In­dia Turns ‘No Fly Zone’ for Biz Jets on Week­ends

Op­er­a­tors want DGCA to work on Sat-Sun & hol­i­days; say it will help ease of do­ing biz Maruti, Hyundai to Take on Kwid

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Mi­hirMishra@ times­group.com

New Delhi: With the govern­ment hav­ing put ease of do­ing busi­ness in In­dia at the top of its agenda, VistaJet boss Thomas Flohr knows one change he’d like to see hap­pen — get the avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tor to work on week­ends so that over­flight ap­provals don’t need to take three days. To be sure, the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Civil Avi­a­tion will ap­prove emer­gency re­quests in a mat­ter of hours but for every­body else, the of­fice is shut on Satur­day and Sun­day.

Flohr had wanted to fly from Myan­mar to Dubai on Mon­day, Jan­uary 4, for which per­mis­sion was sought on the pre­ced­ing Fri­day, New Year’s Day. But VistaJet, the world’s largest op­er­a­tor of busi­ness jets, was told it wouldn’t be able to get ap­proval be­fore Tues­day.

“I had to be in Dubai on Mon­day,” Flohr told ETin a re­cent in­ter­view. Cir­cum­vent­ing In­dia meant an ad­di­tional three hours of fly­ing time—it took him nine hours in­stead of six to get to Dubai from Myan­mar.

And it’s not just over­flights, even trips to In­dian des­ti­na­tions from over­seas at short no­tice, say by a cor­po­rate boss in her com­pany jet, risk get­ting stuck. All for­eign-reg­is­tered air­craft us­ing In­dian air space need DGCA ap­proval. While sched­uled com­mer­cial air­lines have a fixed timetable and ap­provals are ob­tained in ad­vance, busi­ness jets need per­mis­sion each time they fly into or over In­dia, as do those seek­ing to fly over­seas from the country.

Busi­ness jets need per­mis­sion each time they fly into or over In­dia

The com­pany, which is re­ly­ing on its own funds, sells cloth­ing and mugs with pop cul­ture de­signs. It started out tak­ing one ‘gala’ on rent and now has three in the build­ing. Most in­dus­trial estates in Mum­bai rent space by the ‘gala’, a Gu­jarati word for space used for stor­age, trad­ing or small man­u­fac­tur­ing.

With the num­ber of en­trepreneurial ven­tures go­ing up, Mum­bai’s old in­dus­trial spa­ces are find­ing new use. Rust­ing ma­chin­ery is some­times the only sign that th­ese were once bustling man­u­fac­tur­ing sites. Most of the in­dus­trial work ceased years ago and the large ware­houses turned into back-of­fices for small busi­nesses, which wouldn’t want to en­ter­tain their clients here.

For fresh star­tups, which are yet to raise funds and need to make ev­ery ru­pee count, such sites of­fer tremen­dous value for money as they are cen­trally lo­cated and come at rents as low as .₹ 50 per square foot. This op­tion works out cheaper than even tak­ing apart­ments in res­i­den­tial build­ings on rent, as many star­tups have done in Ben­galuru and Delhi. Apart­ments in Mum­bai are smaller and costlier in con­ve­nient lo­ca­tions. Co-work­ing spa­ces, which are now boom­ing in the city, rent out space by the desk at prices start­ing at Rs 6,500 per month. In­dus­trial ar­eas near Powai, the sub­urb which is home to IIT Bom­bay and is the clos­est thing Mum­bai has to a true startup hub, are in great de­mand, ac­cord­ing to bro­kers.

“I have seen more IIT stu­dents come look­ing for galas than ever be­fore. They look at places that are nearby. I have seen older busi­ness peo­ple say they don’t want ar­eas in Saki Naka, but th­ese en­gi­neers are fine with that also,” said Sun­jay Nath, a bro­ker who han­dles com­mer­cial spa­ces in th­ese suburbs. Saki Naka is a par­tic­u­larly con­gested part of the city. Some estates are be­com­ing mini-hubs for star­tups, bro­kers said. The An­top Hill Ware­hous­ing Com­plex near the newly built East­ern Free­way is a case in point. It is home to Li­brary­wala.com, deal in­tel­li­gence provider DealCurry and other fledg­ling ven­tures. Soft­ware prod­uct de­vel­op­ment com­pany Genii, which was bought by Practo last year, was also based here.

“There are a lot of new con­cept peo­ple here, the ones who have new think­ing and want to try some­thing. There are about 40-50 such peo­ple work­ing in this area. A new­comer can’t start in a big of­fice,” said Nikhil Chacha, the bro­ker han­dling the com­plex.

Rents at the ware­house are only up to .₹ 90 per square foot, whereas rents in of­fice build­ings start at Rs 200 per square foot, Chacha said. Jawahar Thakker, who han­dles in­dus­trial estates across cen­tral Mum­bai, said the own­ers had even be­gun spruc­ing up the sur­round­ings to make them friend­lier to the new ten­ants. “They are re­mov­ing the old ma­chines and do­ing the clean­ing. They have taken steps to bring in the new busi­ness,” he said.

In­vestors said that of­fices in un­usual lo­ca­tions are part of the startup jour­ney in Mum­bai, where real es­tate is far more ex­pen­sive than in the other metro cities. “The best com­pa­nies are not fo­cused on fancy of­fices. I re­mem­ber when In­Mobi had just started in Mum­bai, their of­fice was in a di­lap­i­dated old build­ing that was un­der ren­o­va­tion and there was no other tenant. I re­mem­ber ask­ing them, ‘Guys, what are you do­ing here?’” Sasha Mir­chan­dani, who runs seed stage in­vest­ment firm Kae Cap­i­tal, said.Frac­tal An­a­lyt­ics also started out in a Mum­bai gala, Mir­chan­dani said.

No one who starts out in a gala ex­pects to stay there for long. Souled Store’s Sharma said he hopes to be able to move his oper­a­tions to an­other lo­ca­tion when he has the funds and re­tain the gala for just his ware­hous­ing needs.

An­top Hill’s Chacha said, “When they start be­com­ing big­ger and their con­cept works, they move to those glass build­ing of­fices. That’s just busi­ness.”

In­vestors said that of­fices in un­usual lo­ca­tions are part of the startup jour­ney in Mum­bai

ET IMAG­ING

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