A MAN WITH MUL­TI­PLE HATS!

SP's Aviation - - BUSINESS AVIATION - Jayant Baran­wal, Ed­i­tor-in-Chief, SP’sAvi­a­tion in an ex­clu­sive con­ver­sa­tion with Ro­hit Ka­pur, the man who doesn’t cringe to “call a spade a spade”!

HANGING HIS ARMY UNI­FORM IN THE YEAR 2003, he started on an un­char­tered jour­ney in the avi­a­tion sec­tor. Af­ter learn­ing the ropes and hon­ing his skills with var­i­ous avi­a­tion key com­pa­nies, in 2009, Ro­hit was ready to don the en­trepreneurial hat and Ar­row Air­craft came to life. He is the founder Pres­i­dent and third time elected Pres­i­dent of Busi­ness Air­craft Oper­a­tors As­so­ci­a­tion (BAOA) and is also a mem­ber of Civil Avi­a­tion Com­mit­tee of FICCI and CII.

MOCA’S RE­PORT CARD

The cur­rent team at MoCA is a very pro-ac­tive team. I have never seen the Civil Avi­a­tion Min­istry as re­spon­sive and ap­proach­able as I have seen in this regime. Ask for a meet­ing and you will get one, plus they will lis­ten to you. How­ever, even though they are giv­ing at­ten­tion to Busi­ness and Gen­eral Avi­a­tion, the in­dus­try still needs more ef­forts to bring it up to global stan­dards and needs the same fo­cus as they are giv­ing to the sched­uled air­lines and to UDAN. Min­istry of Fi­nance needs to un­der­stand that they have to make avi­a­tion a more vi­able in­dus­try. This is a very cap­i­tal in­ten­sive in­dus­try, and sub­ject to a lot of un­cer­tain­ties, be it the fluc­tu­a­tions in dol­lar rate, price of crude, in­fras­truc­ture is­sues, and many more. Fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity is a must.

KEEP­ING THE DOL­LAR IN THE COUN­TRY

The whole process of air­craft leas­ing is car­ried out from over­seas. Why can’t we set up an air­craft leas­ing com­pany in In­dia? Around six bil­lion dol­lars go out of In­dia for leas­ing cost. The same money can be re­tained in In­dia by mak­ing it more tax ef­fi­cient. If the gov­ern­ment sup­port MROs and start re­duc­ing taxes on it, around 2-3 bil­lion dol­lars which go out will re­main in the coun­try and it will cre­ate ad­di­tional jobs. The Min­istry needs to un­der­stand this larger pic­ture, which seems to be lack­ing at the mo­ment. Twenty per­cent growth is fan­tas­tic, but that’s not our whole ob­jec­tive. Growth must hap­pen with fi­nan­cial vi­a­bil­ity of the stake hold­ers, only then will it be sus­tain­able. We have ap­prox­i­mately 500 com­mer­cial air­craft in In­dia and I hear some 900 plus air­craft are on or­der, but with the way all air­lines are un­der pres­sure for prof­itabil­ity, worry is that will they have the money to get these air­craft that they have or­dered? The gov­ern­ment has to make sure that this in­dus­try can stand on its own feet. Con­ces­sion needs to be given and tax breaks need to be of­fered. They must un­der­stand that this is an in­dus­try which is cre­at­ing so much of an ecosys­tem in terms of adding to the GDP and cre­at­ing jobs. For ev­ery job created in the avi­a­tion in­dus­try, there are six jobs created in sup­port­ing in­dus­try.

CHANG­ING MIND­SETS – NOT A RICH MAN’S TOY

The gov­ern­ment needs to change the way it thinks about the gen­eral avi­a­tion and busi­ness avi­a­tion in­dus­try. They are still talk­ing about this in­dus­try as some­thing that only rich peo­ple use. Yes, busi­ness lead­ers do use it, as do the politi­cians. The main mo­tive of both is to use its flex­i­bil­ity and save time, which is the pri­mary pur­pose of fly­ing in a pri­vate air­craft. If their com­pa­nies grow, the econ­omy grows. It is not the lux­ury that they are us­ing, it is a busi­ness tool. When you have com­pa­nies all across the coun­try and half of them are not even prop­erly con­nected, the busi­ness lead­ers need to travel com­fort­ably, in pri­vacy and safely. A busi­ness air­craft al­lows all this, which ul­ti­mately trans­forms into pro­duc­tiv­ity.

GST ON PRI­VATE CAT­E­GORY

A 28 per­cent GST with no in­put tax credit is a def­i­nite im­ped­i­ment and as a re­sult, no­body wants to buy an air­craft in the pri­vate cat­e­gory. I am an air­craft sales­per­son and I am get­ting a very clear mes­sage from po­ten­tial buy­ers that they are not will­ing to pay 28 per cent GST. If need be, they will go ahead and buy the air­craft over­seas from one of their sub­sidiaries, which is an ab­so­lutely le­gal op­tion. If the as­set is not com­ing in the coun­try then the jobs are not be­ing created here. In short, we are giv­ing em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties to for­eign pi­lots and spend­ing dol­lars as against adding these to our econ­omy.

