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The self Made Titan of Indian Industry: Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath

Pioneer of India's low-cost airline Air Deccan. Ex-army officer turned farmer then entrepreneur, in 1997, along with another colleague from the army, founded Deccan Aviation - India's largest Private Helicopter Charter Company. In 2003 he became the pioneer in launching India's first low-cost carrier Air Deccan - the common man's airline. A former army officer and an award winning Seri culturist, Capt G.R Gopinath, made his foray in the aviation sector way back in 1995; at a time when domestic aviation was monopolized by a handful of Full Service Airlines (FSA) and strict government regulations were the norm. He identified the potential which the helicopter charter business had in India.

Combining his entrepreneurial skills and vision with the technical skills of his exarmy friends, he launched ‘Deccan Aviation’ – a dedicated, customer focused helicharter Company. Today, Deccan Aviation, headquartered in Bangalore has 11 helicopters and 2 small aircraft and operates out of nine major cities and locations, spanning the entire length and breadth of India. The company is India’s largest and most reputed private air charter company including Sri Lanka.

Early life & Education

Captain G. R. Gopinath, Founder and CEO at Deccan Aviation and Air Deccan is a graduate of the National Defense Academy and has served the Indian Army. He is considered the father of low cost air travel in India. He created a whole new market when he launched India`s first low cost airline, Air Deccan.

Capt G R Gopinath or Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath or `Gopi` as he is affectionately called was born in a Hassan Iyengar family of the remote village of Gorur, Karnataka. Starting his studies in a village school, he completed his further schooling at Sainik (military) School, Bijapur. Thereafter he joined the distinguished National Defence Academy and later graduated from the Indian Military Academy as a commissioned officer in the Indian Army. He then went on to serve the Army for eight years. Sometime in 1995, the Govt. of India started the reforms process by encouraging entrepreneurship. This inspired the entrepreneur in him to identify the tremendous potential Helicopter Charter had in India. Along with an old Army friend he decided to start a private sector commercial helicopter service in 1996. Starting with just one helicopter, today Deccan Aviation boasts of 10 (Ten) Helicopters and two charter jets operating from eight major locations criss-crossing the entire length of the country. This company is India’s most reputed private Air Charter Company with a presence now in Srilanka also.

When he launched Deccan Aviation. farming and deals. He left army in 1979 when he was 27 years old and ventured into farming. cereals. determination. Yes. to aviation. or something else. His first Air Deccan flight caught fire and everyone wrote his company off. From army. He faced all challenges head on. cost efficiency. Captain Gopinath's Success Mantras Success hasn't been an easy sail for any successful person you speak to. . A graduate from National Defense Academy. he believes. and vegetables in the government provided land when his ancestral land was eaten up by a dam. But he says that he's been an optimist who always refused to give up. coconuts.Never Give Up! For six years Captain Gopinath slept under a thatched roof and tried to make living by growing bananas. that's ten long years of toil. to give India Air Deccan that boasts about fastest aircraft turnaround time. Gopinath has had one dream that is to make a difference and in spite of all odds he continues to pursue that. Captain Gopinath served in Indian Army for 8 years. it took Captain Gopinath four years to get one helicopter on lease. Captain Gorur R Iyengar Gopinath. wide connectivity. Pursue Your Passion Captain Gopinath stresses that one should pursue his passion and never let fear of failing come in the way. The problems will come and failures are unavoidable but having single minded focus. competition. Chairman and Managing Director. and ability to assimilate failures is the only way forward. It was in 1985 that he switched to silkworm rearing. At every step he faced new bundle of challenges whether they emanated from government controls. And he had to wait for four more years to see some success. Air Deccan didn't have a smooth flight either. and it didn't end with farming. and ticketing access.

