Kanika Tekriwal is the CEO and Founder of JetSetGo Aviation.
Shilpa Jain: You are the founder and CEO of such an amazing company Jet Set Go that you started, by yourself, in 2014. What has the journey been like ever since 2014?
Kanika Tekriwal: When I first entered the industry at the age of 17, I was passionate and driven, and envisioned a future for India’s private aviation market. I always knew this is the space where I needed to be. Belonging to a Marwari family; all my family members are involved in various businesses in some form or the other, so I chose mine which was Private Aviation being my passion since a very young age.
Through my experiences in working closely in this industry and analysing the market, I identified the two main concerns of jet owners across the nation: inconsistent service and the lack of return on investment. I was able to recognize an opportunity here and without second guessing I started JetSetGo, with the aim to make private jets profitable and simultaneously reduce its costs. Started out my journey with only a hundred dollars in my pocket, I have been lucky to be surrounded by people who have believed in me and my idea and dreams, because of them, I got the confidence to reach this far.
Initially, it was like a rooster ride and it took time for businesses to take me seriously for the work I proposed. I’ve definitely received far too many backhanded compliments and prejudiced comments that have all implied that I don’t belong in this space. It is very easy, as a woman, to feel like you do not belong in this exclusive, only-boys-allowed private aviation club. But all of this is worth now, facing all of such experiences earlier had empowered me even more, I have had the best learning experiences which are till now a part of me and help me get through each – day and every situation that I might face.
Since then, JetSetGo had no reason to look behind. Today being the single largest market share holder with a little over 21% market share, we have demonstrated profitability never seen in the Indian business aviation space.
SJ: What gave you the assurance that aviation was your dream career despite your family business background? Can you emphasize on the importance to follow your heart to be successful?
KT: Hailing from a traditional business family, doing business was in my blood and right from my school days I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I used to always joke with my classmates that –‘ I’ll give you a job one day…’. But I didn’t know what business it’ll be. All that evolved over a period of time. Despite the fact that girls in my family did not normally work. Planes and flying excited me from a young age and I had dreams of becoming a pilot. I was always very passionate about aviation, in the sense I wanted to be a pilot. I wanted to do a lot of things which traditionally girls from my family background shouldn’t be doing.
When I started my venture, I received all sorts of advice from baking cupcakes to making clothes to getting married; however, thankfully nothing affected me to give up my dreams and made me even more assured. It is very important to listen to your heart and block the noise to become successful.
SJ: You first entered the aviation industry at a very young age of 17. What challenges did you have to face and how did you get through it all to reach where you are right now?
KT: Obstacles build character; this cannot be truer for the life on an entrepreneur. Like most entrepreneurs, I also faced a plethora of obstacles and challenges before I was able to achieve the success I have achieved today. I started the company with hundred dollars and am now doing over 7 digit turnover every month. At the very beginning, after investing over six months and a considerable amount of resources, I was not able to sell a single plane. I could’ve lost faith in the lackluster economy and given up but instead chose to ride out the storm and innovate. I looked for ways to create a business model that reduced the price of these planes and made them more feasible for any potential customers. It was this thinking that paved the path to becoming one of the 100 most prominent and inspirational women in the world.
SJ: Life is full of ups and downs and you’ve always risen, despite what life threw at you. You have fought through cancer and have made sure it didn’t stop you from anything. Can you please highlight your fight with cancer and what is it that gives you the power to always move ahead?
KT: Barely out of my teens, I was all charged up to set up my own venture but fate had other plans in store for me. I was 22 when I was diagnosed with cancer. Not the one to take things lying down however, the relentless optimist inside me only emerged stronger from my enforced downtime. I utilised my recovery phase to lay the groundwork, doing my research, trying to figure out the feasibility of an aviation venture, interacting with potential customers, doing consultancy etc, which basically gave me inroads into people’s experiences while hiring private aircrafts. Ironically, what helped me in forging my own path with least resistance from kith and kin was, as I let on.
SJ: Aviation is a highly male-dominated field and we see very little diversity candidates. What would you like to tell our young girls who dream to pursue careers that are not very gender-diverse?
KT: A critical challenge that confronts almost every industry in India and specially aviation is an acute lack of gender equality and dearth of women in decision making positions. There is definitely a culture of gender stereotyping that plagues most work places. Considering this, it is always a privilege to speak with young aspiring women who hope to be leaders someday leading their own firms. I think they most need to know that brilliant businesses were not built on money, but on great people and great ideas.
The first step is for women to assume that most things in their lives are negotiable—that they don’t have to accept the status quo as fixed and rigid and settle for whatever they’re offered. When I started my venture, I received all sorts of advice from baking cupcakes to making clothes to getting married. A lot of people will say a lot of things–ignore the noise and keep marching. We will have to get used to hearing a lot of No’s, we just don’t need to get used to accepting them. Remember performance is the only thing that matters. What people think or say is irrelevant to the bling of the dollar in your top and bottom line. Only you can stop yourself from conquering the world. Also, for entrepreneurs the pace of business is gruelling and the energy required is exhausting, be prepared to exercise your brain daily. When there’s a lot of work be full of gratitude as when something becomes easy or routine clearly states you are not growing, so for growth, you will have to walk the extra mile and put in extra hours. Be Resilient.
SJ: Who is your role model and what trait do you admire the most in a working woman?
KT: My role model is my mother who has in every aspect taken up all the challenges life thrown at her with utmost patience and positivity.
As an entrepreneur, what is important is remaining cool, calm, and collected despite all the messy things that are happening. Some people will test your patience! Of course, I’m kidding, but strategizing has to be the strength that you play to most often. it’s easy for someone to leap at every business “opportunity” they come across, but I have learnt about the value in planning. JetSetGo’s next move. It’s a competitive industry and no one cannot afford to lose out because of a poorly constructed strategy. To the women trying to make it in the big bad world of business: it may seem impossible, but it’s kind of fun to do the impossible, isn’t it? Don’t give up. As I always say, use every no as a stepping stone to success.
SJ: What is your opinion on the necessity of being self-independent and always chasing your dreams. Something you’d like to share with our members at AFH?
KT: Armed with the power to lend dreams to the wings of many, I proffer some hard wrought wisdom to today’s young guns who wish to venture into entrepreneurship:
- Brilliant businesses were not built on money, but on great people and great ideas.
- Your customers are god – deliver what you promise. If you don’t, pick up the phone – say sorry and make up for it.
- Use every ‘no’ as a stepping-stone to success. Turn every ‘no’ into a ‘yes’ through your journey.
- Tears, blood, sweat are all part of the game – no one said it was going to be easy. Remember, there are no shortcuts.
- Going lean will never go out of fashion – irrespective of whether it’s your money or your investors. Fancy offices, snazzy cars and big ticket spends never gets you customers. Watch every expense and focus on getting more than what you planned out of every rupee spent.
- Communicate and be transparent – whether it’s your team, customers or suppliers.
One person, fictional/real and dead/alive that you want to have dinner with
A book on your career field that you would recommend to our readers
The Fountain Head by Ayn Rand – I am not a big fan of new age entrepreneurial writers. However, The Fountainhead is not just any other book, it’s a rarity. It’s the most honest an unapologetic tale of an idealist protagonist.
3 things in your bucket list
Doing a solo sky diving
Going to Antarctica
Interviewed by: Shilpa Jain