Investment: Take it easy to make it work

The Player: Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Founder and owner of easyJet

PERSONAL DETAILS: Aged 32. Has homes in London, Athens and Monaco. "Why is commuting from Wales more acceptable than from Cannes?" he asks. Drives a Mercedes Convertible SL in Monaco and a BMW Convertible in Athens. Pay undisclosed. Despite owning his own airline, he has resisted becoming a pilot. When time allows he enjoys water sports and skiing. "I end up turning most of my business into a hobby," he says.

CHALLENGE: "The process of managing growth is always the biggest challenge especially in a new company," says Mr Haji-Ioannou. "There is a big execution risk."

Last year easyJet flew 1.7 million passengers but Mr Haji-Ioannou still sees, "lots of growth ahead of us". "Sticking to the knitting is key," he says. The industry as a whole has a bigger problem, he says. The big European airlines recognise that "people are not willing to pay serious sums of money to fly. They have to learn to adapt". British Airways, Europe's largest airline, launched its own low-cost service, Go, in 1998 to compete with easyJet. He says Go is a "poor execution of my idea".

CORPORATE BACKGROUND: He comes from a wealthy Greek shipping family and still owns the Stelmar tanker line. Based in Athens it has 12 ships, but Mr Haji-Ioannou says the challenge of running this was "not big enough". He decided he wanted to start an airline. "I think [Richard] Branson is to blame. He must have passed on the aviation bug".

STRATEGY: "More of the same. We have identified a very good cookie cutter." He says there is no difference between nations when it comes to fliers wanting value for money: "Why should a Swiss person want to pay more to travel on Swiss Air." There is a "universal language of money". So easyJet has launched a major assault on the Swiss Air monopoly with the establishment of its Continental European base in Geneva, from where easyJet will fly to a number of destinations including Amsterdam and Nice. Mr Haji-Ioannou notes that Paris is the market with no low-cost carrier. He is confident that his budget airline has wide appeal. "It can be replicated in any big city".

Last month, he opened easyEverything, the world's largest Internet cafe, based at London's Victoria. The 10,000sq ft site with 400 terminals is open 24 hours a day and charges an average pounds 1 an hour for access. Beginners can be taught how to use the Net by a staff of 24 tutors. The aim is to widen affordable access to the Internet. "If the airline was pioneering, this is off the wall," says Mr Haji-Ioannou, who believes he has "struck a chord with the public". Before the end of the year there are plans to open further stores in London's Trafalgar Square and Tottenham Court Road, with a move into other UK cities planned for early next year. A site for the first overseas easyEverything, in Amsterdam, is currently being sought.

Car rental firms might have cause to worry because Mr Haji-Ioannou is planning an assault on their market with the launch of an online easyRentaCar. He says the Internet gives him the ability to cut out the middlemen and lower costs. The same arguments can be applied to estate agents and travel agents: "I want to do to Hertz what I did to BA." He enjoys having "a multiplicity of activities and functions" but says he is "extremely focused".

The criteria he uses for whether to invest in a sector are whether there is the ability "to re-engineer" the business and thereby provide a substantial discount to the consumer. "My brand is about value for money and changing existing methods," he says.

easyJet is to be partially floated in January 2000. The flotation is expected to value the low-cost airline at around pounds 300m with the Haji-Ioannou family retaining a majority holding. The proceeds will be used to buy 42 aeroplanes and to increase the number of flights.

MANAGEMENT STYLE: easyLand is the name of the corporate headquarters and Mr Haji-Ioannou says this reflects the style of the business. It is an open-plan, paperless building. No one, including Mr Haji-Ioannou, has an office or secretary. Departmental heads are free to run their business with Mr Haji-Ioannou called in if necessary.

MOST ADMIRES IN BUSINESS: Richard Branson is definitely on the list, says Mr Haji-Ioannou, who says he tends to admire mavericks or underdogs rather than powerful businesses. He says he used to admire Bill Gates "but he is now too powerful".

CITY VERDICT: Anton Joiner, European editor of the bi-monthly Commercial Aviation Report, says that what Mr Haji-Ioannou has done so far has been very well managed. "He has got a very focused idea of what he wants to achieve," said Mr Joiner, who believes the real test will come when the new aircraft come on stream: "There is a lot of capacity in the low-cost market coming on line. This is going to place great strain on yields." But what easyJet has achieved so far "is very encouraging". He sees parallels with the successful Southwest Airlines. easyJet is "a very good textbook case of what you can do in a deregulated market taking on the majors".

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

Sales Executive

£20 - 24k (Uncapped Commission - £35k Year 1 OTE): Guru Careers: We are seekin...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week