Tony Fernandes is the CEO of AirAsia and one of the most recognizable business leaders in the region. He is outspoken, a maverick and often treads (in his own words), “a fine line between brilliance and stupidity”.
By his own admission, some of his business bets haven’t paid off – taking over a Formula One team and a football club. But others certainly have. His net worth is estimated at $745 million. Behind his success is a story of taking huge risks – he bought AirAsia for 1 Malaysian Ringgit when nobody else saw its potential value when only 6% of Malaysians were flying. To Tony, that meant 94% of the market was untapped. He soon turned it around, growing the airline from 2 to 200 planes and reporting a profit within a year.
Many know of the AirAsia success story but what and who made it possible? In this podcast, Tony shares insights into his own backstory that continue to shape his business career today – from a Tupperware selling Mum “who could sell ice to eskimos” to a Dad who withheld praise on young Tony’s successes.
Then there’s those maverick tendencies. When you get thrown in the deep end you either sink or learn to swim very fast. His scrappy nature goes way back to the day his father packed him off on a plane at Sebang airport. Unknown to Tony, he was heading to Heathrow airport to start a new life in boarding school in the UK – a teenager, alone in an unfamiliar world. Surviving these ordeals as a kid imbues any adult with a sense of confidence in business. What’s the worst thing that can happen? Tony also shares insights about his journey never before discussed in public media – from his first encounters in the UK – to how these experiences impacted his belief in the importance of talent and diversity within AirAsia.