Kanika Tekriwal On Operating One Of India’s Largest Private Aircraft Fleets

Kanika Tekriwal, CEO and co-founder of JetSetGo, realized her strengths early on when she battled cancer at a young age. She speaks about operating one of India’s largest fleets of private aircraft.

Kanika Tekriwal was raised in a traditional Marwari business family in Bhopal. She grew up learning how to fill out cheques and use a typewriter and sat down for discussions with people who handled finance in her father’s business, as he was keen that she understand it. It was when she went to Coventry University in the UK for higher education that she developed an interest in the aviation sector, pursuing her MBA while simultaneously working with Aerospace Resources. “I learned how things work in an international aviation company; everything I know about aviation, I owe to this place,” says the young CEO and co-founder  of JetSetGo, which operates one of the country’s largest private jet  and helicopter fleets. It was, in fact,  in the UK that the idea for JetSetGo was born. Fascinated with the skies from an early age, Tekriwal spent as much time as she could understanding the field and then wanted to seize the potential for the charter market in India.

On coming back, she established JetSetGo. Of course, it was an endeavor not without hurdles, but the young cancer survivor was aware of her own mental strength and how she could channelise it to achieve what she put her mind to. She harnessed this strength to overcome the gender bias she faced as well. “I was at the receiving end of prejudices about being a woman and being too young.

There were backhanded compliments and comments that implied that I didn’t belong in this ‘boys-only’ aviation club. “Despite these recurring hurdles, I decided that the success of my business would be determined only by my ideas, my competencies to execute them,  and my sense of self-worth,” she says. She gave herself no choice except to march forward. With her success, Tekriwal has tried to change  perceptions for good. “In 2019, we took an oath to be a gender-neutral organization, and, today, about 30 percent of our team comprises women, especially in critical leadership roles.”

Loving the skies is one thing, and making a business out of that love quite another! When she started, Tekriwal thought that she would be able to build her business out of her savings, earn revenue, reinvest it and grow steadily. Soon enough, she realized that, without an increment in growth capital, she would not be able to scale up quickly. That’s when the investors came in, and the company was able to build its dedicated fleet of 18 aircraft, based out of Delhi, covering both domestic and international destinations, including the Maldives, Dubai, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Ukraine and Russia.

Tekriwal and her staff leave no stone unturned to offer clients the opportunity to enjoy the luxury and convenience of flying private, at reasonable prices. So far, she says, the most complex charter they have had to plan is also one of the most fun requests they have fulfilled. “We had a client request a full-fledged birthday celebration on board, complete with decorations and, of course, birthday cake, for her mother’s 40th. It was interesting to strategize how we would accommodate all her friends in one small private jet and personalize all  the décor in time,” she smiles.

One of the changes that Tekriwal has noticed in the sector post the pandemic is in people’s perceptions towards charter flights. “Pre-COVID, private jetting was considered a sheer luxury or a huge expenditure to impress, but the pandemic has redefined this notion to a great  extent. Now, it’s a matter of health  and privacy-consciousness for individuals and businesses, which is deemed to be a new normal,” she informs us. As a result, she has seen new clientele in terms of start-up founders. There is also an increase in demand for personal use, whereas, earlier, it was mostly from businesses.

Just when the pandemic hit in 2020, Tekriwal saw some tough times. “We were in the middle of a very critical business transaction of buying aircraft, our very first purchase. Most aspects were finalized, and we planned to bring them to India and, suddenly, the world went into lockdown. Our plan didn’t work out at that time, but we managed to iron out the issues and bring it to fruition gradually,” she says.

The entrepreneur believes that effective goal setting and an uncluttered mind always lead to  a productive day. “Plan ahead so you don’t overload yourself with extra  work and stress; I begin my work  every morning with only my goals for the day on my mind. From there, it’s just about knocking out those deadlines and soaring above everyone’s expectations.” She is obsessed with learning about new cultures and ethnicities and meeting all kinds of amazing people across the world,  a passion the nature of her work allows her. When she really wants to relax and break away from work, she finds a peaceful corner all to herself and reads a good book while sipping  her favorite black coffee.

Wherever she is, one thought is always with her, especially since she received all sorts of advice – ranging from suggestions that she stick to baking cupcakes and making clothes  to getting married – when she was set on starting her venture. “I would like to urge all women to be conscious  of the fact that most things in their lives are negotiable; they don’t have  to accept the status quo as fixed  and rigid, and settle for whatever they’re offered.”

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