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Profile - Tony Fernandes of AirAsia

Founder/CEO of AirAsia

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Tony Fernandes is presently without a doubt one of the most admired executive-turned-entrepreneurs in the Malaysia corporate and working world. He is a 'big believer on big dreams'. Many people scoffed at his idea to buy a debt-ridden airline, AirAsia from DRB-Hicom to turn it into a low-cost airline in Malaysia.

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Fernandes mortgaged his own house and shrank his savings to help him achieving his dream. AirAsia was acquired at RM1 (US 26 cents) with liability of over RM40 millions (US11 millions) and 2 ageing Boeing planes.

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Many thought him to be crazy, and with the 11 September 2001 tragedy, many believed that AirAsia's doom would be faster than ever. But Tony Fernandes had different thinking. After the September 11 tragedy, he expected significant lay offs which made the experience staff readily available, and the cost of airline operation to go down by 40%.

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Against the popular prophecy, under Fernandes' leadership and vision, AirAsia broke even within a mere 12 months and cleared its debt. Within a short span of time, AirAsia's size in terms of revenue, profits and popularity has eclipsed Malaysia's very own national carrier, MAS.

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Interestingly enough, Tony Fernandes possesses a lot of similarity with his former boss and mentor, Richard Branson of Virgin. He worked with Virgin Atlantic as an auditor and financial controller for Branson's virgin record after graduating in London School of Economics. Upon returning to Malaysia, he became the youngest Managing Director of Warner Music Malaysia, and subsequently promoted to regional vice-president of Warner Music Group.

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Successful as he is today, he remains humble and stays down to earth. His most prominent trade marks air his red AirAsia cap, short sleeve t-shirt and a pair of jeans. No tie, no coat.

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During one of his many interviews with the press, he once joked:

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"People recognize me because of this cap I'm wearing. But if I take off this cap, you will see me as just another Indian guy!"

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