SPARK OF THE CORPORATE
A true blue Marwari from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, Kanika Tekriwal had chartered the itinerary of her life at a very young age. Always entrepreneurial and very curious, she knew she was going to run a business of her own. Ever since a helicopter landed on their roof when she was 6, anything that can fly fascinated her and she aspired to be a pilot. The aspiration turned to be a deep passion for the aviation industry over time. In 2014, Kanika Tekriwal founded JetSetGo Aviation Services, India’s first marketplace for chartered private jets, helicopters, air ambulances, and Medevacs.
Kanika's story is not just about battling patriarchy and breaking the glass ceiling in the traditionally male occupied industry of aviation. It is a story of perseverance, hope, positivity, determination and denial to give in to fate. It is about pushing the boundaries and not giving up. It is about ignoring the naysayers and believing in oneself. She ventured into an unexplored niche, which she did not have a formal education in and built her empire taking over the skies. This enthusiastic businesswoman has been featured among the 100 most inspirational women in the world by BBC and among 30 under 30 by Forbes Asia. A marathon runner, a painter, a traveler and a reader, Kanika loves running, squash and golf.
Landing in the aviation industry...
Kanika started freelancing at the age of 16 to raise pocket money when she was doing Diploma in Visual Communication Design from B.D.Somani Institute of Art and Fashion Technology. She then joined Mumbai University and graduated with a bachelors in Economics. During the second year of college, a client hired her to work for them part-time. When she saw the model of a building with a helipad on the Chairman's desk, she shared her observation on the discrepancy of the helipad, from the knowledge she has gained from Britannica Encyclopaedia. Further discussions led to an offer to head the aviation company, which he was about to start. With the help of Google, the 17-year-old came up with a business plan in 12 days.
The hands-on experience in the aviation industry further fuelled her dreams. After graduating, she wanted to pursue higher studies in aviation management. Hailing from a conservative family, her parents wanted her to get married. She convinced them to let her go and moved to the UK for an MBA in Finance from Coventry University, London. Though she was least interested in finance, finance was her only escape route then.
Post Masters, Kanika joined a UK based aviation consultancy firm, Aerospace Resources. She was exposed to air charter companies in India as a part of her assignment. She came across a number of unsatisfied private jet users as well as private jet owners and quickly identified an opportunity in the private jet space. She decided to start an aviation company to address this and the inadequacies and roadblocks of the industry.
The ugly twist...
After her Masters, Kanika was asked to come down and get married. Marriage was not in her plans anytime soon. She wanted to do great things with the great ideas she had developed. Having accumulated hands-on experience with a deeper insight of the industry in India and UK, she came back to India in 2012 to convince her parents about her plans of setting up a business. But destiny took a sharp turn in her life. What was supposed to be a casual check-up for a persistent ache in her arm turned out to be series of tests and she was diagnosed with cancer. The enthusiastic 22-year-old who was about to start her life promised herself that she would beat cancer.
Kanika believed in her and did not let go off her dreams. She found a doctor who believed in her and started her treatment. She used the eight months of her treatment to plan what is she going to do as soon as she recovers and did research about the idea that has been brewing in her head for years. Looking back, she finds cancer as the best thing happened to her as it gave her the time to focus on her business idea. It was a blessing in disguise that opened her way into her dreams. Though her parents weren't happy with her decision, she moved to Delhi on the day she finished her treatment. She spent the next two years developing her idea, building plans and figuring out how to implement it. She met various people to pitch in her idea, of which the majority laughed at the silly 22-year-old. Nobody took her seriously. Being somebody who does not shy away from hardships, she did not give up. She turned a deaf ear to everybody who tried to pull her down, and told herself that she is going to continue doing what she is doing.
The take-off of JetSetGo...
In 2014, she launched the company, JetSetGo investing her little savings of around INR 5,600, aiming to make private flying in India more transparent, economical and efficient. She successfully closed her first flight in four months after the incorporation. However, the jet supplier backed out just two hours before the scheduled departure pointing at some technical issue. She did not shut the business and run away. She took it as a learning and moved on. In October 2014, Sudheer Perla teamed up with her as the co-founder and he takes care of the company's strategy, new aircraft acquisitions and fundraising. The company started growing and broke even in the second year of operation.
JetSetGo has come a long way - from one take-off a month to one flight on an average at every minute of the day; from one person to 450 employees; connecting 280 airports. It has organised birthday parties to bachelor parties to pre-wedding photo shoots among other experiences on a private jet. It's currently backed by customers who turned to be investors like cricketer Yuvraj Singh and industrialist Puneet Dalmia. Today, it has the country’s largest fleet of private jets at its disposal operating in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Dubai and New York. She aims at making the “Uber of the skies” a global presence. The operations will soon be expanded to Kuwait, Africa and eastern Europe. In three years, there has been a growth of seven times in revenue and is adding 2 planes and four new people on average to the team every month. FY2017 was closed with over $10 million revenue and 5% net profit.
Her two cents for the future women entrepreneurs...
|Brilliant businesses were not built on money, but on great people and great ideas. Keep believing in yourself, and eliminate the fear of failure from your mind.|
|Your customers are god, deliver what you promise.|
|Use every ‘no’ as a stepping-stone to success.|
|Tears, blood, sweat are all part of the game.|
|Going lean will never go out of fashion; irrespective of whether it’s your money or your investors. Don't look at spending more money before earning it.|
|Communicate and be transparent.|
Associations and memberships...
|Director of Ground Care Private Limited, JetSetFleet Aircraft Services, Anthem Aviation Services Limited And Tijori Bazaar|
Awards and accolades...
|Iconic Women Creating a Better World for All Award by Women Economic Forum in 2017|
|"Women Transforming India- Breaking the Glass Ceiling" Awards 2017, launched by NITI Aayog, in partnership with United Nations in India and MyGov.|
|National Entrepreneurship Award in 2016|
|featured in the Forbes list of ‘30under30’ achievers of Asia in 2016|
|Named among the 100 most inspirational women in the world by BBC in 2015|
|Cancer made me a strong person ready to face any challenge; and most importantly, to never give in. So when we began work on JetSetGo and things didn’t go my way – I didn’t get upset, but just focused on what we could do next.|
|I have always believed in the power of the mind. If you think, you believe and are determined to do something; your actions automatically work towards achieving it.|
|All of us are dealt with a set of cards which are a combination of good and bad. It all ultimately boils down to how well we use each bad card to our benefit.|
|If you have a plan B, you will never put in everything you need to make plan A work.|
|What I learnt ever since I was young, is that no matter how much money you have, what is more important is that you go to sleep peacefully at night and wake up heartily every morning. We pay too much importance to money, it will come and go.|
Hope readers caught up the spark...