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(JP/Ritchie)The five-year-old boy whose favorite toy was a model plane was curious to know how the huge four- winged objects he saw at Singapore’s Changi airport could fly. The second son of an Indian family who migrated to the city state was not aware of it until one day his family members flew from Singapore to another country.
“I have to be honest that when I was nine or 10 years old, I had no idea that I was going to be a CEO of an airline company. As I grew older I started to study [business] and found that travel was really very nice. There was a small seed in my head and that seed grew overtime into a passion, if I can put it that way,” said Barathan Pasupathi, CEO of Jetstar Asia.
This passion for aircraft has partly led to Pasupathi holding a top position in the airline company in addition to his fondness for travel, meeting different people and learning about different culture.
Pasupathi was appointed CEO of Jetstar Asia in Singapore in July 2012. He was in town recently to cut the ribbon that marked the official opening of the Jetstar Group’s first Travel Shop in Jakarta.
Under his leadership, employees of Jetstar Asia are encouraged to enjoy themselves at work and to work with passion, focus and happiness.
“Employees are given an environment that nurtures motivation, teamwork and smiles. We keep employees engaged by teamwork and bonding, which encourages smiles all around. When you smile, you use less muscle and energy compared to when you frown or get angry,” he said while displaying an upside down smile.
The Jetstar Asia workplace is unconventional by the common office standard.
“Basically, in our office we don’t have a wall. I don’t have an office. We all sit in an open-floor concept,” said Pasupathi who speaks little Indonesian.
“Employees sit in an open environment where they can see and hear each other. It encourages faster communication, brings visibility and transparency,” said the 45-year-old.
Such an enjoyable workplace is essential to support the company’s daily operations.
“At 9 o’clock in the morning we have an operational meeting as a team. We have a meeting agenda but we handle the operational issues first, such as if there is a report of a passenger’s bag missing, flight delays, etc, which are common problems facing all airlines. We always handle the problem professionally as we look after passengers,” he said, adding that connecting people together and trying to get everyone to work together in a team, like one family was the joy of becoming a CEO.
Pasupathi realizes that in the fast changing world, everything is moving very fast, especially in the airline business. With fuel prices soaring, compared to one or two decades ago, efforts should be made to keep the cost low. “In our company we are already a value-based carrier trendsetter. We actually think differently,” he said.
The most challenging issue when it comes to running an aviation business is how to encourage partners, associates and vendors to change the way they do business in terms of process, equipment and methodology.
“The bottom line is how to make sure that customers get the best and affordable fares,” he said.
Apart from a can do attitude, principles that the company adopts include the passion to deliver the best service and respect for other people. “With a ‘can do’ attitude, [we] never say it cannot be done but challenge it if it makes sense,” he said.
Pasupathi creates a working environment in which people can air their views openly and work safely, with people treated equally and all considered important.
“Each one in a team can act independently and is empowered to act within the scope of his or her job to make a decision,” he said.
With companies operating in a highly sophisticated world, it is worth respecting competition as this will pave the way for improving service to customers.
“I also ask my team members to learn from the competition and learn all the good points, which improves our service,” he pointed out, describing part his management style.
Pasupathi said that leading by example is how he nurtured corporate values that include his passion for working, the can do attitude and respect for others.
“You cannot expect someone to have a certain attitude if you do not show yourself,” he noted.
One of the ways is by showing real interest and caring about it. “For instance, in response to a customer’s complain that the toilet was not clean, I asked the cleaner to show him how to clean it. From there it was found another better device needed to clean it,” he said.
Pasupathi finds the values of working as a team from his previous hobby of playing soccer. “From running, which I still do, I learnt how to maintain stamina, not to easily give up but to keep going until the finish line,” he pointed out.
Working in an airline keeps Pasupathi occupied and he sometimes spends his weekdays working, either in his office or in the airport. Therefore, he said, when on holiday, he and his family completely relaxes by traveling to another country.
“My favorite holiday destination is Lombok, especially Gili Island because it has a beautiful beach and is still less crowded. Besides, everything is affordable,” said Pasupathi.
“When traveling I take a small drum. When I visited Lombok, someone played a guitar and we had an informal jam session,” said Pasupathi who also have a passion for playing percussion, especially bongo, conga and Egyptian drum.
Name: Barathan Pasupathi
Date of birth: May 17, 1968
Status: Married with 2 children
2004: MBA, Deakin University (Melbourne, Australia)
1993: CPA , Australian Society Certified Practicing Accountant
1992: Bachelor of Commerce, Murdoch University (Perth, Australia)
July 2012: CEO, Jetstar Asia (Singapore)
2010: Managing director, Mabanaft Singapore Pte Ltd (Singapore)
2007: CFO, Jazeera Airways & Sahaab Aircraft Leasing (Kuwait)
2004: CFO, Jetstar Asia and Valuair (Singapore)
2000: Asia Pacific treasury & finance director, ModusLink (Singapore)
1995: Risk manager and controller, Mabanaft (Singapore, Hamburg)
1992: Oil and Gas associate, Ernst & Young (Singapore)