Indian airline tycoon Ajay Singh had little experience in healthcare, but in November last year, as the country erupted in a coronavirus, he suddenly branched out into the Covid-19 test և later in the genome sequence.
He is known for his close ties with the Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi. The slogan of the 2014 elections is attributed to him: “This time, Modi’s government”. Singh launched SpiceHealth, promising to make tests more expensive, faster and more affordable.
Over the course of several months, the group spread throughout the country, even conducting trials in April for millions of pilgrims who joined the annual Kumbh Mela, the country’s largest religious gathering, which was later seen as a pervasive event.
Singh’s rapid loss from the loss-making airline sector to healthcare underscores how India’s richest people have managed to prosper even during an epidemic.
India is one of the countries hardest hit by Covid-19, with more than 28 million cases և 335,000 dead, many of them in its second catastrophic wave this year.
Even before the latest outbreak, SpiceJet, of which Singh has a 60 percent stake, was rocked by a national block last year. The airline has reported losses for the last four quarters, delaying the salaries of some employees for weeks.
In February, its auditors Walker Chandiok & Co. said there was “material uncertainty” about SpiceJet’s ability to continue as a continuing issue. Its losses would be even greater if it did not include the compensation expected from Boeing for the landing of 737 Max aircraft.
“We can not understand how they survive,” said the CEO of a rival airline.
Former Air India CEO Jitender Bhargava praises Singh for taking control of SpiceJet, rescuing it seven years ago when it was almost bankrupt և moving fast after hijacking rival Jet Airways jets in 2019 :
“He did well, but when it comes to finances, few airlines have cash reserves. How long can we endure the second wave we have? ” said Bhargavan.
But industry leaders and analysts say Singh is an opportunist who is likely to overcome the turmoil.
“Indian aviation is drowning, but Ajay will survive,” said Nilam Mathews, an aviation analyst in New Delhi.
SpiceJet և SpiceHealth’s liaison officer Tushar Srivastava said that the group “did not seek any benefits for businesses”.
SpiceJet, under Singh և’s management, settled all the debts needed to revive the airline in 2014 և There was no financial assistance or waiver from the government.
Covid-19 deaths in India
Singh does not come from one of India’s established business families, such as the Tatas, whose group spans everything from steel to software, or the Ambanis, a Reliance Industries family that dominates petrochemicals and retail.
Observers consider Singh, who holds a master’s degree in business administration from Cornell University, to be a technocrat who has traveled the world of business and politics.
“Anyone who can talk to the political parties on both sides of the aisle is a rare animal,” said Rohit Chandra, a public policy assistant at the Doha Indian Institute of Technology.
Singh served as a fundraiser for Pramod Mahajan, a former telecommunications minister from the ruling Bharatiya Jan Anata party, who was assassinated in 2006 by his brother.
He is so close to the ruling party that BJP leaders often appear at Singh events. In October, Modi launched the SpiceJet naval aircraft. One month later, Indian Interior Minister Amit Shah մեկը one of Modi’s closest lieutenants appeared at SpiceHealth’s first mobile testing laboratory, a state-owned partnership with the country’s top clinical research body.
Regardless of his connections, the timing of Singh’s transition to healthcare has proven to be a resounding one before this year’s outbreak halted air travel.
SpiceHealth, a separate SpiceJet company run by its 24-year-old daughter Avan Singh, operates 15 mobile laboratories across the country, each with 3,000 daily tests. SpiceHealth has set up a genomic sequence facility at Delhi International Airport, with Avan talking about vaccine acquisition and distribution.
SpiceHealth was launched using Singh’s personal money. The company started with quick tests, then distributed to other products, including SpiceOxy, a ventilator.
Spice Group delivered 34 million Covid-19 vaccines to the country in January-April. During the second wave, they aerated thousands of oxygen concentrates from Beijing, Nanjing, Wuhan, and Hong Kong to India to address gas shortages.
Dissatisfied with his health work and the apparently inconvenient problems of SpiceJet, Singh said he was ready to strengthen his commitment to the affected Indian airline.
In March, he was selected as the state monopoly of Air India, which has been trying to privatize New Delhi for years as a bidder. If he succeeds in announcing a buyer later this year, Singh will have to borrow $ 3.3 billion.
“You have to give it to Ajay Singh, which can not be denied that he is a boy who takes the opportunity,” said Bargavavan.