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Interesting Entrepreneur Project – Interview with Azran, CEO of Air Asia X

Posted: November 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: CEO, Entrepreneurship, Experience | 1 Comment »

I’m engaged with a very interesting entrepreneurship project. Guess I will postpone my Silicon Valley workshop experience to 2 posts after this. For this entrepreneurship project, first I interviewed Air Asia X CEO Azran Osman-Rani. Then, we as a group interviewed CEO Khailee Ng and General Manager Sam. In this post, I provide the contents and everything about Air Asia X. The answers in “quoted” form are the answers given by Azran.

1. What motivated you to start AirAsia X?

a.       AirAsia X is not my own business or my original idea. It was Tony’s. He had the vision to set up low-cost long-haul, but his fellow Directors and Shareholders at AirAsia felt it was too risky. So he set up AirAsia X as a separate stand-alone company to pursue the business idea. He was the one who searched for me and convinced me to lead the project and bring the idea to fruition.

b.      Tony wanted someone outside of Aviation and outside of his AirAsia team, because he knew that low-cost long-haul was going to be different. He didn’t want someone to lead it with pre-conceived ideas on how the airline should be run because there is no proven model for low-cost long-haul. He wanted someone to come in fresh, and challenge all the conventional wisdown of aviation and build up a new aviation model from scratch. He was attracted to me because of my (a) start-up experience from starting new media businesses in Astro, and (b) experience in multiple international markets, including living and working in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, India, etc.

c.       I was attracted to join Tony because it was an idea that was completely unproven, yet if we succeeded, we could revolutionise the entire global aviation industry. There aren’t opportunities where Malaysians can work on truly groundbreaking ideas – so I felt this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to try to prove something new. Plus it was my first opportunity to lead an organisation from scratch as CEO – where the buck stops with me, and I had to build a team from scratch and take full responsibility.

2. What are the key challenges you faced when you first proposed the idea to your teammates and to the potential investors?

The biggest challenge to recruit new people and new investors (Virgin, Orix, Manara) is that we didn’t have a track record, and there wasn’t even any proven successful models – all previous attempts at low-cost long-haul were failures. But Tony believed in the vision, and I was determined to find a logical business model to make it work, because fundamentally, i saw the same opportunity from price elasticity – that if you could offer low fares, more people would fly – the trick is to find how we could operate at a radically lower unit cost to support the lower fares.

3. How do you grow the business from a small start-up to what it is now in about just 4 years time?

Tough! Not only did we have to deal with all the typical start-up challenges, but we also had to battle the Global Financial Crisis, high oil spike, H1N1 epidemic and other natural disasters. The main thing is getting the organisation to fully understand and get excited about the mission/purpose of the organisation, and empower the teams to deliver results.

4. As I know, AirAsia X focuses on long-haul flight. How do you attract customers and keep them loyal to AirAsiaX?

1. Lowest Costs; 2. Attractive Destinations; 3. On-Time Performance Reliability; 4. New Planes and comfortable Seats; 5. Responsive Customer service.

5. Who are the competitors in the region and how do you direct your team to outcompete them?

For now competition is full-service airlines: MAS, SIA, Cathay, Thai, Qantas. We beat them on price, and have the same reliability/on-time performance and customer service responsiveness.

6. How’s the culture in AirAsia X? What are the most important qualities that you think an employee should possess?

Culture is one of 1. Openness and Sharing; 2. Boldness and Willingness to Try new Things; 3. Disciplined Execution; 4 Growing and nurturing young talent. Qualities: Must live these culture values.

7. Is that possible if you can share with us your direction for AirAsia X in the future?

To be the dominant low-cost long-haul airline in the world – world’s lowest unit cost, best on-time performance and safety reliability (better than Cathay and SIA), and service responsiveness as good as Cathay and SIA.


Besides, Some interesting facts and Business Model that Air Asia X  is using:

1. Air Asia X emphasize very much on cost control, even more intensive than the parent company Air Asia.

2. Air Asia X fully optimize aircraft utilization by planning different times of landing in London on different days.  Over 16 hours/day utilization of each plane.

3. For each flight, the water is not filled to maximum level, but to the level each  journey needs. This decreases the weight and decreases the total fuel needed for combustion.

4. Air Asia X did not revolve from the existing low-cost long-haul model, but they unbundle the full-service long-haul model and figure out which places that can cut cost and make more money. I think this is the reason why Tony (refer to Question 1.b. above) wanted someone fresh in aviation industry. Newcomers are willing to question the tradition and not taking things for granted.

5. Air Asia X charges low and transparent fares. It fills the planes to maximum passenger’s capacity. In short, moving the maximum amount of passengers at the minimum cost.

