Thursday, June 15, 2006

Tony Fernandes Interview with WSJ


Malaysian Tony Fernandes founded AirAsia, Asia 's first low-cost carrier, in
2001 and expanded the company by setting up joint-venture airlines in
Thailand and Indonesia. Mr. Fernandes, 42 years old, graduated from the
University of London in 1987 with a finance degree and in 1992 moved back to
Malaysia, where he became managing director of Warner Music Malaysia, and
later, vice-president of Warner's Southeast Asian operations. He quit in
2001 to start AirAsia.

One of Malaysia 's most outspoken business executives, Mr. Fernandes not
only has strong ideas on the way airlines should be run, but also how
Southeast Asia 's top-down corporate culture should change. He spoke to
reporter Cris Prystay about his style.

WSJ: What was your first job and what did you learn from it?

Mr. Fernandes: My first job was a waiter in London at the Cavendish Hotel. I
was 17. I learned that working was hard and you had to be professional, even
as a waiter. You had other colleagues. If my performance was poor, it let
down the whole team.

My first [career] job was as an accountant at an auditor in London . It was
mind-blowingly boring. I was a junior auditor and was photocopying and
adding up rows of columns. The big lesson there: make sure you go into a job
that you enjoy. Otherwise, you don't give any value to your employer, and
you certainly don't add any value to your own mind.

WSJ: Who gave you the best business advice?

Mr. Fernandes: It was probably Stephen Shrimpton (the former chief executive
officer of Warner Music International) at Warner. I was a man in a rush. I
was 28 when I became the managing director of Warner Music Malaysia, and I
wanted to be the regional MD. I wanted to take over the world.

One night, Steve talked to me outside the Sheraton Hotel in Hong Kong for
three hours. He told me there's no need to rush and that it's about
developing my own personality and making sure I'm ready for the next job. I
see that now: No matter how bright someone is at 25, there's nothing like
experience. He slowed me down, and made me understand that you need to take
time -- to understand the business better, to understand your people better.

WSJ: What's the one thing you wish every new hire knew?

Mr. Fernandes: Humility -- and knowing what the real world is like. The new
generation is coming in pretty soft. A lot of these young guys haven't lived
through a recession. There are plenty of jobs out there and they think, "I
can always walk into another job." The hunger and determination to do their
best is sometimes not there.

WSJ: Is there a difference between the management culture in Asia and the

Mr. Fernandes: The management culture here is very top-down. There's less
creativity and fewer people who are willing to speak out. They're more
implementers than doers. There's less freedom of speech, and that impacts
the business world. Even when they know things are not right, they won't
speak out. They just do what they're told to do.

WSJ: What's the biggest management challenge you face?

Mr. Fernandes: To get people to think. At AirAsia, we want 4,000 brains
working for us. My biggest challenge is to get people to talk, to express
themselves, to get people to challenge me and say "Tony, you're talking
rubbish." That's what I want, not people who say "Yes, sir." The senior
management doesn't have all the answers. I want the guy on the ramp to have
the confidence to tell me what's wrong.

WSJ: What are you doing to clear that hurdle?

Mr. Fernandes: We have no offices. We dress down. You wear a suit, and you
put distance between you and your staff. We're on a first-name basis. I go
around the office, around the check-in desks, the planes constantly, talking
to people. Fifty percent of my job is managing people in the company. You
get people to open up to you by just asking them to do it, and then
responding to them. You don't send a memo, or do some "speak up" incentive
program. It's got to be from the heart.

WSJ: What was the most satisfying decision you've made as a manager?

Mr. Fernandes: Once a month, I carry bags with the ramp boys, or I'm cabin
crew, or at the check-in. I do this to get close to the operation. I also
want to know my people. When I first started this, I met all these bright
kids at the check-in or carrying bags. We were starting this cadet pilot
program, and I said, "Let's open it up to anyone. Let some of these kids
apply." They have the brains, but they just didn't have the money to get the
education. Out of the first batch of 19 cadets, 11 came from within the
company. Some of these boys got the highest marks ever in the flying
academy. There was one kid who joined us to carry bags, and 18 months later
he was a First Officer of a 737. Can you imagine what that does for the
motivation in the company? Everyone talks about developing human capital,
but we did it.

