, and how various herbs, vegetables, and fruits are an essential part of our daily lives.
I married to a “travel agent” and was working as a teacher in a convent for the first four years before marriage. The teaching profession and my educational qualification gave me the much-needed exposure required to venture into the world of business. After helping my husband in his company for 20 years, I tried helping my son, who was looking for a profession, and I helped him to establish Amadeus in India. I helped him further in many other businesses as well. My younger son started his career with ground handling, and I tried supporting him as well. In the course of time, I became a successful businessperson.
When you grow older, you feel that society has given you so much and it’s time to give back to the community. That sense of gratitude made me a philanthropist. The first thing that came to my mind while sharing something was education. I have established an academy for the aviation aspirants named The Bird’s Academy of Travel & Tourism. Here, we provide free education to several underprivileged children. Aviation studies are quite expensive, but we have kept our fees the lowest. The “Aviation Multi Skill Development Centre” is a 5-star accredited aviation skills training centre that has been established with the association with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) and Airport Authority of India (AAI) at the old Chandigarh Airport. It provides training in eight aviation job roles in an actual airport environment. Most of our students are from poor financial backgrounds and the training benefits them in getting jobs in the aviation sector. Till date, we have placed more than 40,000 students in travel agencies and in the aviation sector.
Gardening and cooking are my hobbies. As a kid, I used to adore my grandmother, and she was my ideal. She was an excellent cook. She inspired me since I was five years old, and she was an expert in gardening and cooking. I remember an incident when she came from Masoori (the place where she lived) to Meerut (the place where we lived) and bought a giant pumpkin. She taught me how a little pumpkin resides inside the pumpkin seed, and when we sowed it, we get more pumpkins. Last year, I bought guavas with red seeds. I dried the seeds and made my grandchildren plant it. This year, we are eating the guavas from the seeds that we have sowed. So, the elders must teach the younger generation.
You have been associated with the aviation industry for a long time. What are recent prominent changes you observed regarding in-flight management, operations, customer engagement, aircraft maintenance, staff recruitment, and training?
In its initial days, the aviation sector was quite restricted. In the last 7-8 years, the industry opened up and evolved. We have seen a boom in the industry since the previous decade, which is incredible. Air India and the Indian Government didn’t like the foreign airlines to join in, so they used to have bi-laterals. During the bi-laterals, they decided that there would be code-sharing with other airlines. That was the turning point when the aviation market in India revolutionized.
Thanks to technological advancements, the in-flight operation scenario is changing now and then. Now, you can get a Wi-Fi connection while on-board, communicate anywhere, and watch televisions while flying. I have seen several gunships landing at the Safdarjung Airport, as the Palam airport didn’t exist.
Unfortunately, the onset of the pandemic has immensely affected the world and the aviation sector. But I am quite confident that once the COVID-19 situation is under control and the vaccines are in place, the aviation sector would shine up again.
What are the challenges the aviation industry is currently facing due to the onset of the pandemic? In your opinion, how much time would it require to recover from the current situation?
Our government can answer the question well, as they are the ones responsible for making the situation under control. This COVID-19 situation is a global concern. However, many countries have permitted airline operations. All we can do is hope for the best! In my opinion, 2021 would be the golden year for the aviation industry.
In the post-COVID world, do you predict a paradigm shift in business dynamics for the significant Aviation industry players? What strategic changes would be required to be adopted to help evolve the health, logistic and operational challenges posed by the pandemic?
The technology would rule post-pandemic. Few of the airports have COVID-19 checking machines installed that can detect and tell whether the person is fit to fly or not. In the post-pandemic world, health would be given more importance. Sanitizing and masks would be the norm, and the rules would be modified for the sake of safe traveling.
Once the pandemic is over, we have to deal with the new world!
The pandemic has hit the aviation sector hard, and several people have lost their jobs. Now, in the post-pandemic world, there would be recruits armed with new skill-sets. People who can update themselves would stay here. I am trying to introduce new norms in my Birds Aviation Academy and training the aspirants with the new skill-sets. It is because when the boon comes, the airlines should not suffer due to the workforce crisis, and the aviation sector can hire professional people from the industry.
As a president of WAI (Women in Aviation International), what steps have you taken or planned to ensure a diverse workforce in the industry?
Being with the WAI, it’s paradoxical, because Aviation is considered as a man’s arena. India has around 13-14% of female pilots, while the rest of the world has only 3-5 % of female pilots. We are a set of 50 professionals (members of WAI) who try to bring up aspirants from the urban and rural parts of India. We bring forth the underprivileged and make them understand the possibilities to shine up in the aviation career. We go to the remote villages and to the people who have never seen an aircraft ever, take them to the control tower, the plane, and show them the airport. We then talk to them about the various job opportunities available. We have gone to 30-40 airports, shown the bright side of aviation career to the children, and make them understand the career possibilities in the sector. The participants can be as young as 8th class pass outs because we believe in “teach-the-young.” The governors or dignitaries of similar status often communicate with them as well. The parents are often worried about the safety of their children because they think airplanes are accident-prone, to which I tell them that more road accidents happen every day. When it is about the safety concerns for the women, we suggest the girls/ women that they must be strong enough to handle any situation. We are trying to change the mindset of several Indians.
You have perfectly balanced your work and family life. What advice would you offer to the professionals of the next generation, who often struggle to find a balance between both?
In my opinion, one must hone the skill to handle both the roles with equal finesse. However, family must be prioritized over career, because it’s our family that nurtures us. When you’re are working for your career, you must devote your entire time on it. But when you’re with your family, forget about your professional problems and devote full time to your family.
Every family has some traditions and culture, and that must be followed. It is essential to communicate well with the children. Try to make life more interesting for them, as these days it’s challenging with the technology, creating a distance between them and their families. The dumb box in front of them is taking away their power to communicate. We must teach our children how to value life, preserve nature, value money, and respect elders.