Indigo Airlines pilots exit
Reuters File

Budget carrier IndiGo's promoters Rakesh Gangwal and Rahul Bhatia have come into the limelight after a feud on issues related to violation of government regulations. Gangwal, a billionaire airline veteran, has blamed Bhatia for corporate governance lapses at the company through a letter to Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

Gangwal, a US citizen, started his career in the aviation industry by joining United Airlines in 1984. He then resigned as the senior vice-president to join Air France. He later joined US Airways as the chairman and CEO in 1996 and was there till 2001.

The 66-year-old has about 30 years of experience in the aviation industry. He was born in Kolkata in 1953 and went to the Don Bosco School. He received his engineering degree from IIT Kanpur and then moved to Wharton for his masters in business administration.

Rakesh Gangwal
Rakesh Gangwal on extreme right (green t-shirt) and Rahul Bhatia in the centre (white shirt)Reuters

Gangwal met Bhatia while they were working for United Airlines in 1985. According to reports, the idea of starting an airline was discussed over dinner at Bhatia's house. As per an Economic Times report in 2016, Gangwal was not initially interested, he agreed at a later stage saying, "Look, you guys decide how much money you want to lose. I will work with you. I don't want any part of this business. I will give you all my knowledge or whatever experience I have. But once you have lost that money, shake hands and remain friends."

Bhatia had taken charge as IndiGo's interim boss after its CEO resigned in April 2018. The 59-year-old also has a presence in the hospitality industry, aircraft maintenance engineering, real estate, and the advanced pilot training industry. Born in 1960, Bhatia had received his Bachelor of Engineering degree from the University of Waterloo. He had then gained corporate exposure through IBM.

As per the shareholding agreement, Bhatia owns 38 percent stake in the company and is the managing director. Gangwal is the non-executive director with about 37 percent stake. The agreement is about to expire in October.

IndiGo had its Initial Public Offering (IPO) in October 2015 and soon, Bhatia was declared as the 20th richest man in India by Forbes. India Today had ranked him as the 17th most powerful person in 2017.

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