ANIL Rodricks, General Manager Australia, Lufthansa Group

1. What does your role involve and how long have you been in your current position?

I am the general manager for the Lufthansa Group of Airlines under GSA management in Australia by The Walshe Group.

We put this integrated structure together in January 2014 to consolidate the commercial activities of Lufthansa, SWISS and Austrian. Each of these heritage airline brands have had a long history in Australia and it is my responsibility to ensure that each brand thrives in its own right as part of the Lufthansa Group.

The Australian travel trade remains the key distribution platform on which we develop our sales and marketing strategy.

2. How did you start out in your career? Were you always destined to work in the travel industry?

“Destiny” is the right word! I had no idea I would spend almost my entire career in aviation. I took up a job in travel while studying in India. My first job was with an agency in Poona, now Pune, servicing the ashram of the world famous guru, Osho. Exciting times they were! After a good 10 years in various travel agency roles, I moved to the Swissair Group and 35 years later, I’m still loving the fast-paced aviation business where no two days are the same. My years in the travel trade were very influential on my understanding of trade partnerships.

3. Did you complete formal qualifications, and do you think they are important?

Halfway through a Science degree, I quit and did an Arts degree. Looking back, I think both have been very useful to me. Most of my aviation knowledge came from the professional training programs within Swissair; airline MBA were still not around at the time.

Formal learning has been important throughout my career, however, the expertise of yesterday is rapidly obsolete so the most important thing is to keep learning. We all should be students for life.

4. What do you love about your job?

Managing Lufthansa Group’s biggest offline market in the world. There is a very interesting dynamic in building a seamless product offer between three airlines of the Lufthansa Group and a number of interline partners. It needs (I think) a deep understanding of customer needs and how to fulfil them across the various sales channels. No two business years have been quite the same, as you continuously modify your product to stay competitive. This means I also get to work with a very talented team to collectively deliver the goods.

5. What are some of the greatest challenges you’ve faced in your career?

Aviation is a volatile industry so there has been no shortage of challenges. The bankruptcy of the iconic Swissair in 2001 was pretty traumatic at the time. On the other hand, the same challenges bring opportunities with them if one is ready to learn and change.

I believe the internet will continue to disrupt travel distribution well into the future and NDC will bring major challenges and opportunities in the immediate future.

6. What factors were central to your success?

A big mix of experience through my career in travel and aviation. Over many years, I have worked and learned with the best. I also developed my own “business principles” to find a balance between working in an intense environment and enjoying the fun of the airline industry.

7. Did you have a mentor, and if so, how did you find them?

Not really. Over the years, I have had excellent managers and colleagues from whom I tried to pick up positive traits and expertise.

Situational awareness and listening are more important in my view than necessarily having a mentor.

8. What are the keys to good business?

A culture of openness and the willingness to try new things is critical to leading business through change. Think like a start-up every day trying to find that undiscovered innovation to delight customers. Discipline and transparency are equally important in building a team of trust and accountability. Disrupt yourself before others do it to you.

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