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 28, 2006 17:30 ET (21:30 GMT )

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi: Sunni and Shi'ah

Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi:
We have seen all over the world how all the religious groups and sects
try to reconcile their differences; the Jews are trying to have common
ground with the Christians, so they claim innocence to what the
history records of the Jews' responsibility in crucifying Jesus. The
same happens among the Christians as they are trying to bring together
all the Christian denominations around the world.
Amidst all these amiable gestures, where do we Muslims stand? Why do
we kindle the fire of disagreement? What is the reason for all this
argument about Shi`ah as if they are not Muslims? Let it be known to
all that the Shi`ah are Muslims who believe in the Oneness of Allah
and the Prophethood of Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him).
Yes, there is no doubt that the Shi`ah have their beliefs and dogmas
which we condemn as heresy but this doesn't make them non-Muslims. We
should try to make use of what we have in common for the benefit of
all Muslims. No one can deny that all Muslims, Sunni and Shi`ah,
condemn the Zionists and what they do against our brethren in
Palestine. We maintain the same view concerning the persecution of
Muslims in many parts of the world. This means that we have many
things in common, which should be the pivot of our interaction. All
Muslims should be alert against the schemes and plots planned by the
enemies of Islam. They are the ones that want us to disagree and fight
each other. Now they resort to another scheme by filling our minds
with hatred against one another under the name of belief. We should
not give them this chance.

It is important for the Sunnis to concentrate on the points of
agreement, not difference, when having dialogues with the Shiites,
especially that the points of agreement are on the fundamental issues
of religion, while the points of difference have to do with the minor

Points of Agreement
1. They believe in Almighty Allah, the Day of Judgment, Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as the Seal of Prophets who
was sent by Almighty Allah (to mankind and jinn) to complete the
Heavenly Messages sent before him. Believing in all that Prophet
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent with is part of
having faith in all the Heavenly Books and all Allah's Messengers
(peace and blessings be upon them). Allah Almighty says: (The
Messenger believeth in that which hath been revealed unto him from his
Lord and (so do) believers. Each one believeth in Allah and His angels
and His scriptures and His messengers—we make no distinction between
any of His messengers—and they say: We hear, and we obey. (Grant
us)Thy forgiveness, our Lord. Unto Thee is the journeying) (Al-Baqarah
2: 285). These are the pillars of faith on which both groups agree on.

2. They believe in the Glorious Qur'an as Allah's illuminating Book
that guides to the right path. Allah Almighty says: (We have, without
doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from
corruption)) (Al-Hijr 15: 9). [Message in this verse refers to the
Glorious Qur'an.] There is no difference between the Sunnis and
Shiites concerning the Qur'an being Almighty Allah's word. It is on
this Book that religious scholars depend in holding comparative
dialogues with people of other religions, concluding juristic
opinions, guidance, etc. Allah Almighty says: (So judge between them
by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but
beware of them lest they seduce thee from some part of that which
Allah hath revealed unto thee. And if they turn away, then know that
Allah's Will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. Lo! And truly
most men are rebellious. Is it a judgment of the time of (pagan)
ignorance that they are seeking? Who is better than Allah for judgment
to a people who have certainty (in their belief)?) (Al-Ma'idah 5:

According to this verse, Allah Almighty warned the Prophet (peace and
blessings be upon him) against succumbing to the desires of the People
of the Book or other misled people when it came to judging between
them, lest they might cause him to deviate from some part of what
Allah revealed to him. This indicates that all that Allah has revealed
should be followed by Muslims.

3. Both groups also agree that Muslims are to abide by the Five
Pillars of Islam, i.e., to testify that there is no god but Allah and
that Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is His Messenger, to
perform the specified prayers, to give zakah, to observe fast in the
month Ramadan, and to perform pilgrimage. The difference in opinion
between the two groups regarding some rulings pertaining to these
pillars is something that is quite normal. It is like the scholarly
difference in opinion among the Sunni schools themselves, such as the
Hanbali, Hanifi, and Maliki schools.

Relevant books on the different juristic points of view, like Nail
Al-Awtar by Imam Ash-Shawakani (may Allah have mercy upon him), refer
to eminent scholars of jurisprudence from among the Sunnis and Shiites
on equal footing. Reading one of these books, one does not feel that
there is a crucial difference between the Shiite schools and the Sunni
ones. This does not apply only to the acts of worship, it includes
also transactions.

It is true that the Shiites do not recognize the Sunni reference books
on the Prophetic hadiths, such as Al-Muwatta' by Imam Malik, Imam
Ahmad's Musnad, Sahih Al-Bukhari, SahihMuslim, Sunnan Abu Dawud, Sunan
Ibn Majah, Sunnan Ad-Daramy. However, most of the authentic hadiths
referred to in these books were also regarded as authentic by the
Shiites through one of two ways: regarding them as Prophetic hadiths
reported by other chains of reporters agreed upon among them as
trustworthy, or regarding them as points of view (not Prophetic
hadiths) peculiar to their Shiite imams.

Anyway, the most important point to be taken into account is that
there is a great deal of agreement between the Sunni jurisprudence and
the Shiite one. This is because both depend on the same sources, the
Qur'an and the Sunnah, and also because their aims in conducting
research on religion are similar, that is, establishing Allah's
justice and mercy among people.

Furthermore, if we are to make serious researches on the Sunni
opinions, we will find that some Shiite views that seem eccentric to
us have been also adopted by some Sunni scholars.