Fill It! Shut It! Jet Set Go It!

From BBC to Huffington Post, global media has applauded the gumption of Kanika Tekriwal, founder JetSetGo (India’s first online marketplace for chartering jets and copters), who beat cancer in her 20s and made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016; 4Ps B&M catches up with her for an insightful interview

From BBC to Huffington Post, global media has applauded the gumption of Kanika Tekriwal, founder JetSetGo (India’s first online marketplace for chartering jets and copters), who beat cancer in her 20s and made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 list in 2016; 4Ps B&M catches up with her for an insightful interview

Chartering a private jet is now as easy as booking a cab, thanks to this very unique initiative. Initially, how did you come upon this idea? I’ve been working in the business aviation industry since the age of 17 and have garnered experience in both India and UK. Thoughts that come to one’s mind when imagining flying in a private jet are probably mixed – ranging from an uber luxury mode of travel to one available at the beck and call of only the rich or the ultra-rich. Think harder and one would imagine this as a means of travel that enhances agility and efficiency for corporates in an ever complex world. Not many would appreciate the important role it plays in connecting locations that are still not served or economical to do so by commercial airlines. We saw the darker and more difficult side to the general aviation business in India. Issues ranged from: • Customer frustration dealing with charter brokers who provide limited choice or transparency and exploited price arbitrage opportunities based on customer needs. • Inefficient pricing models forcibly used by operators due to inadequate demand aggregation options. • Inadequate or sub-standard level of ground infrastructure and quality of service further compromising the customer experience. • Weak supply chain for services and parts especially for legacy aircraft owners increasing operating costs and scheduling down-time. • Cumbersome trip planning and significant regulatory compliance costs for operators. JetSetGo was conceptualized to be an exciting new venture that aims to revolutionize the private aviation business in India by redefining a customer’s charter experience through an end to end control of the value chain with collaborative partnerships and technology at its core.

You faced a lot of resistance from family when you started out on this journey. How did you manage during those difficult initial years? I just kept going. What are the reasons people charter a private jet for? There are two types of customers JetSetGo caters to: the business traveller and the leisure traveller. Both of these consist of domestic and international clientele. The international traveller is accustomed to using private jets world over and comes with requirements which could range from a particular type of caviar being served on board to the thread count of the bed sheets – our business is to turn every wish into a command. The domestic traveller understands the ground reality in India and definitely comes with lesser requirements, at the same time his expectations are increasing everyday. Those using private jets for business generally do so to travel to airports not being serviced by commercial airlines in India today or to save time or even a combination of both. We often see cases wherein business people who are traveling with three or four colleagues in business class, say, “Why wouldn’t we fly private for close to the same price?” Over and above which, it saves on airport time, plus the aircraft are business enabled with sat-phones and Wi-Fi keeping the discerning business traveller ever connected. The business traveller’s priority is flexibility; so, if a customer calls five minutes ahead of departure and says reschedule departure to tomorrow – we have to make it happen. Travel advisors report that the number of affluent travelers between the ages of 40 and 55 has skyrocketed. Not only that, more well-off families in their 30s and 40s are planning vacations and adventure trips with their young children. The reason: they love to travel and want their children to experience the world. At JetSetGo, we have seen this trend take over where leisure travellers use private jets to travel to off-beat locations with the desire for never tried before experiences only increasing. The leisure traveller likes to be pampered and spoiled with fine dining, superior service and his choice of entertainment. At JetSetGo, our USP is reimagining private aviation; so we convert a private jet ride to a travellers’ holiday destination into an experience by itself. Since leisure travellers involve travellers of all ages, special care is taken to ensure there is something for everyone. The leisure traveller loves unique experiences – for example, we recently hosted an all out bachelor party on a private jet for a customer. On another instance, we hosted a little birthday party for young kids at a helipad along with joy-rides on a helicopter. Our customers, who range from the likes of the Ferragamo family to CEOs of fortune 500 companies to billionaires, love the fact that post a phone call, all their travel requirements are taken care of by us, along with which the brand delivers an unsaid assurance of true luxury, quality, comfort and safety. Our biggest learning has been that in the world of luxury today, experience and perception are far more important than utility. Every customer using a private jet, irrespective of the purpose, likes the image that comes along with it – which simply reads rich and busy. The future of the industry is all about bespoke, exclusive, discreet experiences. The customers exist and so does an active market – it’s all about delivering what they want. In the world of private jets – the sky is literally the limit.

You have introduced a very novel concept of JetSteals, which seems to be completely changing the face of private air travel. Can you tell us something more about it? JetSteals is a program that provides travelers seats on private jets for domestic trips, with prices ranging from Rs. 4,600 to Rs. 45,000. Our Idea is to ensure that people with diverse financial background should have the option to travel by private jets. I strongly believe that we have to open the market up to a bigger market size and Jetsteals is a step towards that. The price for individual seats on a lower range private jet model like a Beechcraft 200 would be Rs. 4,600, mid range private jets like the Hawker would be approximately Rs.20,000 and for the higher range models like the Falcon or the Challenger, the price range could go up to Rs. 45,000.

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You have been featured in BBC’s list of 100 Most Inspiring Women in the World and Forbes 30 Under 30 list. What have been the most treasured moments of this immensely successful journey? Every moment during the past five years has been very important to me. Those I value most are the hardest ones, which taught me how to stay strong, believe in my dreams and keep going. Some treasured memories are of signing my first contract with a customer, receiving a message at 0200 that the patient we flew in on air ambulance is now fighting fit, the owner of one of the countries largest corporate houses telling me that I am his clone and will revolutionize the industry – it’s been a very, very beautiful journey, which I wouldn’t change for any thing in the world.

 It takes immense grit and courage to stay positive and keep moving ahead. In spite of being diagnosed with cancer and despite a lot of family pressure, you have made it big. Who or what is it that kept you motivated ? In fact, what motivates me largely is the fact that the power to change the world lies within me – nothing will stop me from doing so.

JetSetgo is not just making luxury air travel more accessible but it’s also making a difference in the society. Tell us more about the air ambulance service you have launched. JetSetGo launched an air ambulance service to offer better emergency services and help improve healthcare access, even in remote areas of the country, with the objective of increasing the odds for saving lives. JetSetGo quickly targets the right aircraft or helicopter and hospital at the right location proximity, minimizing the cost and time for transit from Point A to Point B.

JetSetgo is backed by cricketer Yuvraj Singh and recently even tied up with Droom. Even today, women entrepreneurs find it difficult to get funding. Did you face similar challenges? Not at all. It took us all of 40 minutes to close our first round.

Apart from steering a very successful startup, you are also a pro at steering a plane. How did you get interested in flying? What are your other hobbies ? Flying came naturally to me – some things just happen I guess. As for my other hobbies, I also love reading, painting and of course travelling.

You are surely an inspiration to many but who inspires you? Undoubtedly, my mother.

Your biggest learning as an entrepreneur and your advice to budding entrepreneurs of today? Use every “No” as a stepping stone to success and turn every “No” into a “Yes” through your journey.

Your message to the numerous girls out there who may have great dreams but do not have the courage to pursue them? Successful people do not do different things but they do the things differently. Step up – Step out!