Ajay Singh, the man who has emerged as the saviour for beleaguered SpiceJet, seems to have a knack of turning around ailing businesses.
Whether it was a grounded ModiLuft that the 49-year-old Singh renamed and launched as SpiceJet or advising the government on revamping the Delhi Transport Corp (DTC), Singh has time and again proved himself to be a master at taking the right decisions at the right time.
As part of Narendra Modi’s election war room in 2014, Singh, coined BJP’s 2014 campaign slogan, “Abki baar Modi sarkar”. An alumnus of Delhi’s St. Columba’s School, he has also been closely involved with the party’s election campaign in the last three of the four general elections.
After completing engineering from IIT, Delhi, Singh went to Cornell University where he did an MBA in finance and was also the president of the university’s India Association.
Singh, whose father hailed from Alwar and mother from Meerut, joined the family’s real estate and fashion accessories business on his return, which his wife, Shivani, now takes care of. Their only daughter, Avani, is studying at Stanford University.
In 1996, Delhi’s transport minister Rajendra Gupta asked him to serve on the board of DTC. This is where Singh got noticed by BJP leader Pramod Mahajan. DTC, with around 40,000 employees and a fleet of a few hundred buses, was in a bad shape but in two years, its fleet rose to 6,000.
When Mahajan became I&B minister, he appointed Singh as his officer on special duty (OSD) with the task of revamping Doordarshan. “Soon, two new channels, DD Sports and DD News were launched and when Mahajan moved to telecom ministry, Singh went with him,” a close friend of Singh said.
This isn’t the first time that Singh has come to SpiceJet’s rescue. In 2004, UK’s Bhupendra Kansagra, who bought the defunct ModiLuft airline, approached Singh to come on board.
Singh bought a 20% stake for about Rs 50 crore. “Singh had complete management control and ran the airline the way he wanted. It was he who renamed the airline SpiceJet and raised it from the dead,” a person who has worked closely with Singh in the past said.
“Six months before launch, Singh had announced that May 21, 2005 will be the launch date and so it was,” said another close associate of Singh.
SpiceJet sold 38,000 tickets on Day 1 and had a load factor of over 90%.
Launched with only three Boeing 737s, budget carrier SpiceJet was making money by 2008 and when Singh exited the airline in 2010, it had Rs 800 crore in the bank.
Singh, a sports and fitness enthusiast, has a personal gym at his Maharani Bagh home.
At St. Columba’s, where Singh was the awarded with the Sword of Honour, he captained the cricket and hockey teams while Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan, junior to him by a batch, was the wicketkeeper.
After exiting SpiceJet, Singh bought Daewoo Motors India Ltd, but met with little success in reviving the company. He has investments in a bunch of businesses, is an angel investor in a nanotechnology company in Bangalore and in an IT company in Mumbai.
He is in a public private partnership with the Delhi government for operating low-floor buses, and has also invested in a real estate company, which builds luxury apartments in central Delhi.