EasyJet founder in talks to launch a low-cost Africa airline
Sir Stelios, the man behind the easyGroup brand, is reportedly backing an African carrier which will operate under his FastJet brand. The tycoon has been embroiled in a long-running boardroom battle with EasyJet regarding an infringement of rights between EasyJet and FastJet. EasyJet has not made a statement regarding Stelios’ new venture, however has referred press to a statement from 2011 in which it stated it would take ‘necessary action’ if FastJet infringed its rights.
In an announcement made on Wednesday 13 June, it was revealed that a company named Rubicon has bought the aviation arm of Lonrho, the pan-African conglomerate, in a deal work $85.7m. As part of the deal easyGroup will own five percent of Rubicon. The airline will be called FastJet and will operate from Lonrho’s hubs in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola. As part of the statement Lonrho said, “FastJet will focus on developing a true low-cost airline for Africa based on the existing Lonrho Aviation platform.”
Sir Stelios currently controls 37.5 percent of EasyJet, however the company is concerned that the activities of his latest venture, FastJet could infringe its rights. In a statement released last November EasyJet said, “To the extent that any activity of FastJet, Sir Stelios or any company controlled by him infringes or would infringe those rights, easyJet will take necessary action to protect the rights of easyJet and the interests of its shareholders.” EasyJet currently flies between the UK and North African destinations including Marrakech, Jordan and Egypt, however it doesn’t operate domestic African services.
Haji-Ioannou said the move would help bring low-cost air travel to more Africans. “This is another small but significant step in bringing the dream of low cost air travel to millions of people in Africa – the aviation industry's last frontier. Past experience shows by halving fares, a successful low-cost carrier can encourage those people, who have never previously travelled by air, to fly. For Africa, with its densely populated cities separated by great distances – this means a potential new market of millions.”
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.