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SPARK OF THE CORPORATE

I will grab all the opportunities coming my way...

Mr. Naresh Goyal is truly a stalwart of not only the aviation sector in India but is also a pioneering entrepreneur and one of the successful faces of the Indian industry as a whole. His rise from very modest beginnings to become one of the richest of our country is a compelling story of success that illustrates in full force the traits unique to such men of caliber. From starting as a cashier / accountant for a general sales agent (GSA) at a salary of Rs.300 to being the chairman of the country's largest domestic private airline that boasts of flying to 52 domestic and 24 international destinations with fleet of 101 aircraft, employing about 14,000 people, and a personal net worth of more than $2bn, this is one remarkable success story worthy of a mention in inspirational folk-lore.

Early days

Mr. Goyal was born in Punjab (Sangrur) in 1949 to a successful jewellery dealer. Even while he in his pre-teens, his family had to go through some rough times financially, leading to a phase of hard-ships for the young Naresh who, it is said, had to walk quite a distance to go to his school as his family was not in a position to provide him with a bi-cycle. He somehow scraped through that period by residing with his maternal uncle, and completed his Bachelors in Commerce from Bikram College of Commerce in Patiala.

Soon after, he joined his uncle's travel firm, East West Agencies, which was a GSA for the Lebanese International Airlines, as a cashier. He very quickly understood the functioning of the business and had, in the process, acquired enough skills and experience to be able to move ahead and work (as regional manager) with other reputed airlines of the time such as Royal Jordanian and Philippine Airlines, in which positions he handled their commercial operations in India. He also travelled overseas extensively on business during this period. These stints further added to his skill and knowledge of the aviation sector. 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.

The spark

But, at heart he wasn't very inclined to remain an employee, as the entrepreneur in him kept egging him to move on to higher things and become a business leader rather than remain just an employee. So in 1974, it is said, he borrowed 500 pounds from his mother and floated his own company, JetAir Private Limited (then known as Jetair Transportation Private Ltd) that provided sales and marketing representation to foreign airlines in India. The company served as GSA to several foreign airlines; was tour operator; courier company (Aramex courier) etc. Major Airlines represented by Jet Air (as GSA) were Aeroflot, Air Canada, Air France, All Nippon, Austrian Airlines, Biman Bangladesh, Gulf Air, Jet Airways (since inception), Lufthansa, Oman Air and Royal Jordanian Singapore Airlines (although after Jet Airways launched its international operations, most of the carriers withdrew GSA rights from Jet Air).

Not the one to be satisfied with this, he was always keen on getting himself to acquaint with the intricate details of the functioning of the sector. As a result, right since the inception of his company, Mr. Goyal got himself involved in the development of traffic patterns, route structures, operational economics and flight scheduling, all of which, over time, have made him an authority in the world of aviation and travel.

In 1991, with the opening of the Indian economy and the enunciation of the Open Skies Policy by the Government of India, the Indian aviation market also began to open up as the government allowed private carriers to fly. Seizing such an opportunity, in the year 1992, Mr. Goyal decided to add wings to his flight by taking the major step of setting up his own airline, jet airways, with backing from Gulf air and Kuwaiti air.

The Ascent

There was no looking back for the company (operations commenced from May 1993) which initially operated as an air taxi operator with four leased Boeing 737s in the first months of operations.

What set apart the new airlines in the opened aviation market of the 1990s was the way they, especially Jet, functioned and delivered their services. As is known, the hereto operated state-owned airlines had reputations for atrocious service standards and frequent delays or cancellations. Jet was one of many new airlines to be approved to start services in a first wave of deregulation in the country, which used this state of affairs to best its business prospects.

Over time, the airline went on to add destinations, aircraft of its own to the fleet, and millions of satisfied customers, helping make air travel more accessible to the masses in a country of more than a billion people and creating a respected full-service airline that employed thousands, and in the process establishing it as one of the most preferred airline both domestic as well as internationally. It is a credit to Mr. Goyal's leadership that the company has been the recipient of one award or the other every year (excepting 1999) right since its inception.

Right since the early days of Jet Airways, Mr. Goyal had emphasized on the need for innovation and thus leading the company to come up with many novel and efficient procedures of functioning, and earning the reputation of being an innovator and a trendsetter in the Indian airline industry. The airline has pioneered concepts like Through-Check-in, City Check-in, Web and Kiosk check-in, SMS check-in, automated tickets at travel agency locations, e-ticketing, JetMobile and the unique five-tier frequent flier programme JetPrivilege in India.

In order to consolidate the company's position in the domestic market as well as to ward of any possible threat from international airline companies entering the domestic market, one of the plans contemplated was to increase the market share of Jet in the Indian airspace. There was also a need to be able to sustain, if not counter them, in the field of low-cost operators. Therefore, Mr. Goyal decided to acquire the reasonably successful yet problem-stricken Air-Sahara. So, he put in his bid with all others (including Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher) when it was up for sale in 2005. The acquisition ran in trouble in the face of many likely as well as unlikely obstacles (discussed at length in so many articles and journals elsewhere) and, he had to stall the process. But it was, by no means, called off entirely. So, in 2007 he resumed work on the acquisition and, ultimately, completed the formalities for a reported sum of Rs. 2,200 Crore, which was believed to be way above the next best quoted by Vjiay Mallya (around Rs. 500 crore). He called it JetLite and decided to run it as a subsidiary.

