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Credit Suisse Reaffirms AirAsia’s Digital Tech Unicorn Status

MANILA – As the Southeast Asian digital economy continues to boom, AirAsia’s transformation into a data and tech driven travel and lifestyle group has been recognised as one of three ASEAN Unicorns based in Malaysia by a recent Credit Suisse report alongside Carsome and Edotco.

The report highlights how the digital economy benefited from structural and behavioural changes due to COVID-19 which accelerated the pace of digitalisation.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes said: “This sends a strong message to the industry that our strategy to become more than just an airline in the digital era is not only on the right track, but allows AirAsia to make a name for itself as a key player in the e-commerce and delivery space in Asean.

“With a valuation of over USD 1 billion, our digital businesses have achieved Unicorn status in record time of under two years since we accelerated the growth momentum of our non-airline verticals during the downturn in flying caused by the pandemic.

AirAsia should no longer be known as just an airline. We are now a digital services group. While our roots are in the airline industry, we have become so much more, creating our own super app with over 15 different travel and lifestyle offerings all leveraging off one another, as well as our fast growing edutech arm, AirAsia Academy. We also have a fantastic cargo and logistics arm called Teleport as well as a financial services business in BigPay delivering robust fintech solutions, on track to becoming Asean’s first virtual bank.

“On the airline side, we have a restaurant franchise chain and food group called Santan, and an engineering company – Asia Digital Engineering (ADE) – which will truly transform maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services in the region. We also have an industry leading ground services operation called GTR. All of which are going from strength to strength in the digital era.

“From the outset, we have always been a digital company. We were the first in Asean to sell airline tickets online and handle digital payments for many millions of first time online users 20 years ago.

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“Our major transformation journey began over two years ago, before Covid hit, when I realised we have huge assets in our brand, our data and our people. If the pandemic has done anything positive, it has helped us to fast-track our transformation plans and the opportunity is huge, with over 700 million people in Southeast Asia and one of the fastest growing digital populations.

“AirAsia connected Asean from the outset and will continue to do so. Essentially we are now a delivery company, connecting people with people, connecting destinations and delivering packages, fintech products and even online education. Our aim is to become the most popular, profitable and lowest cost digital distribution company in Southeast Asia.

“To support our rapid expansion we have transformed into an investment holding company with a portfolio of synergistic travel and lifestyle businesses, including AirAsia Aviation Limited, Asia Digital Engineering, Santan Restaurant, Ground Team Red our ground handling venture, airasia Super App, Teleport our logistics business and Bigpay fintech.

“What sets us apart from our competitors in the digital arena is quality, know-your-customer data built up over 20 years, a great brand that people love coupled with exceptional customer experience and great rewards. We also have the advantage of not needing to build anything from scratch and a customer base that is in sync with our core proposition of always providing the best value and price.

“What gives me great confidence in our strategy is the fact that we don’t have to invest billions of dollars to invent something from scratch that’s already tried and tested by incumbents and knowing my team can deliver industry-leading services at lower cost.

“Mark my words, we are going to be a major player in the Asean digital economy. Recently we won the Business Innovation category at the 2021 Airline Strategy Awards. Our competitors are already taking notice and the best is yet to come, with new innovations and partnerships to be announced soon that will really shake up the industry, the way we revolutionised the Asean airline industry 20 years ago.”