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Tuesday, 04 December, 2018, 12 : 51 PM [IST]

The High-Flyer - Kanika Tekriwal

It is true that adversity can either bring the best or worst out of someone. In the case of Kanika Tekriwal her struggle with cancer at the age of 23 has proved to be the ultimate test of mental strength. It is with her never-give-up attitude that she not only defeated cancer, but also gave wings to her dream of launching her own business in the aviation industry with JetSetGo. Today this marketplace has emerged as the preferred choice for corporate travellers and business alike for point to point connections, and Kanika has emerged as strong example of a woman entrepreneur in the highly male dominated aviation industry. In 2016, she made it to the coveted Forbes 30 under 30 lists, whereas she was one of the seven Indians on BBC’s list of 100 most inspiring women in 2015. Besides taking JetSetGo to newer heights and geographies, she is also a speaker at various reputed forums, globally, discussing entrepreneurship, aviation business and the leadership role for women. Talking to her and one will realise that this is just the beginning since the sky truly is her limit.

For someone as restless as Kanika, the idea of doing anything ordinary is unacceptable. Therefore, when she decided to launch JetSetGo her family wasn’t sure of how this proposition would pan out since it was an ‘unchartered’ territory. However, it is her sheer determination and persistence with which she unified and brought together the entire air charter and business jet inventory in India on a single platform in 2014. She was 26 years old then and had just recoevered from her struggle with cancer.

“The air charter sector in India is very opaque and highly broker driven. Therefore, with JetSetGo we brought together all the 140 private operators and owners on a single platform,” she says. Among the early investors in JetSetGo were industrialist Puneet Dalmia and cricketer Yuvraj Singh. “Although, it seemed like a herculean task to get investors, the first few customers have been my biggest support system.”

Besides aggregating inventory of private jets and helicopters, JetSetGo also operates and manages the fleet. Their clients include business executives visiting factories and plants in hinterlands to politicians travelling to their constituencies, to private jets hired for destination weddings. Kanika’s aim is to bring about efficiency and transparency in this sector, which is highly fragmented. “We are an urban mobility company offering helicopters and air charters. I saw the potential early only and since I have been working in the aviation industry since I was 17, the transition came very naturally to me, despite no formal training.”

Although Kanika started alone, soon she realised she couldn’t run this set up all alone. “I met Sudheer through a common friend; he liked the idea of JetSetGo and came onboard as a Partner.

When Kanika had started on her own with an office in Delhi, initially she had hired three employees, however within 4 years, the organisation has now grown to a staff strength of 100 with offices in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and also overseas in Dubai and New York. Despite such a geographical pugmark, Kanika still calls ‘JetSetGo’ a start-up for she believes they haven’t even scratched the surface. In the first year of operations, JetSetGo reached revenue of INR 8 crore, while 2017 has seen the figure reach a cumulated INR 30 crore.

The beginning that Kanika made was not without any hurdles. Many players mistook her for a cabin crew member or a front desk staff since she was very young. “The aviation industry doesn’t have a woman in a leadership role, and therefore I had no one to look up to. However, things are slowly changing now.”

Moreover, besides finding her ground, a major challenge was to work with the aviation watchdog. “The private aviation industry in India is a highly regulated one. We are completely regulator dependent, and after four years, I feel we have reached a stage where we receive a lot of cooperation and support from them since they realise the value we bring to the table.”

In April this year, JetSetGo acquired non-scheduled aircraft operator ,Indo Pacific Aviation Limited. This acquisition gave JetSetGo greater flexibility to manage its fleet and provide on demand air connectivity. By September, the company started scheduled heli-shuttle service from Mumbai to Vapi and Tarapore, allowing passengers to purchase seats on a premium jet or a helicopter instead of chartering the entire aircraft. Soon this service will be available on the high business traffic sectors of Delhi-Bengaluru, Chennai-Kadapa and Kolkata-Jamshedpur routes.

Talk to Kanika about her ambitious, and she says the only key for survival is perseverance. The private aviation industry doesn’t have a dedicated policy framework and is governed under the National Civil Aviation Policy, “My aim is to pursue the government to formulate a policy for private jets and business charters since the mechanisms are completely different. While we are currently a niche, soon this sector will revolutionise the urban transport system in India and will no longer be luxury form of mobility.”
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