Flight of determination and grit

This small town girl beat cancer and made her way through a male dominated industry and successfully steering a multi-million-dollar aviation startup.

Flight of determination and grit
One of the biggest challenges Kanika Tekriwal, CEO & Founder, JetSetGo-Aviation faced is that the aviation industry is dominated by older people and lack innovation.

They say if you put your mind to it then no feat is impossible and for Kanika Tekriwal, CEO & Founder at aviation startup JetSetGo-Aviation, this is the story of her life.

Life dealt a body blow when she unexpectedly got to know that she had cancer in 2011. “I was not prepared. All I could think about was I had so much more life to live, many more goals to achieve, and many more pathways to conquer. My life turned around in a few minutes, and everything felt so surreal,” she recalled. But over the following two days, she allowed herself the time and freedom to ponder over the diagnosis. She reminded herself of the finer details and arrived at one, sole conclusion: “It’s time to defeat cancer.Fighting was my only option.”

Armoured with tenacity, she battled her condition step by step and one visit to the hospital at a time. “I’m a strong believer in the power of the mind. Once I believe in something, my actions automatically work towards achieving it. So, then the question was no longer, ‘Will I recover?’ It quickly became, ‘Who will I be when I do recover?’”

Tekriwal’s brief yet very real brush with the concept of mortality led her to the idea that this life that is so miraculously granted is to be used for dreaming bigger and achieving more. And that’s how cancer inspired JetSetGo’s manifestation.

“I spent my eight months of treatment analysing, planning, and structuring my vision, and I made it happen. In the end, it’s all about making it happen,” she said, adding that

cancer made her a strong person ready to face any challenge. “I didn’t get upset but focused on what we could do next.”

Aviation was always her passion, but when she was diagnosed with cancer, her family urged her to give up on her dream and focus on the treatment. They advised her to take some time to recover.

“However, I was determined to pursue my dream and decided to run away from home with just Rs 5000 in my pocket to start my own business,” she said. Looking back, she has no regrets about that decision, even though she was just 22 years old at the time.

During those days, anyone who wanted to use a private jet would have had to contact a broker or a private operator, who would recommend jets or helicopters based on the commission they would receive, regardless of the client’s specific needs. As a result, she became determined to change the industry by prioritizing the client’s requirements and providing a more personalized and efficient service.

Speaking of her entrepreneurial journey, she says that she began by building an app to book chartered flights, and for the next two years, she relied on client advances and credit from vendors to keep the business running. During this time, she also offered consultancy services and provided advice to people on purchasing airplanes based on their specific needs. Then, in 2014, Sudheer Perla, a chartered accountant and an Oxford management graduate, joined her as a co-founder of the company. “With our combined skills and expertise, we have been able to build a successful and thriving business that is poised for even greater success in the future,” she believes.

She personally envisions tapping into the third dimension – the sky – to its fullest potential and making chartered air travel the future of transport for customers who value their time and convenience.

“I am proud of the progress I have made and the positive impact my business has had on the industry,” she said.

Often referred to as the Uber of the skies, the startup offers charter customers with choice, transparency and the flexibility of booking on both web and mobile platforms.

The startup’s mobile app and online booking platform, allow for quick and convenient access to the services, which is a significant improvement over traditional methods. “Our services have also made private jet travel more accessible and affordable, enabling more people to experience the benefits of this mode of transportation,” she added.

Through the use of the ‘SMART’ management technique, advanced maintenance prevention, and prediction technologies, the company offers a level of safety and on-demand experience that is unparalleled in the industry, she claimed.

While the annual turnover of the aviation firm is Rs 350 crore, the startup manages and operates 30 aircraft, out of which the company owns 10.

JetSetGo receives daily inquiries for leisure/business travel not only from ultra-high-net-worth and high-net-worth individuals, but also from the other segment with disposable incomes, Tekriwal stated.

For her, 2020 was the year to remember. “The pandemic expanded our customer base, allowing us to offer our services to a more diverse and inclusive audience, resulting in a varied clientele over the past two years. As a result, the market size for private jets in India is on the rise.”

The air charter services market is expected to be worth $ 31.9 billion by the end of 2023 and is projected to rise with a CAGR of 5.4% to reach a valuation of $ 54.0 billion by 2033.

According to her, some potential areas of development in the private aviation sector include the integration of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence. “We are also working on eVTOLs ( Electrical vehicle take-off and landing) as we are focused on sustainability and point-to-point solution, with a greater emphasis on reducing emissions and developing more eco-friendly aircraft and fuels.”

On her expansion plans, she said, “JetSetGo will maintain its focus on the high-end segment of the market, with an emphasis on utilizing mid-sized or larger long-range private jets.”

Too many people still don’t take professional women seriously, and that is something Tekriwal faced. “ I have lost count of the number of times I have found myself in a board room filled with men, with me being the only woman. I still remember my first sales meeting when I walked into a large conference room and was the last one to arrive. One of the men looked at me and asked if I could serve everyone tea and coffee. It was frustrating, but I gathered my courage and explained why I was there,” she informed.

One of the biggest challenges she faced is that the aviation industry is dominated by older people and lack innovation. “However, I am committed to changing that by bringing new ideas and innovation to the industry. With my unique perspective and determination, I am confident that I can help lead the way for a more inclusive and forward-thinking aviation sector.

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First published on: 22-03-2023 at 17:35 IST
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