Since it proved to be difficult to grow conventional crops in this land. a heli-charter firm. Air Deccan. He doesn't believe that there is any set rule for success but reveals some mantras that has worked for him. Gopinath was a serial entrepreneur who had earlier been a commissioned officer in the Indian army. He started Deccan Aviation . he sold his Deccan Aviation to Kingfisher and now launching yet another venture Deccan Cargo. and his farm became a destination for governments and NGOs seeking innovations in farming. He won the Rolex Challenge award for his work. After discharge from the army he took up the challenge of farming barren land given to his family as compensation for land that had been submerged due to a dam project. Recently. The man gave India the lowest fare airlines. Gopinath entered the aviation business as a response to a pilot friend who did not have a job as he felt that there was good scope for a charter company in India given the distances and the economic development taking place. Air Deccan Journey Leading the pack was Captain Gopinath’s Air Deccan that promised to revolutionize air travel by allowing everyone to fly by offering hitherto unheard of fares.After tasting success as a Seri culturist he moved on to launch his Deccan Aviation. Gopinath finally turned to sericulture and developed environmentally-friendly and innovative ways of cultivating silk worms.

did not serve free meals or even free water on its flights.xii Air Deccan had 75 aircraft on order for delivery by December 2012. Many times people would approach Gopinath (at Deccan Aviation) to travel to smaller towns but back away when they found out the price of the cha rter. He saw tremendous potential for aviation in India if flying could be brought down to a reasonable price (“everyone can fly”). poor service and lack of reliability. Air Deccan had reached a fleet size of 40 aircraft (10 ATR-42. had limited 1997 providing chartered helicopter and small aircraft across India. did not pay commissions or give credit to travel agents (thereby avoiding the expensive process of managing credit and reconciliation with the travel trade). While Air Deccan was able to capture the imagination of the public and demand grew rapidly for its services thanks to its throwaway fares. and outsourced as many operations as possible. Air Deccan offered a single class point-to-point service. Air Deccan created a new network of travel intermediaries who would sell their tickets. sold all tickets only through the internet or its call centre. It had achieved some success in connecting distant places – it was the only carrier offering service to twelve of its destinations.By September 2007. and one of only two carriers offering services to six others. The airline also tied up with a major oil company and the Department of Posts (Post Offices) to enhance reach. the airline itself was plagued by operational problems as it sought to aggressively expand its network and fleet size. Later. Inspired by the “low-cost” airline model pioneered by Southwest Airlines in the United States (see Exhibit 2 for the Southwest model) and later emulated by other successful carriers such as JetBlue and Ryan Air. In the process. To reach more customers. . it developed a reputation for delays. as other “low-cost” carriers entered the airline industry. and 22 A-320 aircraft). Air Deccan sought to cut the frills out of airline operations and pass on the benefit to customers. This took the form of a limited number of seats sold at lower prices. 8 ATR-72. Air Deccan soon expanded to Airbus A-320 jet operations connecting major cities. discounting without the prepurchase requirements of the Apex fares became the norm. While the established players – Indian Airlines. Starting in August 2003 with turboprop aircraft that connected small towns to large cities. the obvious demand for air travel at lower fares and the urge to fill vacant seats prompted them to start discounting fares as well. Jet and Sahara initially ignored Air Deccan.

2005.  Best Entrepreneur of the year-Hutti Gold Mines .Entrepreneurship Excellence Awards . Entrepreneurship  Indomitable spirit of enterprise & outstanding achievements-Ernst & Young India .2004.Awards & honors  Rolex International Award for Enterprise . Coimbatore .2005 .  Startup entrepreneur of the year-NITIE .2004  Centennial Excellence Award-Rotary International .People's skill foundation 2005.2005  Business Leader Award-World HRD Congress .1996.  Personality of the decade-K.  Entrepreneur of the year-National Academy of Management.G Foundation.

from a strategic perspective. We believe low fares will help Air Deccan generate new business throughout India – not only in new and under-served markets. poor service and lack of reliability. While Air Deccan was able to capture the imagination of the public and demand grew rapidly for its services thanks to its throwaway fares. Air Deccan targets leisure.ABSTRACT Air Deccan is the amazing story of India’s first low-cost airline. More importantly. small business and corporate customers. They have done this through a cleaver combination of innovation and outsourcing. but also in established markets that have so far failed to offer Indian middle-class consumers and cost-conscious businesses a choice of sufficiently cost-effective fares. In the process. it gives powerful evidence to how technology can be a key factor in changing industry dynamics. Business model The elements of Air Deccan’s “no-frills. it developed a reputation for delays. even in what were once considered fairly stable or conservative industry. and seeks passengers from the Indian middle class as well as from the cost-conscious segments of more well off . the airline itself was plagued by operational problems as it sought to aggressively expand its network and fleet size. It has become one of the nation’s largest airlines in less than four years. low-cost” air carrier business model include:  Offering low fares to stimulate demand.

