Thought Leadership Interview: Birendra Bahadur BasnetThe Managing Director of Buddha Air on leadership and management.
Buddha Air Private Ltd is Nepal's largest airline in terms of passengers carried. It operates domestic as well as international services within Nepal and India, serving mainly large towns and cities in Nepal. Currently, it has a fleet size of 13 aircraft and operates 33 flight routes in around 15 destinations of Nepal, besides an international flight to Varanasi, India. Its main base is Tribhuvan International Airport, Kathmandu.
The airline was established on April 23, 1996, as a Private Limited Company by Surendra Bahadur Basnet, a retired Supreme Court judge and former government minister; and his son Birendra Bahadur Basnet. Operations commenced on October 11, 1997, with a sightseeing flight to Mount Everest using a brand new Beechcraft 1900D. Within 10 years, the company had expanded to a fleet of seven 1900Ds.
In 2008, a loan from the International Finance Corporation allowed the company to expand further by purchasing two ATR 42 aircraft. Buddha Air took delivery of its first 70-seat ATR 72-212 in June 2010. The name of the airline is derived from the Sanskrit word 'Buddha', a title used for the much revered Siddhartha Gautama, the founder of Buddhism.
The airline also offers air charter flights and daily mountain sightseeing flights. Buddha Air became the first foreign airline to start flights to Paro, Bhutan, in the summer of 2010, which was the airline's first international destination as well.
Himendra Mohan Kumar of The Kathmandu Post caught up with the Buddha Air Managing Director, Birendra Basnet for a freewheeling chat on his life and times. Basnet is also a member of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal since 2008. The following are the excerpts from that interview.
What is your formula for getting things done?
By having a transparent management system, having a common platform for the benefit of all employees and having a sense of ownership of the company among all our employees.
What do you look for when you’re hiring employees?
I look at their honesty, integrity and long term commitments, especially from the higher management. Also, their hunger to learn and achieve and their aptitude towards life and empathy.
How do you build allies, not just within your own organisation, but in the broader industry with other leaders you compete with?
We operate by-the-books. For us, empathy and humility are of paramount importance.
What was the last experiment you did and it didn’t work?
We were looking to start international operations with jetliners and operated an initial flight to Kolkata. We were confident it would work, but it didn’t. The bottom line is; we are prudent risk-takers and try to mitigate it, as far as possible.
What’s the hardest decision—personal or professional—you’ve had to make?
I haven’t made one yet.
How do you cope with criticism?
I am open to criticism, which is a tool to realise your mistakes and correct them.
Why do you think the private sector is better than serving in a public office?
I am not sure about this, it all depends on how passionate you are and what you strive for as the end result.