ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Forbes Asia Names Fernandes Businessman Of The Year
Forbes said in a statement that the 46-year old Fernandes, a former record company executive, took over Malaysia's then-ailing AirAsia in 2001 and relaunched it as a no-frills airline that has now become Southeast Asia's hottest global brands.
Today, AirAsia has become the region's largest low-cost carrier, with nearly 8,000 employees, 100 planes and 140 routes, including 40 that no airline had served before.
Its Malaysia-listed parent company, AirAsia Bhd, saw first-half revenue grow 18 per cent year-on-year to US$562 million, while net profits grew 24 per cent to US$131 million.
Commenting on the award being conferred on Fernandes, Tim Ferguson, Editor, Forbes Asia, said that the competition was tough, including from leaders of Forbes Asia's Fabulous 50 companies.
"Although several mainland Chinese entrepreneurs fully came into their own this year, in general they are still excelling in a single national market that is subject to domestic booms and busts. Fernandes is expanding his business outward," he said.
Fernandes's improbable route to the airline industry started with Tupperware. At the age of six, he began his career playing the piano for guests at sales parties hosted by his mother, an entrepreneurial-minded music teacher who launched the plastic ware company's direct-marketing business in Malaysia.
Working the national Tupperware circuit was an education in marketing. And it exposed young Fernandes to the world of commercial aviation.
"I had a lot of happy times in airports. I told my parents that one day I wanted to own an airline. My father told me if I can make it past the doorman at the Hilton Hotel, he will be very happy," Forbes quoted Fernandes as saying.
Funded by his mother's plasticware sales, Fernandes flew to England at the age of 12 for boarding school at Surrey's Epsom College.
One lasting lesson was the prohibitive cost of a ticket home between semesters. So he spent holidays in London, mostly at Heathrow Airport.
"I was a bit of a planespotter. My friends and I used to stand on top of the Queen's Building, Car Park 2, and just watch planes land," he said.
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