We believe that Air Deccan’s route strategy will help it grow new markets for air travel in India. Practices that many other airlines engage in regularly. Air Deccan strives to: (i) reduce the costs of its operations. are not offered. connect new city pairs among destinations it already serves and initiate service to new destinations. Air Deccan employs dense. As of November 30.  Selecting routes to stimulate demand. and help minimise the operating costs associated with. ground handling and operational strategies designed to keep its planes in the air as long as practical every day. 2005.  Reducing costs. Product and service extras that are not Reasonably necessary to the core task of flying passengers safely and efficiently are eliminated. increasing utilization. (ii) provide a no-frills service. those available . (iii) seek high aircraft utilization. As it grows.classes. and outsource non-core business processes. single-class seating arrangements in its aircraft and follows scheduling. But. 2005. Air Deccan offers passengers a choice of 62 routes and 44 destinations. they can pay less for an Air Deccan ticket and still get the basic transportation service they require. such as in passenger check-in. Air Deccan then uses load factor and yield management techniques in order to help maximise the revenues earned from. These measures help Air Deccan to increase its available seats flown. To help make its low-fare strategy as profitable as possible. It does so in part by seeking to when such use can complicate operations. Air Deccan passengers experience a pared-down version of flying compared to what many other airlines offer. we expect Air Deccan to increase the frequencies of its flights on certain existing routes. As at November 30. including some already served by other airlines and some currently not served byairlines at all. it is the only carrier providing service to 9 of its destinations and one of only two carriers providing service to 7 of its destinations. such as providing help to passengers during layovers or offering Frequent flier programmers. Air Deccan seeks to provide a simple service in exchange for its low fares. as well as help it serve major urban centres with cost-effective fares.

The airline regularly seeks to earn ancillary revenues where opportunities exist and the simplicity of its operations will not be compromised. it also flies routes between regional locations. Bangalore. As part of its strategy of simplifying its operations in order to reduce costs and attract a high volume of passengers. leisure and religious locations and state capitals. Air Deccan flies point-to-point routes only. providing a safe and on-time service. Air Deccan earns revenues from charging for in-flight food and drink. Air Deccan flies its trunk routes among these bases.seats flown. In certain cases. flight cancellations. Chennai. it does not seek to time some of its flights to connect with other of its . In addition to charging for tickets. baggage handling   Increasing ancillary revenues. We believe that customers also demand on-time service and expect a minimum of delays. Delhi. We consider the provision of safe travel to be of essential importance to our service. selling advertising space on the Interior and exterior of its aircraft and in a number of other ways. and flies routes that connect its bases with various regional business. which are often underserved. Routes Strategy and Network Air Deccan operates from six bases located in the largest urban centers in India: Mumbai. Kolkata and Hyderabad. That is.

flights. in each case seeking to capture a cost-effective passenger volume and to grow the demand on such routes as their regional destinations grow in economic importance. and in certain cases point-to-point among regional destinations. It also flies point-to-point from these large cities to smaller regional destinations. where it seeks to capture a high volume of passenger traffic and where it provides a relatively high frequency of flights. . to deliver passengers at times convenient for connections with other airlines’ flights or to facilitate the movement of Passengers or baggage from one plane to another. Air Deccan flies point-to-point routes among major cities.


