Tassapon Bijleveld touched down at UNSW Business School as part of the Marketing in Asia speaker series. In a talk entitled – ‘Marketing's role in building and sustaining a successful low cost carrier outline: the case of AirAsia’ the audience were treated to a valuable insight into ‘behind the scenes’ decision making and processes information.

Mr. Bijleveld joined Thai AirAsia as CEO in 2003, having previously worked with the likes of Madonna and Linkin’ Park at Warner Music (Thailand) for five years. Whilst working at Warner, he had met Anthony Francis "Tony" Fernandes (Group CEO of AirAsia). Fernandes had the initial idea of starting a low cost airline and it took a leap of faith from Tassapon to also try his luck in the low cost airline industry, explaining “It’s about taking risks. Blink twice and the world has changed. If you don’t change life, then life will change you.”

Tassapon said that he’d had many ups at Thai AirAsia but had also made some mistakes along the way, “We should’ve labelled the company as low fare rather than low cost, the latter having negative connotations. It’s taken us four years to get our correct values out there.” It has not always been plain sailing for the business and there are still issues and underlying problems with low cost airlines says Mr. Bijleveld, “It’s difficult to understand low cost (flying) because the bigger companies have done a lot of marketing for decades and painted a certain picture of luxury. So when we come in, we present a different picture and educating the public in different countries about what low fare travel means is a huge challenge.”

From relative humble beginnings of procuring just two planes, the airline can now boast having 200 aircraft and being one of the most profitable in the world. Mr. Bijleveld puts that down to the company’s ‘keys to success’ formula: listening to customers, products and services and communication. He highlights one example; listening to consumer feedback and changing the aircraft from old Boeing planes to Airbus A320 and subsequently seeing a big increase in profitability for the company. The charismatic CEO also went on to say that the most important resource for the company was the people who worked at Thai AirAsia, “It takes a lot of team work. People are our greatest asset and we’re always looking for a certain type of person to join us.”

After the talk, the Tassapon had some words of advice for UNSW Business School students looking to embark on their own ambitious business journeys, “It does not matter what faculty you are studying, nobody can study in a one dimensional way, there has to be 360 learning. If you’re studying political science and you think the world is moving towards IT, then also do a course in IT. You need to learn in which direction the world is moving around and then move towards it. Secondly, everybody wants to be an entrepreneur. I recommend working and learning with other companies, learn systems, learn how business people think and then when you’re ready, you can start [your own business], with all that experience behind you.”

2017 will see another year of expansion for the airline company. It will enter the Australian market for the first time, with flights to Sydney. “These are exciting times for us, I think Australia is a sophisticated market and there’s a huge demand for travel in Sydney.”

Media contact: Ibrar Khan: 02 9385 9887 | ibrar.khan@unsw.edu.au