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Tony Fernandes is synonymous with Air Asia. At the age of 36, he quit as vice-president of Warner Music Group in Southeast Asia and purchased, with three partners, ailing Malaysian airline Air Asia. As CEO, he has used a combination of low costs, low fares and an open and informal management style to turn it into Asia's biggest low-cost carrier.

Tony is candid, friendly and outspoken. When he came up with the idea of purchasing the airline, he told his wife 'I really believe in this.' He felt there was a huge untapped market in Asia - millions of people wanted to fly but could not afford it. Here is Tony's account of his recipe for success.

`Many friends cautioned me. They told me I would fail. I simply told them this: If I fail, I fail. At least I won't be sitting and saying, when I am 60 years old, "I should have tried".'

Tony spends a lot of time speaking at schools, encouraging kids to pursue their own dreams. 'I tell them it can be done. Look at me, there's nothing special about me. You've just got to believe in yourself. You don't have to be connected to a politician. You don't have to have money. You just need to believe that you can go out there and do it.'

`Don't be frightened of failing because then you'll never start and if you fail, try again,' he advises. At Warner, Tony had spent a fortune on Malaysian singer Zainal Abidin's second album which flopped. `That didn't stop me from pushing on with my work, my dreams.'

He is always delighted when he receives a lot of letters from people saying that he has inspired them, that they are going to try something different. `That really spurs me on.'

Don't be afraid of making mistakes. If you don't make mistakes, you'll never learn. But when you do mess up, be the first to admit it. Don't try to cover yourself. Once in a while I do this too. For example, when I insisted Air Asia fly from Kuala Lumpur to Penang four times a day, even though Malaysian Airlines flew the same route 12 times a day. He realized he couldn't compete against the buses. The buses pick you up and drop you off right in the middle of each city. They get people to Penang faster. With airlines, one has to go to the airport and then back from the airport to the city. I just said, 'Sorry guys. I messed up. It's my fault, I was wrong.' I even said sorry to my pilots when a merit system for awarding bonuses to pilots backfired. The pilots were unhappy and made no secret of it. They really appreciated my apologies.

As a manager, you have to be accessible. I talk to everyone - my staff, our passengers, the media. If you just sit in your office, you don't know what is going on. Every day in the office, I set aside two hours to spend with the staff. I walk around, go to the baggage handling area, see what's going on, joke around. Accessibility helps you earn the confidence of people around you. It makes them feel they can talk openly and without fear. They should have the freedom to say `This is wrong.' Being accessible means being open. At the end of the day, human relationships are about openness, trust and transparency.

When I was growing up, my parents wanted me to be a doctor like my father. After my failing in physics and chemistry due to zero work for my A levels, my parents realized they couldn't force me to do anything I didn't want to. My first love was always music and my dream was to own a record company. But I'm realistic. I knew I could never raise enough money to compete with the likes of Warner and Sony. So, no matter what you love, you've got to be a realist.

Also look beyond the money when you pursue something. It's nice to have money. I like the nice things money can buy. But I am not doing this for money. I was paid a fortune at Warner but I left. The big kick for me is using money to help others. There are a lot of smart people who never got the chance to go to school, so I sponsor cadet pilots. Money is just a by-product of what I do.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1.

From paragraph 2, describe Tony's personality.

  2.

From paragraph 2,

a) what was Tony's statement when he informed his wife about buying the airline ?

b) why was he interested to buy the airline ?

  3.

From paragraph 5,

a) why shouldn't one be frightened of failing ?

b) what was Tony's stand when he lost money on Zainal Abidin's second album ?

  4.

From paragraph 7,

a) state the reason why Air Asia could not maintain its flights to Penang four times a day ?

b) how did Tony admit his mistake ?

  5. Explain in your own words Tony's important cautionary words when one wants to pursue his or her dreams ?
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Answers
 

1.

He was candid, friendly and outspoken.
 

2.

a) 'I really believe in this.'

b) He felt that there was a huge untapped market in Asia where millions of people want to fly but could nto afford it.

 

3.

a) If one is afraid of failure, one will never start out on anything.

b) He pushed on with his work and his dreams.

 

4.

a) It could not compete with the buses which ply from Kuala Lumpur to Penang.

b) He said he is sorry. / He apologized for his mistakes.

 

5.

We must always be realistic in pursuing our dreams. In wanting to achieve our dreams, it does not give us the power to go overboard with our wishes. Then we will fail to realize what we want.
 
 
 
 
 

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