Talking about ideas and creating business opportunities, the figure of Tony Fernandes deserves discussion. Tony is famous for his creativity and brilliant ideas in expanding business. Tony is a successful businessman in Asia from Malaysia. He became famous after successfully recovering the airline Air Asia which originally had a small route network and had a debt of almost 100 billion to become an International airline with an income of Rp. 282.5 billion after 7 months of operation.
From only having two planes, now Air Asia has 164 aircraft, and from only 250 employees to almost 12,000 employees. In less than 12 years, Air Asia has flown more than 200 million passengers and has an extensive route network reaching 87 destinations in 22 countries.
Not only that, Tony also managed to expand its business through Tune Group. Another business that is no less phenomenal is Tune Hotel, which in a short time controls the markets of Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Britain, Thailand and India. Unmitigated, the company is targeting to build 100 hotels globally by 2015.
Tony was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on April 30, 1964 with the name Anthony Francis Fernandes of the descendants of the Goa nation a mixture of Portuguese Malacca. His father named Dr. Stephen Edward Fernandes and his mother Ena Dorothy Fernandes. His father was a doctor, while his mother was a businessman. As a child, Tony always followed his mother in business trips. When he was 13 years old, precisely in 1977, he was sent by his parents to Epsom College, a boarding school in England. After completing from Epsom College, Tony went on to the London School of Economics and Political Science.
After graduating from the London School of Economics and Political Science, Tony worked as an auditor. Working as an auditor bored him. He gave up working as an accountant and only lasted an interval of 6 months, he then applied for a job at a record company. He was accepted to Virgin Communications as a Financial Controller and worked for 2 years, from 1987-1989. Then, he became a senior financial analyst at Warner Music International for 3 years, from 1989-1992. Then, he was transferred to Malaysia.
Tony served as Managing Director at Warner Music Malaysia from 1992-1996 (4 years). Then, in 1996, he was appointed as Regional Managing Director (Asean) Warner Music Southeast Asia and served for 3 years until 1999.
At the end of 1999, his career improved. He was appointed Vice President (Asean) at Warner Music Southeast Asia and served for 2 years (1999-2001). Tony left and Warner Music left his position as Vice President (Asean) in July 2001, because of the proliferation of piracy which, according to Tony, was the end of the music industry history.
Together with his investors, McCarthy and Malaysian entrepreneurs, Datuk Pahamin Rajab, Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, and Aziz Bakar, he designed a new plan based on cost-effective airlines around the world and wanted to implement the model in Malaysia. He then acquired Air Asia from DRB-Hicom on December 8, 2001.
Tony then served as CEO (Executive Officer) of AirAsia from 2001-2004, and later became AirAsia CEO Group from 2004 to the present. This is the heyday of his career journey. Besides being listed as the owner of AirAsia, Tony Fernandez is also listed as president of the English league football club, Queens Park Rangers (QPR).
Tony officially became the majority shareholder of QPR after buying 66% of the club’s shares from Bemie Ecclestone on August 18, 2011. Besides football, Tony also served as chairman of the Caterham Formula One Team who descended to the racetrack with the name Lotus Racing (2010) or Team Lotus (2011). Tony came to be known as one of the richest people in Malaysia. In February 2013, Forbes Asia revealed that Femandes’ net worth reached $ 625 million, ranking 21 of the richest people in Malaysia.
Not only being the richest person, Tony also received many awards for his achievements. Among the awards he received: Visionaries & Leadership Series by the International Herald Tribune, Malaysian CEO of the Year 2003, Emerging Entrepreneurs of the year 2004 by Ernest and Young, Asia Pacific Aviation Executive of the Year 2004,25 Stars of Asia by Business Week in in 2005, the 2009 CAPA legend Award, Frost & Sullivan 2009, Officier de la legion d ‘Honneur 2010, Nikkei Asia Prize 2010, CEO of Global Masterclass 2010 and Commander of the Legion d’Honneur (2013).
Inspiration from Tony Fernandez
However, the journey to achieve success is not easy. He has been through various challenges, especially the pressure of world oil prices which threatens the existence of cost-effective airlines.
