Air India plane, by Martin Hartland
In a speech, Ratan Tata said his he did not get into the Indian airline industry because he didn’t want to pay the bribe. Not that the bribe of Rs. 15 crores (Rs. 150,000,000) is insane for a company worth $70 billion USD. I think that is an insane bribe, but Tata said simply that “I just want to go to bed at night, knowing that I haven’t got the airline by paying for it.” This is quite interesting, because the Tata family started civil aviation before they were nationalized as Air India. That airline has since struggled with rats on a plane, midair fistfights between crew and crippling strikes (NYTimes).
Tata is the biggest business in India and in its fifth generation of family leadership under Rajan Tata. His predecessor JRD Tata actually flew the first mail plane in what would become Air India. When Ratan Tata tried to get back in to the aviation business with Singapore Airlines, he was rebuffed by a series of rule changes. He says these came as a result of non-payment of bribes, something JRD Tata was also know for.
The TV I saw (CNN IBN) seems like they’re trying to pin this on a Minister Ibrahim who, admittedly, looked pretty gangster in his aviator sunglasses, talking about how Tata shouldn’t work with foreigners. He has recently threatened suicide should Tata not name the Minister.
What the real story is, I don’t know. I don’t know how you can survive without some sort of bribing in India, and Tata has thrived. Whatever’s happened, Tata’s offhand statement has made him something of a hero, on Twitter at least.