6. Developing Ancillary Revenues.

7. Frills (IFE, food and drinks, more comfortable seats) available to pre-book or purchase (value added to customers and company earn money)

Latest News:

The latest news (as of 7th November) is the share swap with MAS where Tun Mahathir urges this process to be taken quickly. Another key consideration for Air Asia X would be Singapore’s Airline recent launch ‘Scoot’ with similar models as of Air Asia X.

And next, I will be posting the interview with’s Khailee Ng and Sam!



An afternoon with MDeC – Being sustainable, scalable and ambitious

Posted: September 17th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: CEO, Experience | No Comments »

I made a quick trip to Urban Village at Bangsar just to meet Datuk Badlisham of MDeC. There are about 20 other youths joining me during that session. Among the few key takeaways for the meeting with MDeC.

1. Sustainability and Scalability. To be honest, I have been hearing both of these qualities as a successfull determinant to any business model so many times during this 2-month-holiday vacation. :P. From Celcom Axiata, CitiBank, and now from MDeC. Google MSC (Multimedia Super Corridor) if you are not familiar with the term MDeC.

2. Size of the opportunity. Here, Datuk is talking about how big the opportunity can go and how ambitious we are in setting up our business plan. One of the project that I’m really interested is the project of bringing Silicon Valley to Malaysia. I knew that MSC is once considered as Silicon Valley of Malaysia once upon a time (*wink*), and that many big names like Bill Gates from Microsoft, HP and so on have invested in this opportunity land. It’s  still remained as a question mark whether it’s considered a successful plan now or not now. I hope if anyone of you know more about this, do comment below! 😀

3. We have to think big, in term of the market opportunity.

4. Given more input to GTP Social media and economy from youth side.

A very simple post I know! See you guys again for my next post! Hopefully I have the time to elaborate more! 😀

The perspective game – Dinner with YCM founder

Posted: September 16th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: CEO, Experience | 1 Comment »


I promised to write a post especially for this amazing guy, Wan Mohd Firdaus. If you are not sure who he is, google MSLS (Malaysian Student Leadership Summit), YCM (Young Corporate Malaysians), and IDEAS. He is the co-founder of all these organizations. Google JP Morgan too! :p Haha. I have decided to write the points he raised during our meeting at KL Central Hilton in point form as I don’t really want to elaborate all of them.

  1. The 80/20 principle
  2. If you want to help others, help yourself first.
  3. Successful companies are those who have experience. He asked me what I wanted to do after graduation and whether I was limited to just engineering companies. I said no, and I said I wanted to eventually venture into the business field and have my own business. He straight away said, “Join consulting. You know, McKinsey and BCG.”
  4. If you want to be a billionaire, work with billionares, and become one of them. He has personally met 9 billionaires in his life and has worked with all 9 of them. Brilliant!
  5. Whatever you do, give it your full concentration. (This coincides with a video that I have recently watched on YouTube. It’s a Chinese show called ‘Dialogue,’ which interviewed Malaysia’s richest man, Robert Kuok. His advice to business owners, give full concentration to whatever you are doing.)
  6. Time and money
  7. It’s all about perspective. He told me that someone bought a watch that cost RM945,000. Yeah, it’s RM55,000 to a million. Just for a watch! Afterall, it’s all about perspective.

Trip to CitiBank – Key takeaways

Posted: September 13th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: CEO | 3 Comments »

I made a few trips to CitiBank during my holiday and attended an Otak2 session, a discussion with Michelle, and a CitiBank-ICMS Industry roundtable with top management. I met Sanjeev Nanavati, the CEO of CitiBank, twice in less than a month, and he was always among the first to leave the room. But that’s the banking industry!

There were some points brought up, especially for the interns from Otak2. According to the person-in-charge, the interns are too one-sided. They are like men with an elephant. Everyone is holding just a part of the elephant. Their knowledge on certain departments is based just on what they are ‘holding’ instead of a more general view of the whole banking system.

A very good point that I would like to share with all the readers is that young people actually know and can articulate the real problem. The problem with young people is that they just stop there. They shouldn’t be just observing and not making real changes to society but should think of real solutions to the problem. I later joined a roundtable discussion with the top management. I shall write about this in another post.

End of Summer Review – Incredible August in Malaysia.

Posted: September 4th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Announcement, CEO, Happy | 1 Comment »

August has been pretty incredible. I have met with people like Hannah Tan, Ganesh Kumar (Group CEO of Friendster), David Lai, IDEAS, Otak2 people, MISC people,  Michelle Iking of CitiBank, JJ & Ean of @ Astro AMP, Adibah Noor, Jeremy Teo, Prem (Malaysiakini CEO), and Jahabar (Malaysian Insider CEO).

Along with this is the passing of the century mark of SEC, one of the EYE Projects headed by Chris and Reza. Not to forget Nash, for sure! You can find the original message from the co-founder here in Facebook Notes. I’m now submerging myself in Investment Questions given by Chris, and three books bought from the KLCC book fest (Unfair Advantage, Common Wealth, and the Consulting Bible). I will write the reviews of these four books pretty soon (in addition to what I have done and experienced in my life)!

