May 6, 2013 Leave a comment
Rarely do we come across pieces on entrepreneurs, written by their peers.The following is one of them,written by Captain Gopinath .Do read it and enjoy!
My personal opinion is that the good Capt.is somewhat stinting in his praise.But then perhaps I am biased, being a shareholder of both airlines and having had to live with the consequences of their decisions.Anyways, little known travel agent is not how his contemporaries in the Mumbai airport during his early days recall him.A knowledgeable,helpful and dependable person is the feeling I get from hearing their stories.There’s more about his early life after the piece by Capt. Gopinath.
In the 1990s, when India ushered in the first wave of reforms, and the licence raj loosened its grip on many sectors including aviation, a slew of private airlines took to the skies. Within a couple of years, all but two had vanished: Jet Airways and Sahara Airlines. Of the two that survived, Jet, which has just closed a deal with Etihad Airways, made a name for itself in those early days. Promoted by a then-little-known travel agent, Naresh Goyal, it slowly, painstakingly and steadily became an airline of excellence. Goyal created an airline brand comparable to the best in the world in quality and consistency of service, efficiency, punctuality, clean aircraft cabins, technical dispatch reliability and outstanding engineering and operations management. Respectable Minority It was no mean achievement given the pathetic state of our airports in that era, as well as the hostile regulatory environment. To survive and thrive in the airline segment over a long period has proven almost impossible anywhere in the world. In fact, just a handful of airlines — maybe eight or 10 — have consistently performed, with growth and profitability, over more than a decade and are still in business today. In India, to survive and do well in a regulated environment, one needed a few attributes, especially in the licence raj: the ability to work with, and often manipulate, the government, and be quick in accessing capital. You had to be stupid not to succeed when you controlled the market or scarce resources. But in the airline business, these were not enough. Richard Branson famously said, “If you wish to become a millionaire, invest a billion in the airline business.” You had to have a personal commitment to professional excellence. And Naresh had that quality in addition to the first two attributes. He not only could manage the bureaucracy and the political environment, he was also astute, canny, street-smart and passionately committed to building a professionally managed airline. Plugging into Power He was often accused of manipulating the political party in power to benefit his airline. When Tata-Singapore Airlines was denied a licence to start an airline in the country in the late 1990s, many people and newspapers alleged that Naresh had a hand in it. It is often overlooked that the biggest stumbling block to reforms in the early days of our Independence were, and even today are, not politicians but businessmen themselves who were, and are, beneficiaries of “licences”. But make no mistake — Naresh is also a great survivor and a wily street fighter. There were often accusations against him that politicians in power, from across parties, were close to him. Governments fell and came back to power but he rode through the political storm. The airline was on the verge of closure when charges were made in Parliament that he had underworld links — as the source of his funds was allegedly connected to underworld dons. However, he came out unscathed through it all. Then there was the bitter legal feud over the acquisition of Sahara’s airline. That fight almost cost him his airline, which was already caught in the worst airline recession. At that time, Naresh faced increasing losses and an inability to raise funds; the Jet share price was going down. He also had employee problems, with the staff threatening to go on strike when he laid off hundreds of airhostesses. Son of the Soil He survived it all. And through all the controversies and troubles, he has steadily built a robust international network and secured good international routes; routes that were controlled by the government through bilateral agreements. Plus, he has built a brand new fleet of widebodied Airbuses and Boeings, and strengthened the domestic network. Like many great Indian businessmen who do not possess MBA degrees or even a formal education but have built great businesses, Naresh Goyal possesses a native sense that is of the Indian blood and mud, a genius going back in time. Goyal is the kind of entrepreneur who has business in his veins and possesses an uncanny ability to seize an opportunity with speed and cunning. This kind of business acumen is still essential in India’s regulated environment — if you want to steal a march over the competition. But unlike many old-world family business houses, Naresh is a product of economic reforms. Therefore, he deserves a special kind of praise — for building a world-class service as an entrepreneur who didn’t have old connections to fall back on. Now he has pulled off a sort of coup d’état by strategically aligning with Etihad Airways in an equity partnership — this brings cheer and optimism to the gloomy Indian aviation sector. It’s good news for the country, passengers and unemployed pilots and aviation engineers. Let us wish him luck. But let us also pray he will play fair and will not stifle competition with the added muscle he has acquired.
Here’s more info on Naresh Goyal’s early years:
Naresh Goyal was born in Sangrur – Punjab,in 1949, in the house of a jewellery dealer situated at Nabha Gate.He had to walk for a few miles everyday to school as his parents could not afford a bicycle for him.He studied up to the sixth standard at the Govt. Raj High School for Boys.When he was eleven years old, his family went through an economic crisis and his house was auctioned off. He then lived with his mother’s uncle.He started his career as a cashier at his maternal uncle’s company at a starting salary of Rs 300 a month.When he was eighteen he took a teaching degree.After graduating in commerce in 1967, Naresh Goyal joined the travel business as a general sales agent for Lebanese International.Subsequently, he was appointed the public relations manager of Iraqi Airways in 1969 and from 1971 to 1974 was the regional manager for ALIA, Royal Jordanian Airlines.During this period, he also worked with the Indian offices of Middle Eastern Airline, where he gained experience in various areas including ticketing, reservations and sales.He was, thereafter, appointed regional manager of Phillipine Airlines where he handled the commercial operations of the airline in India.So from 1967 to 1974, he underwent extensive training in all facets of the travel business through his association with several foreign airlines. He also travelled overseas extensively on business during this period.With the experience, expertise and technical know-how thereby acquired, in May 1974, Naresh Goyal founded Jetair (Private) Limited (then known as Jetair Transportation Private Ltd)with the objective of providing sales and marketing representation to foreign airlines in India. He was involved in the development of traffic patterns, route structures, operational economics and flight scheduling, all of which has made him an authority in the world of aviation and travel.In 1991, as part of the ongoing diversification of his business activities, Naresh Goyal took advantage of the opening of the Indian economy and the enunciation of the Open Skies Policy by the Government of India to set up Jet Airways for the operation of scheduled air services on domestic sectors in India. Jet Airways commenced commercial operations on May 05, 1993.
And a final titbit;A firm believer in numerology, Naresh Goyal is fond of number “5”.