TAN SRI TONY FERNANDES
FROM buying a debt-laden airline and turning it into the world’s best low-cost carrier, Fernandes has been one of the pioneers who changed how an airline operates.
Now that that’s settled, the tycoon is pushing AirAsia to be more than just a pure aviation player, with efforts in fintech, lifestyle and entertainment, thus demonstrating how an airline can diversify into other sectors.
Its fintech journey began in 2017 with the introduction of BigPay and the lifestyle segment with the opening of the first Santan Restaurant in MidValley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur earlier this month. The eatery is the airline’s first fast-food joint featuring its popular inflight menu, making it the first airline ever to commercialise food.
Plans are in store to open 100 franchisee-operated outlets within the next three to five years, including overseas expansions.
As for BigPay, things may seem to be a little quiet at the moment when other e-wallet players are ramping up their advertisements and freebies in a competition to acquire the larger market share.
What is brewing at BigPay? What is Fernandes’ strategy? Could he be waiting for other e-wallets to exhaust their resources? After all, Fernandes is best known for his unconventional ways, among which was tripling AirAsia’s advertising and slashing airfare during the SARS outbreak in 2003 when other airlines are cutting down on their flight frequencies and advertising. We can only wait and see what is in store.
AirAsia’s logistics arm Teleport had also launched Teleport.social in September, which aims to disrupt the logistics industry where it will provide beyond the traditional business-to-business (B2B) air cargo business and facilitate consumer-to-consumer commerce via social media.
AT a time where cost of living is still a main concern for most Malaysians, Aziz founded Flux, an all-inclusive monthly car subscription service that eliminates the hassle and costs which vehicle owners usually face.
The service aims to redefine car ownership and to challenge the status quo by allowing users to have a car without a bank loan and have the flexibility to switch to another car, if they feel like it.
Users pay a monthly fee to drive a car of their choice, without the usual accompanying down payments as well as yearly insurance and road tax renewals.
It also has a concierge service to help manage periodical services and repair.
Users are allowed to switch cars after a minimum of one month usage and following the switch, the user will pay the monthly rate for the new chosen car.
Aziz, who has a degree in economics and two master’s degrees, had observed how the tech industry was disrupting the mobility space in Silicon Valley and realised that consumers were being empowered to make better decisions with less compromise.
Flux’s inventory, which includes cars such as the Kia Picanto right up to the Mercedes-Benz S Class and the BMW 6 Series GT, are sourced from reputable automotive groups and retailers.
There is also the usage of data through vehicular telematics installed in its cars, which aims to incentivise better driving behaviour and in the event of a traffic incident, the device immediately dispatches emergency services to the location to render assistance.
Individuals aside, services like this would allow companies that wanted to have an asset-light balance sheet have better flexibility and not have depreciation hit their financial statements.
MORE MONEY FOR THE TAXMAN
THE shadow economy in Malaysia is massive, which is suspected to be around 21% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). This amounts to around RM300bil.
These are activities that are undeclared and so no taxes are paid.
The Inland Revenue Board (IRB) is pumping more resources into its enforcement next year, with an allocation of 80% of its staff in a bid to address the missing revenue.
It has since divided the shadow economy into two categories --- foreigners and locals.
The IRB is currently gathering information from various sources including moneychangers and remittance, local authorities, stamping offices and banks to identify individuals involved in the shadow economy, which includes illegal activities such as money lending, gambling, prostitution and drug dealing.
A move like this is akin to killing two birds with one stone.
On the one hand, the government is able to collect tax revenue from the illegitimate activities over the years. The authorities will also be able to cripple the syndicates involved, to put a stop to such illegal activities.
While the government may never be able to put a complete stop to the shadow economy, being able to reduce its level is a good start.
Further digitalisation will be able to drive this down, which will make money laundering and tax evasion tougher.