Air Deccan leased advertising space on the outside surfaces of aircraft. Air Deccan also seeks to manage costs (and to create revenues) through sales and barter exchanges for advertising space. In addition. reduce the need for the airline to monitor crew locations between flights and streamline maintenance and other procedures related to the aircraft itself because the aircraft comes back each day to the place where it started. electronic newsletter and e-brochure are also used for advertising space. reject technology where it can complicate operations and outsource non-core business processes. Simplifying operations can remove layers of costs. the airline currently offers drop-down TV screens which show freely provided video content and which can also support advertising. Air Deccan has outsourced non-core operations in an effort to cut the costs of such operations. In addition. Air Deccan strives to reduce the costs of its operations. The magazine is outsourced at no cost to the airline and is revenue-generating on a shared basis through advertising sales. In flight. as is the in-flight magazine and in-flight screen entertainment. . As a result of advertising\ barter exchanges. For example. Air Deccan is also accumulating advertising time on national television channels. have been leased for advertising. A variety of internal aircraft spaces. use technology when it can reduce costs.Cost management In order to help translate its low-fare strategy into positive results of operations. Air Deccan can eliminate the cost of putting crews up overnight away from their homes. newspapers and a radio channel. by arranging flight schedules so that an aircraft ends each crew shift at the same airport where it started that crew shift. tray tables. such as storage bins. It does so in part by seeking to simplify operations. baggage tags and boarding passes. The Air Deccan Internet site. headrests. not all of which are obvious. The food and drink that is sold on board our aircraft is provided by a third party supplier. Air Deccan provides an in-flight magazine to passengers.

Leisure travel includes advanceplanned travel. In . Leisure travelers travel for holiday / pleasure. which it refers to as follows: leisure travelers. or make regular visits to their native regions or for a religious pilgrimage. For example. aircraft lease payment finance and some maintenance operations. non-resident Indians who return to India to visit family will become an integral part of our customer base. We believe that as Air Deccan’s India network grows. we believe leisure travelers are highly price conscious. Air Deccan’s ticket payment system also reduces customer credit risk for the airline. such as three-day weekends. As a general matter. We believe these trends are the result of a growth in disposable income coupled with a desire for an “upgraded” lifestyle. Weekend getaways are also becoming increasingly popular and many new destinations have opened.Working capital management Air Deccan sells tickets almost entirely on the basis of payments made in advance or within 24 hours of booking. Many airlines have substantially less beneficial sales and payment arrangements. Advance ticket sales receipts fund a substantial portion of the working capital needs. personnel. Air Deccan generally receives credit as a purchaser of goods and services for up to 15-30 days. airport charges. making them an important market for Air Deccan. it can reduce its need to finance working capital requirements. see“Marketing and Distribution”. As a result. except in the case of aircraft lease payments. or to visit friends and relatives. which are planned closer to the travel date and on which a leisure traveler may be willing to spend proportionately more. Leisure travelers. which are payable in advance. Marketing and distribution Air Deccan targets three market segments. Each segment exhibits different characteristics and needs. Air Deccan requires working capital to fund its payments for fuel. airlines that deal with traditional travel agents or that take reservations through one of the global GDS reservations systems may need to wait 30 days or more to be paid for tickets sold. For a description of Air Deccan’s sales and distribution channels. generally as part of a longer break and generally booked well in advance and shorter trips. and presents Air Deccan with different opportunities to develop its business. business travelers and corporate travelers.

Air Deccan provides an in-flight magazine to passengers. and are used to travelling in. The airline is also in the process of developing leisure packages with bundled hotel offerings. who engage in business travel at their own cost (as part owners in their business) or who are otherwise highly cost. Air Deccan’s marketing efforts benefit from sales and barter exchanges for advertising space. electronic newsletter and e-brochure are also used for advertising space.indiatimes.K. and customers who currently travel by rail or road. headrests. To help convey its desired brand message. focusing on the value and services it can provide to each segment. which is “low fares”. emphasizing that the airline’s low fares translate into “flying made possible” and a “better lifestyle through air travel”. such as storage bins. tray tables. for example. For leisure travelers. The airline seeks to use television advertising to build emotional connect and print and billboard advertising to hammer out its “low fares” message. Air Deccan rents advertising space on the exterior surfaces of the aircraft. direct marketing and the Internet. radio and billboards and also. Air Deccan regularly evaluates its branding and position in the marketplace in order to constantly refine communications strategy to relate to its target customers. advertising. it offers a ticket package called Value Flier. A variety of internal aircraft spaces. The magazine is . Air Deccan seeks to communicate the value proposition through: public relations. In addition. we believe business travelers are likely to be careful with travel expenditures Air Deccan’s is strongly focused about its value proposition. Business travelers. Air Deccan directs customized marketing initiatives at certain of its targeted customer segments. bookings can be through www. It targets both existing air travelers in its three customer market segments. Because they pay for their travel themselves or work for a small cost-conscious effort to reach out to these non-resident Indians cost effectively. air-conditioned classes on trains. which provides multiple tickets useable over time by up to four members of the same immediate family. Layman’s celebrated Indian mascot “the Common Man” as its brand ambassador. Air Deccan uses the term business travelers to refer to travelers working for small and medium enterprises. We believe that the use of the Common Man helps communicate to the mass of the Indian middle-class that Air Deccan is working hard to make the dream of routine air travel a reality for Indians. to a lesser extent. baggage tags and boarding passes are used for advertising. The Air Deccan internet site. R.and time-conscious due to the size of the business. through television. Air Deccan has been granted the right to use Mr. and helps those same people associate themselves with that Air Deccan advertises principally through media channels such as print.

