AirAsia now a digital tech unicorn

Published October 12, 2021, 3:38 PM

by Emmie V. Abadilla

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AirAsia has achieved unicorn status after its digital business grew to over USD 1 billion under two years during the pandemic.

While the pandemic wreaked havoc on the aviation industry, the company fast-tracked its non-airline verticals and transformed itself into one of three ASEAN unicorns, according to the latest Credit Suisse report.

“This sends a strong message to the industry that our strategy to become more than just an airline in the digital era is not only on the right track, but allows AirAsia to make a name for itself as a key player in the e-commerce and delivery space in Asean,” remarked AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes.

“AirAsia should no longer be known as just an airline. We are now a digital services group,” he underscored in a statement issued Oct. 12, 2021.

“While our roots are in the airline industry, we have become so much more, creating our own super app with over 15 different travel and lifestyle offerings all leveraging off one another, as well as our fast growing edutech arm, AirAsia Academy.”

Air Asia also has a cargo and logistics arm called Teleport as well as a financial services business in BigPay, which is “on track to becoming Asean’s first virtual bank”.

On the airline side, the group has a restaurant franchise chain and food group called Santan, and an engineering company – Asia Digital Engineering (ADE) aimed at “transforming maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in the region”.

“We also have an industry leading ground services operation called GTR. All of which are going from strength to strength in the digital era,” Fernandes noted.

“From the outset, we have always been a digital company,” he pointed out. “We were the first in Asean to sell airline tickets online and handle digital payments for many millions of first time online users 20 years ago.

The group’s major transformation journey began over two years ago, before Covid hit, when he realised they have huge assets in their brand, their data and their people, he elaborated.

“If the pandemic has done anything positive, it has helped us to fast-track our transformation plans and the opportunity is huge, with over 700 million people in Southeast Asia and one of the fastest growing digital populations.”

Essentially, Air Asia is now a delivery company, according to Fernandes.

“We’re connecting people with people, connecting destinations and delivering packages, fintech products and even online education. Our aim is to become the most popular, profitable and lowest cost digital distribution company in Southeast Asia.”

 
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