For years in the music and lay industry with the aviation business, Tony Fernandes’ decision to pursue a cost-effective airline business was deemed inappropriate. Tony was even considered “crazy” for selling shares and mortgaging his house to acquire an airline that was “dying” and in debt of almost 100 billion rupiah. No less “crazy”, Tony made acquisitions when the flagging flight industry after the September 11, 2001 tragedy.
Tony was not the first person to run a long-distance, cost-effective airline business. However, if it is successful, then Tony will be the first person who can prove that cost-effective airlines can also have long-distance routes. Why is that? Because the predecessors of Tony’s majority failed and no one really proved successful. Laker Airways, Britania Airlines, and Michael Garvens, which carries cost-effective long-distance airlines, failed.
When viewed in its history, not a few people who demean the potential of cost-effective airlines established by Tony. Since the birth of AirAsia, Tony has been too busy defending himself from his critics.
“Since we started, we have never heard of anyone who says AirAsia will succeed. No one has believed since the first day. They said, AirAsia and the LCC model would not work. Then, they said that AirAsia would only succeed in Subang. Furthermore, they say we will only succeed as domestic airlines. But we have proven that this skepticism has so far been wrong, whatever the reason, “Tony said.
Market analysts are also more likely to support full service airlines than low cost airlines. They reasoned that the European and American markets were growing, while the market for Asian low-cost airlines was far more limited and did not support newcomers.
In addition, Malaysians are accustomed to using only one airline, namely MAS. This makes people feel skeptical about the emergence of AirAsia. They were not sure and doubted that AirAsia would win the competition. In an interview with Airline Business in 2004, he said “Everyone thinks we are crazy, but I know it will work. One key fact is that only 6% of Malaysians flew (at that time). I think this will grow. I do not regret it at all, “said Tony.
The most important factor in Tony’s success in building his business empire was his carefulness in seeing opportunities. He can read the market and what is needed by the community. For Tony, building a business does not have to always create a new product. The main thing for him is knowing what is needed by the community and trying to meet those needs.
As is known, AirAsia pioneers cost-effective airlines in the world. There are already a number of successful low cost airlines in America and Europe. Knowing that, Tony realized that low-cost airlines were not yet popular in Asia. Tony thoughtlessly seized the opportunity even though he was blind about the aviation business.
According to Tony, Air Asia does not create new markets, but enters existing markets, namely markets that have long been ignored and abandoned. Tony realized that passengers in full service airlines were almost all middle-to-upper class entrepreneurs or consumers. They are people who can afford expensive tickets.
However, according to Tony, there is still a large market of people who want to fly but cannot afford tickets at high prices. For this reason, Tony has developed a low-cost airline business in Asia to capture large groups that lack bears and cannot be caught by other airlines.
In addition, Tony also has brand strength that has successfully influenced people’s psychology. Through the slogan now everyone can fly (Everyone Can Fly) and now everyone can fly even further (Now Everyone Can Fly Extra Long), Tony has implanted the name AirAsia as a brand in the minds of consumers. Not only that, Tony also educated the public about cost-effective airlines and convinced them to use their flight services.
Tony seems to be very aware that only a few people are able to travel between continents, because the distance is far away, the cost is also expensive. Having succeeded in getting people to believe that they could fly from one city to another and from one country to another within the scope of Asia, Tony also wanted to make everyone believe that they could also fly between continents at low prices.
Success with Air Asia, Tony turned his attention to the long-distance business, namely AirAsia X. However, many people were not convinced by Tony’s decision. Some investors think that AirAsia management is going too early. Since its founding in 2007, AirAsia X has shown significant development. AirAsia X currently operates as many as 15 Airbus A330-300s connecting Kuala Lumpur with 18 destinations in Asia, Australia and Saudi Arabia. In addition to ordering Airbus A330 aircraft, the airline has also ordered a total of 10 A350-XWB aircraft.
Some lessons from Tony Fernandes’ story are: First, see what others have not yet worked on and learn what the community needs. Tony found that cheap flights were not yet popular in Asia and people always wanted to fly cheaply. Therefore, he immediately worked on the untouched market. Focus and struggle until the company becomes the king of low-cost airlines in Asia. Second, believe what you believe. Tony faced a lot of criticism. In addition, he is also faced with many challenges. However, because he believed his dream could come true, he succeeded in realizing his dream.