operate with four flight crews per aircraft. Also. Pilots are generally in short supply in India. It also seeks to fill pilot positions by training co-pilots. non-Indian captains (pilots) must have previously flown 50 hours on the type of plane they are piloting. or ten pilots. the food and drinks served on board must be paid for by passengers. In addition. As a result of advertising barter exchanges. per aircraft. although Air Deccan can. Air Deccan seeks to make sure that in-flight service costs are kept to a minimum. Under DGCA requirements. It has a preference for employees who have an entrepreneurial spirit and are motivated. first officers (co-pilots) must be Indian. in the case of Airbus A320 pilot positions. Therefore. for shorter periods. the DGCA has recently passed a new rule requiring pilots to give 6 months’ notice before leaving an airline. In general. Air Deccan maintains a relatively flat management structure to avoid wasteful layers of reporting and oversight. To address the pilot shortage caused in part by these rules. Their compensation is 20% fixed and 80% variable depending on how often they fly and any additional incentives they earn. existing ATR pilots. newspapers and a radio channel. Human Resource Air Deccan places great emphasis on the selection and training of enthusiastic employees with the potential to add value to our business and whom we believe fit in and contribute to our business culture. an airline needs five flight crews.outsourced at no cost to the airline and is revenue-generating on a shared basis through advertising sales. Air Deccan’s in-flight cabin crew members pay for their own initial training. We seek to employ a sufficient number of qualified pilots to be ready to staff new aircraft as they are deployed. Air Deccan is also accumulating advertising time on national television channels. the mandatory retirement age for pilots has been increased to 65 years. . and. Air Deccan has instituted a continuous sourcing project to recruit pilots. at least four months in advance.

or “price wars”. it is to be expected that as competition in the Indian market increases and low-fare airlines compete head-to-head more often. including rail and road transport. could have a material adverse effect on our business. providing services. . including Air Deccan. The Indian Railways are the largest transport entity in India and in fiscal year 2004. operations. financial condition and results of operations. or how well or poorly Air Deccan could sustain its business. Any failure compete effectively. helping the Indian market to embrace our no-frills product offering or otherwise. carried approximately 52 million passengers travelling first class and air conditioned second class. financial condition and results of operations during any such price wars. safety. including in terms of pricing. security. Terrorist or other incidents that lead to the imposition of tighter security measures for air travel are just one of the possible future developments that could hinder the competitive effectiveness of air travel.Market Share of leading airlines Indian domestic airlines. competing airlines may engage in significant fare reductions and discounting. It is difficult to predict how long or how aggressive any such price wars might be. marketing. also compete against other forms of transport. In particular.

making them costlier to employ. We expect that increased competition may further shorten supplies of pilots and engineers. In addition. SpiceJet is a relatively new entrant into the low-cost carrier market. Currently. . Furthermore. a privately owned low-cost carrier. economy-fare scheduled airline. Paramount Airways. including pricing strategies and the emergence and growth of other low fare carriers. There are also various published reports of other airlines being set up or commencing operations as either full service or low-cost airlines.The Indian airline industry is very competitive and we expect competition to increase in the near future. began operations on November 4. Other competitors include the Indian Government-owned Indian Airlines (including its subsidiary Alliance Air) and the private companies Jet Airways and Air Sahara. Kingfisher has recently begun a domestic airline that currently appears to be following a full-service strategy. GoAir. commenced operations in September 2005. they would compete with us and other existing airline operators. As and when such airlines commence operations. an all business class. All of these airlines are full-service carriers offering flights on domestic routes and certain international routes. 2005. Air Deccan’s market position will depend upon our ability to anticipate and respond to various competitive factors affecting the industry. Air Deccan’s most direct competitors are the airlines Spice Jet and Go Air.

