What’s Next: AirAsia is an Internet company … no, really!

  • Always looking at improving customer experience via technology
  • Plans to launch e-commerce venture in the near-term
What’s Next: AirAsia is an Internet company … no, really!

IT may have turned global aviation on its head and disrupted the entire airline industry with its low-cost carrier business, but AirAsia Group is essentially an Internet company.
Yes, you read that right. Certainly, that is what its irrepressible and flamboyant chairman and cofounder Tony Fernandes (pic above) believes.
“Essentially, we are an Internet company. We see ourselves as an Internet company. We have a tremendous amount of Internet potential,” he told the audience at Digital News Asia’s inaugural What's Next conference in Cyberjaya yesterday (Sept 29).
“More than 20% of our business comes from ancillary income,” he said.
The AirAsia Group has invested in or kicked off several ventures, such as AAE Travel (a joint-venture between AirAsia and Expedia); the Asian Aviation Centre of Excellence; Think Big Digital (a joint-venture between AirAsia and Tune Money which operates the AirAsia BIG loyalty programme); and it also has a 40% stake in Tune Money.
These are not Fernandes’ only ventures. He also owns the Tune Group which has investments in Tune Talk, Tune Hotels, Tune Protect, Tune Studios, Tune Labs (a venture company looking at tech startups), and more.
Unsurprisingly, the Internet plays an essential part in most, if not all, of these businesses. Indeed, many industry pundits have credited Tony and AirAsia for breaking down e-commerce barriers in Malaysia.
Furthermore, AirAsia is constantly looking at ways to improve customers’ experience by leveraging on technology, Fernandes said.
“We are trying very hard to push technology at AirAsia. We are trying very hard to be at the forefront of technology.
“In a few weeks, you would be able to check in using a mobile app. You can [already] print your boarding pass at home ... physical check-ins are already a thing of the past,” he said.
“We are also working with a startup which specialises in facial recognition technology, so that soon, you would be able to go straight to the plane,” he added.
E-commerce play
At What’s Next, Fernandes also revealed that AirAsia will soon be announcing the formation of an e-commerce arm.
“We aim to be the largest and most profitable interactive commerce company in Asia, by building a diversified portfolio of leading, specialised and global e-commerce brands,” he said.
The core areas this proposed e-commerce arm would be exploring include online shopping and social gaming, Fernandes said, although he declined to reveal further details, including when this e-commerce arm would be launched.
“We will reveal more when the time is right,” he said.
Big data strategy
However, Fernandes did say that the key to this e-commerce arm’s success would be how well AirAsia can understand its customers and analyse the customer data it has in hand.
“I think there is a huge opportunity for AirAsia because we have got a huge amount of data that we really don’t know what to do with, but which everyone else wants to take from us.
“So there must be an opportunity there,” he quipped.
Fernandes also said that his group of companies also plans to launch its own version of TripAdvisor, a travel dongle, a new YouTube-type of channel, and more.
“Data will be playing an essential role in these ventures. Data will be king,” he added.
Coming Up: Tony’s tips to startups
The What’s Next: The Business Impact of Disruptive Technology conference (#WhatsNextDNA) was organised by Digital News Asia (DNA).
It was sponsored by Malaysia’s national ICT custodian Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC), which oversees the MSC Malaysia and Digital Malaysia national programmes, and big data analytics company Fusionex International.
Other What’s Next Stories:
Disruptors will not kill off banking incumbents
Think about zero, or become irrelevant
Traditional retailers do have an edge
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