Big Bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala passed away on Sunday morning at the age of 62. His demise comes mere days after his newly launched airline Akasa Air took off with its first commercial flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad. Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s networth was more than $5.3 billion, and he was the 440th richest person in the world and 38th in India, according to Forbes. Co-founding Akasa Air was a rare departure into entrepreneurship for Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who made most of his fortune in share markets as a value stocks investor. Once when asked why he started the Akasa Air venture when the aviation sector was not doing well, Jhunjhunwala, who is often referred to as India’s Warren Buffett, had said, “I’m prepared for failure”.
Akasa Air, a matter of ego
Rakesh Jhunjhunwala teamed up with ex-Jet Airways CEO Vinay Dube and former IndiGo head Aditya Ghosh to launch India’s newest budget carrier Akasa, which loosely translates to ‘sky’. He invested $35 million for an estimated 40 per cent stake in the airline, which aims to have 18 aircraft within a year from the launch, and 72 over the next five years. The airline received its air operator certificate from civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) last month on July 7, 2022. Talking about the venture at an industry event in February, Jhunjhunwala said, “I hope to prove people wrong… Now it’s become a matter of ego.”
Jet Airways CEO Sanjiv Kapoor mourned Jhunjhunwala’s passing saying the death of the big bull is a “huge loss for the aviation world.” In the tweet, Sanjiv Kapoor wrote, “Very sad to hear this news. A huge loss for the aviation world, may his soul rest in peace and his legacy live on. Deepest condolences to his family, friends, and loved ones.”
Better to have tried and failed than not tried at all
Akasa Air is a low cost airline, which started its operations at a time when the Indian aviation industry is trying to regain the lost confidence after being hit by losses in the last two years due to the pandemic. In his last interview with CNBC TV18, Jhunjhunwala had expressed confidence in the future of India’s aviation sector. “Our competitors are ordering new chairs in response to Akasa’s chair,” he had said, adding that his airline will be competing with the likes of IndiGo and SpiceJet for a share of India’s fast-growing domestic air travel market. Speaking about the challenges in the aviation sector, Jhunjhunwala had said in the interview that he was “prepared for Akasa Air to even fail, but better to have tried and failed than not tried at all”.
Akasa air beginning and future
First aircraft: Akasa Air welcomed the arrival of the first of its 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft on 21 June 2022, at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, in the presence of its leadership team. The airline received the ceremonial keys for the aircraft at Seattle, USA on June 15th , 2022.
Crew Uniform: On July 4, the airline unveiled the first look of its airline crew uniform. Keeping in mind ergonomics, aesthetics and comfort, Akasa Air is the first Indian airline to have introduced custom trousers, jackets, and comfortable sneakers for its airline in-flight crew, according to the carrier’s website.
AOC Certificate: On July 7, the airline received its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from DGCA. The grant of the AOC is the final step of a comprehensive and rigorous process laid down by the DGCA and marks the satisfactory completion of all regulatory and compliance requirements for the airline’s operational readiness. Akasa Air is the first airline whose end-to-end AOC process was conducted using the government’s GCA digital platform.
Ticket sales open: On 22 July, Akasa Air opened bookings for ticket sales of its first commercial flights with an initial network including Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Kochi.
First Commercial flight: Just earlier this month on 7 August, Civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindiay had virtually flagged off Akasa Air’s first commercial flight, which departed from Mumbai for Ahmedabad. Jhujhunwala, who was present at Mumbai airport at the time, said, “I must thank you (Scindia) because people say that India has a very, very bad bureaucracy, but the cooperation that the ministry of civil aviation has given us, it is unbelievable.” Nowhere in the world has an airline been conceived and born in 12 months, he added. Jhunjhunwala further said, “Normally a child is born in nine months, we took 12 months. It would not have been possible without the cooperation of the ministry of civil aviation”.
New routes: On 12 August, it inaugurated its first flights on the Bengaluru – Kochi route. From August 13 onwards, Akasa Air is offering double-daily flights in each direction on the Bengaluru-Kochi sector. Akasa Air has already announced a total of five routes in five cities, including Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kochi, Bengaluru and Chennai and would be operating a total of 54 weekly flights.
Future: The airline started its commercial operations with two aircraft and plans to induct two 737 MAX aircraft each month, to establish a strong pan-India presence, with a focus on metro to tier 2 & 3 route connectivity, said Air Akasa in a recent release. The carrier’s fleet size will be 18 aircraft by the end of March 2023 and over the next four years, the airline will add 54 additional aircraft, taking its total fleet size to 72 aircraft.