No. of flights . of destination 2.Year on Year 1.Growth Analysis . No.

3. No. of Passengers .

Financial Performance .

Gopinath would continue as the Executive Chairman and Malay would take charge as Vice Chairman. connects 70 destinations and operates 550 flights in a day. The merger came through on as Vijay Mallya from Kingfisher airlines bought 26% of the stake in Air Deccan. Air Deccan had four independent directors-which included prominent persons like IIM Prof Thiru Naraya. aircraft manufacturers (Airbus in this case). maintenance and overhaul). operational synergies (engineering. the management and staff of both the airlines would be integrated. It would be known by a different name-Kingfisher Aviation. independent directors. After the merger. The unification of the two carriers had to be sanctioned not only by the two panels. Post merger. They would be stronger vis-a vis lessors. inventory management and ground handling services. Former MD Nabisco Malaysia. The charter service of the respective airlines would be hived off and operate as a separate entity.Merger with Kingfisher Airlines Air Deccan airlines merged with Kingfisher Airlines and decided to operate as a single entity from April. the global consulting firm. the company has a combined fleet of 71 aircrafts. KingFisher would operate as a single largest (private) airline in the sub-continent. The combined entity has a market share of 33%. but also by the institutional investors. and will also spend less on training and employees. KPMG was asked to do the valuation and the swap ratio was decided accordingly. and other shareholders. . The merger is based on recommendations of Accenture. and A K Ganguly. Tennis player Vijay Amritraj. 2008. Besides.

June 13. June 3. Also Air Deccan plans to continue as a low cost carrier while Kingfisher will function as a full-service carrier. These bases are at Bangalore. 2007. It offers point to point service. It is also India’s largest private sector helicopter charter company. The Airbus aircraft serve metro routes while ATR are utilized for Tier II and III cites and also for small airports.1 years as of Apr 2006.Costs would also reduce which is associated with maintenance of aircraft. It may lead to reducing the over-capacity existing in the market and . The average age of the Air Deccan fleet is 6.* Air Deccan operates a fleet of 43 aircraft comprising 20 brand new Airbus A320 aircraft and 23 ATR aircraft. It has a fleet of 12 helicopters and small aircraft deployed in 8 bases across India. by devising a more optimal routing strategy it could help in rationalizing the fares. which pioneered helitourism in India. (Business Standard.) Further.17 crores on revenue of Rs 437. has a total fleet of seventy one aircrafts-41 Airbus and 30 ATR aircraft (Business Standard. 2007. Before the merger Air Deccan recorded a net loss of Rs 213. The savings in cost would be lower by about 4-5% (Rs 300 crores) (Business Standard. There will be immense synergies as both operate Airbus. This period of consolidation in the sky gives a good signal to the airlines industry. There are many changes that have taken place. Surat. It operates 537 flights (Business Standard.*Deccan Aviation is the largest private sector helicopter charter company in India.82 cores for 2006-07. The newly formed company plans to revisit their fleet plan in coordination with each other to rationalize the fleet structure. 2007. June 3. the first of which is slated to be delivered to Kingfisher by 2011. Katra and Colombo (Sri Lanka). p-4) and covers 70 destinations. I After the merger. it is expected that Kingfisher will focus more on the international routes while Air Deccan will give it a wider domestic reach. It would result in a saving of 3 billion in the first year itself through the sharing of aircraft and workers. Delhi. Air Deccan began its operations with one aircraft and with one flight but after the alignment with Kingfisher Airlines. p8). It has a secondary hub at Chennai. The merger will create a more competitive business in scale and scope to emerge as market leader. The company had also raised Rs 400 crores through an IPO in May 2006. 2007. These include five of the largest aircraft-A380. It offers point to point service. Ranchi. Hyderabad. Airbus Industries for about 90 aircrafts. June 7. Working on these lines the company has already placed orders from the European aircraft major. 4) which is a large sum. Mumbai. p-13.

The era of cheap fares might also come to an end.thereby stabilizing prices. increasing yields and bringing down costs. .