Sunday, April 20, 2008

Aviation Entrepreneur Gopinath

I have great admiration for Gopinath who started Air Deccan, India's first low-cost airlines. He is now out of the merged Kingfisher-Deccan, and is moving on to a new Air Cargo venture.

When I was in Cricinfo, I once received an email from him. At that time, he was running a charter aircraft company. He had asked if any of the TV production companies such as TWI, Worldtel etc. will require chartering of flights to lug their equipment and personnel across India. BCCI is notorious for the most ridiculous cricket scheduling. I can't now remember what I replied, but I did give him some contact at TWI.

In the first wave of privatisation of Airlines in the 1990s, only two out of 7-8 players survived. One was jet Airways, the other Sahara. The rest completely crashed. Sahara just hung on. Jet, on the other hand, thrived and went on to become number 1 player in India, and went on to buy out Sahara. In the second wave of liberalisation, unquestionably, it was Gopinath who was the real hero. He had the vision for the low cost carrier. Others simply followed him. His biggest handicap must have been the money. Other players in the second wave were all rich and well backed with money from other ventures they were running. But it was Gopinath who showed what could be done to the Airlines business.

Air Deccan had its detractors. The service was average, the delays horrendous. But, it did serve people who could never think of flying. Gopinath democratised air travel in India. He connected places that no one thought would come on the air traffic map. He offered tickets at prices no one thought was possible in India. He was bolder than anyone else.

His success, as he says in this article, also resulted in an unsustainable growth. The losses were huge and PE players wouldn't support him fully. He had to sell out to someone like Vijay Mallya, brimming with money. It was clear to me that Gopinath wouldn't last long in the merged entity. Their styles are so different.

In a way, it is good that Gopinath is leaving. We do not have serial entrepreneurs in India, who after successful building, move on to create more challenging new ventures. Promoters should not hang on to their ventures for too long. They should just move along.

I wish Gopinath success in his new Air Cargo venture.


  1. Good blog..Gopinath rocks.. People like gopinath and nrn started from scratch and thrived well..Entrepreneurship has been growing at fast pace.. we would see more serial e'neurs in future.

  2. subhash, NRN has the necessary political connections to get land and even an elevated expressway is going to land right in front of his co. in electronic city (silk board to electronic city ph 1). clout and money. huge disappearances of dividends announced from his co. accounts tell it all! (he he goes to square one!)

    Gopinath is not a belonger of Indian corp culture where vultures thrive.

    - good samaritan (I wish to be a jumper)