Incredible week reflection – The dawn of August 2011

Posted: August 7th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Blogger Party, CEO, Charity, Happy | 1 Comment »

This has been quite an incredible week, packed with fun and interesting activities. I would love to share some of these activities with you guys.

On Wednesday, Chris and I, along with Reza and Nash, went to Celcom Axiata Headquarter in KL Central, and we had the privilege of meeting with Dato Sri Jamaludin Ibrahim (President and Group CEO), Datin Badrunnisa Mohd Yasin Khan (Group Chief Talent Officer), and Grace Chan (Head, Branding and Corporate Responsibility Group Strategy) for a direct discussion and a pitch. I sat next to Datin, and she sat beside Dato.

The atmosphere was great, and, most importantly, I learnt a lot through the 45-minute meeting. One thing that I took away from what Dato Sri said is that whatever we are doing, we have to have a very clear objective and focus. At the same time, we have to define our end objective that we really want to achieve. Is it the process, or is it end results, you might ask? It doesn’t really matter—let me put the first statement and the second one together—as long as you focus on what you want to focus on. For example, Axiata has always focused on ‘we want to develop future leaders’, quoted directly from Dato Sri, driving the whole team of Axiata talent officers to work hard in that direction.

One of the end results is the production of many young talents below 18 through the Axiata Young Talent Programme. You have to clearly know your own motivation for doing what you are doing and always be guided by the same motivation to be directed to the correct paths. The destination that you are expecting might be slightly different from the real one, considering the improvement and struggles you will face along the way. The point here is your passion is always the first driving force that initiates your action, but to Dato Sri, you have to have more than passion to get you even further. You can get only so much, 1/5 according to Dato Sri, with your passion. It’s too bad that I didn’t have a chance to ask what the other 4/5 is for him. He was rushing after the 45-minute meeting. If any of you happens to meet him, please ask him, okay? =D

I had lunch with Jeremy Teo (the DJ of Red FM), along with Chris, the day before, but, unfortunately, I didn’t jot down everything he said. Nevertheless, it was a casual lunch, so I think he wouldn’t have expected me to write anything. Moving on to Thursday night: Chris, Joanne (@kaykaster) and I went to the Arthur’s Day Party Launch, and I lived the blogger lifestyle that night! (Haha, Chris!) I met a lot of bloggers, and some ‘famous’ ones, but I didn’t recognize all of them. It was a great night, too.

Next was Friday night: I joined the otak2 closing ‘ceremony’ where the otak2 interns shared what they had learnt and what they would take away from their internship period. I didn’t have an internship with otak2, so I was just an observer that night, LOL! Then, there was this guy named Joseph who invited me to join them at the YMCA overnight, and I accepted the offer. I stayed with Minshern and had a great chat with him and HooSiang that night. And we played Mafia until 4 something. LOL, it is such a great game that I’ve not played for such a long time. I was a doctor that night! =p

The following day, which was Saturday, I joined Teach for Malaysia (TFM) for a short visit to a refugee house. My team consisted of about 9 people, and the one leading was Dzameer (the founder of TFM). I would say that it didn’t really change me or produced a big impact on me as we were there for only less than 1 hour and we did nothing much except facilitating for them and drawing what they wanted me to draw (as usual, lah! =p). But there was one interesting chapter, where Ban Long, one of our team members, saw a lady who was trying to abandon her baby somewhere behind the alley and we went for a search for that. Searching to no avail and hoping that the lady had changed her mind, we went back to PwC to meet with the others.

The afternoon session was very interesting. I was in TalentCorp, and in a group of 6, we played a very interesting—to put it in a better way, meaningful—‘board’ game. I was sitting just in front of Azran (CEO of Air Asia X) as our opponents were led by us by one of the guys from McKinsey & Co. We defeated our opponents at our table and ‘global runner-up,’ there were five tables playing, during the session. Statistics aside, this game has been really thought provoking.

There are red boxes and the green boxes in the games. The red boxes represent the obstacles, and the green ones represent the opportunities. There are significantly more red boxes than green ones, a true representation of the world. We all started from the same position choosing the most-ethical solutions. However, we realized that we were not going anywhere and realized that we had to do something different to move forward (this is so realistic!). At some point, when obstacles were all around of us, we started to be very careful of what we were doing. Then one day our opponent was moving ahead of us, and we started to work unethically just to move forward. This is so true when the game coordinator revealed all these to us. To me, the game was too easy (don’t get me wrong) as compared to real life. In life, no one will tell you where the red boxes are and where the green boxes are. It was a really meaningful game, and I would really love to share with you guys further, but not in this blogpost.

And today is Sunday; I can’t wait for the next activities! =D