JetKonnect with the inclusion of JetLite was started as the all-economy class while still providing the same world-class Jet Aiways experience, on specific routes and timings. While there has been quite of bit of air on the way funds were arranged for starting up the airlines, which have not been cleared even up to this day, the fact remains that Mr. Goyal had been very instrumental in keeping the hopes of the aviation industry alive with the decent success of jet Airways. Especially, when a host of other entrants that started with Jet were shut-down or are in a quagmire of sorts owing to the downturn in the world economy as indeed the steep rise in operational and maintenance costs. With his vast experience in the field of aviation, Mr. Goyal currently serves on the prestigious International Air Transport Association (IATA) Board of Governors for the year 2009-2010, having earlier served on the Board from 2008 - 2009 and 2004-2006.

With Mr. Goyal at the forefront of its operations, technological innovation has also been an integral part of Jet Airways business strategy. Focussing on use of cutting edge technology to enhance guest experience by implementing innovative products and thus ensuring a seamless customer experience has been the hallmark of Jet and it's emergence as the leading domestic airline of India.

No wonder, the company has so many firsts to its credit; some of which are:

*It's website www.jetairways.com was the first to offer 30 country specific websites and multilingual sites in Thai & French language
*Introduced India to e-ticketing - a feature that made the web not just a convenient way to book tickets, but also to print them yourself
*Kiosk Check-in, a first in the Indian Aviation
*Implementation of Automated Online Risk Management solution
*Brought in mobile ticketing - ticketing at the touch of your mobile phone button, becoming the first airline in India to launch a customized Wallet concept
*Customised Wallet concept - a highly intuitive, Icon based ticketing solution on mobile phones
*Introduced Quick Response (QR) codes to the Indian aviation industry
*First airline in India to reach 500,000 Facebook fans

Family

Mr. Goyal is married to Ms. Anita Goyal, who herself serves as EVP, Network Planning and Revenue Management for the airline. They have two children; daughter Namrata joined the company as a trainee, while son Nivaan is pursuing his studies. The family live in London with Mr. Goyal having received his British citizenship (in 1991), although he spends about 10 days in a month in their Mumbai house which had the great pioneer of the Indian aviation industry, JRD Tata, was one of the neighbours, when Mr. Goyal was aspiring to start the airline.

To the community

Recognising its responsibility to the Society and Nation, Jet Airways launched its Yellow Rose campaign in 1998. The philosophy being that people are like roses, and like the flower they require friendship, warmth and caring. Therefore, Jet Airways has striven not only to extend these qualities to its passengers, but also to the country in times of crises or calamities.

As part of its activities and services under Yellow Rose, the company had undertaken many blood donation camps and relief efforts in calamity-hit areas such as Tamil Nadu Pondicherry, Gujarat, Jammu & Kashmir which had been ravaged by tsunami and earthquakes. The modus-operandi varies from in-light fund collections through a programme called "Magic Box" to support the various initiatives in addition to using eco-friendly products in the airline, made by post-school children of underprivileged communities who are trained by NGOs.

Awards and Accolades
Goyal is the recipient of several national and international awards, including:
*On November 16, 2011, Belgium conferred the "Commandeur of the Order of Leopold II", for his meritorious service and efforts to foster business and cultural ties with Belgium.
*On August 6, 2010, the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award by the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI).
*Honoured at the fourth edition of the prestigious CNBC TV18 India Business Leader Awards, in the 'Taking India Abroad' award category on January 22, 2009.
*Accorded the Business Person of the Year award by UK Trade & Investment at the prestigious India Business Awards 2008, on September 9, 2008.
*Awarded the prestigious "Man of the Year Award" by the Aviation Press Club (APC) on April 09, 2008, in Belgium.
*Conferred with the "Travel Entrepreneur of the Year" award at the 19th annual TTG (Travel Trade Gazette) Travel Awards.
*Accorded the prestigious TATA AIG - Lifetime Achievement Award at the Abacus-TAFI Awards on September 8, 2007.
*Presented with the first NDTV Profit Business Award 2006 on July 28, 2006.
*The first BML Munjal Award for Excellence in Learning & Development in the Private Sector category on January 6, 2006.
*'Aerospace Laurels' for outstanding contribution in the field of Commercial Air Transport twice, in April 2000 and February 2004.
*First Lifetime Achievement Award from the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) in December 2003.
*'Outstanding Asian-Indian' award for leadership and contribution to the global community given by the Indian American Centre for Political Awareness in November 2003.
*'Distinguished Alumni Award-2000' for meritorious and distinguished performance as an Entrepreneur' in October 2000.
*'Entrepreneur of the Year Award for Services' from Ernst & Young in September 2000.
*Business Week featured as one of the five leaders from India in the July 2005 Asia Edition cover story- "Stars of Asia - 25 Leaders at The Forefront of Change."
*Voted "International Entrepreneurs of the Year" by the readers of Asian Voice in February 27, 2009.
*Re-elected to the prestigious IATA Board of Governors from 2011-2013.
Quotes
*"Aviation should not be treated as luxury, it is essential for the economic growth of the country."
*"The deal is very good for business; very good for our shareholders, very good for the industry and overall it will prove that in India things can be done better than anywhere in the world." (About the AI-Sahara acquisition).
*"I am open to all new trends and will grab the opportunities coming my way."
Hope viewers caught up the spark...

 

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