Bhaskaran is currently the vice president corporate services at Tata Steel, based in Jamshedpur. He is also the chairman of the board at Jusco and Jamshedpur Football Club.
Bhaskaran did not respond to messages, seeking a comment.
The 4-year-old airline is a joint venture between Tata Sons Ltd and low-cost Malaysian AirAsia Berhad, which covers 165 destinations spanning 25 countries. AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia also owns 49% of the local airline, with Tata Group executives R Venkatramanan and S Ramadorai holding the rest. Since its inception, the airline had been run by CEOs chosen by the management of AirAsia Berhad, including its CEO Tony Fernandes.
The leadership churn comes as speculation of a wider leadership reshuffle in the airline has also gained momentum. Sources said, there is a possibility that even chairman Ramadorai could step down soon but this could not be independently verified.
A formal announcement is expected any time this week, maybe as early as later today.
Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekaran is believed to have handpicked a Tata insider to lead the troubled airline a few weeks back after months of searching for a replacement. Bhaskaran is believed to have accepted the offer recently. A wider pool of officials have also been informed of the development now.
“Sunil has been working closely with the government and that would come handy in a regulated sector like aviation that is facing tremendous headwinds at the moment. He would have his hands full,” said an old associate on condition of anonymity as the news is not yet public.
AirAsia India has come under heavy weather following ousted Tata Group chairman Cyrus Mistry alleged that fraudulent transactions amounting to Rs 22 crore were carried out in AirAsia India. It has been without a chief executive since June, when Amar Abrol left citing personal reasons. It identified JetBlue executive Eash Sundaram to take up the role, but he didn’t accept the offer.
The CBI is investigating allegations that Fernandes and other executives bribed government officials to amend the 5/20 rule that mandated Indian airlines to have five years of experience and a minimum of 20 aircraft to fly on international routes. The CBI alleged that payments of about Rs 12.28 crore were remitted to India to lobby with civil servants during the UPA rule.
The investigative agency even booked AirAsia Group chief executive Tony Fernandes and others for bribing unnamed government officials to obtain a flying permit for the airline.