Most coun­tries have zero-rated tax on im­port of air­craft. There are many coun­tries that do charge a tax, but at most places, it is 5 per cent or 7 per cent or a max­i­mum of 10 per cent. I have not seen any coun­try which im­poses 28 per cent plus 3 per­cent, amount­ing to a 31 per­cent tax, with no in­put cred­its. It is killing this mar­ket. I strongly rec­om­mend that we should im­pose a tax that is fair and rea­son­able, which peo­ple are will­ing to pay, and which en­cour­ages growth.

DGCA RE­FORMS AND MOD­ERN­IZA­TION

The re­forms are long over­due. The reg­u­la­tor needs to be more ef­fi­cient, it needs to be more pro­fes­sional. Un­less you ap­point peo­ple with proper ex­pe­ri­ence, back­ground, and knowl­edge; un­less you em­power them with cor­rect kind of tools to do their work, they will not be able to do the op­ti­mum.

DGCA needs to be mod­ern­ized and it needs to have more pro­fes­sion­als work­ing in it. It needs to adopt tech­nol­ogy and re­duce peo­ple to peo­ple in­ter­ac­tion to the min­i­mum. Here we are talk­ing about growth and be­ing the third largest avi­a­tion mar­ket by 2025, but the pil­lar on which you are try­ing to make this hap­pen is weak. Un­less you mod­ern­ize and em­power DGCA, it will not be able to sup­port the growth that we all want.

AR­ROW AIR­CRAFT

Ar­row was con­cep­tu­alised in 2009, when three of us from the in­dus­try, that is my­self, Shailen­dra and Samir, de­cided to es­tab­lish a com­pany fo­cused on the needs of the pri­vate avi­a­tion. Our ini­tial goal was to be a Sales and char­ter com­pany. In 2011 we got the deal­er­ship for Gulf­stream and af­ter some time we got the deal­er­ship for Beechcraft. We were sell­ing air­craft and as our char­ter busi­ness grew, we also be­came an air­craft man­age­ment com­pany. Jet Avi­a­tion be­came a part­ner in 2013. We signed up with Hon­daJet as their part­ners in South Asia ear­lier this year. We are fo­cused as a ded­i­cated sales, char­ter and man­age­ment com­pany. All our busi­nesses are unique, and we pro­vide a holis­tic so­lu­tion to our clients. From the time a client thinks of fly­ing in a pri­vate air­craft, and till the time she is ac­tu­ally fly­ing in one, we walk her through the en­tire jour­ney.

“I strongly rec­om­mend that we should im­pose a tax that is fair and rea­son­able, which peo­ple are will­ing to pay, and which en­cour­ages growth.” “The cur­rent team at MoCA is a very proac­tive team. I have never seen the Civil Avi­a­tion Min­istry as re­spon­sive and ap­proach­able as I have seen in this regime. Ask for a meet­ing and you will get one, plus they will lis­ten to you.”

Our Motto “GIVNG WINGS TO YOUR SUC­CESS” truly de­fines our ethos as a com­pany.

Per­son­ally, I would say that it’s been a very en­joy­able and an ex­hil­a­rat­ing jour­ney for me at Ar­row. Cre­at­ing a world class prod­uct is very sat­is­fy­ing. We are a strong com­pany in terms of rev­enue. We have been prof­itable from the first year on­ward, we have never had a year where we have not made a profit. In this en­vi­ron­ment to stay afloat and be prof­itable is an achieve­ment by it­self.

We do have cer­tain plans for ex­pan­sion to the next level in the com­ing years. We are work­ing on var­i­ous plans and are will­ing to change with the evolv­ing times.

To­day we have got about 45 em­ploy­ees, with of­fices in Delhi, Cal­cutta, Bom­bay,

Chen­nai. We have also setup a sub­sidiary in Dubai last year.

RO­TARY VS FIXED WINGS

Most peo­ple who buy heli­copters are the ones who need to fly from or to places which do not have land­ing strips. If there is a choice ever, I would al­ways ad­vise a per­son to buy a fixed wing rather than a he­li­copter, even though I have been a he­li­copter pi­lot my­self. The sim­ple rea­son is that you have more flex­i­bil­ity in terms of oper­at­ing un­der all weather, and in us­ing it day and night. If you de­cide at mid­night to go from Bom­bay to Pune, in a he­li­copter you will not be able to do so, but in a fixed wing you can go any­time and in all weather con­di­tions.

BUSI­NESS AIR­CRAFT OPER­A­TORS AS­SO­CI­A­TION (BAOA)

In 2010, some of us in­dus­try pro­fes­sion­als thought of set­ting up an or­ga­ni­za­tion which could be the com­mon voice for the en­tire in­dus­try. A few of these as­so­ci­a­tions were al­ready in ex­is­tence, but were weak and work­ing at cross pur­poses. It was de­cided to close down the ex­ist­ing as­so­ci­a­tions and form a new one, hence BAOA was in­cor­po­rated in March 2011. I must give credit to some of the founder Mem­bers, who worked over­time in 2010-2011 to make this hap­pen, with spe­cial men­tion to Capt Karan Singh (Indo Pa­cific), Col. Madan Thadani (JEPL), Sud­hir Nayak (RCDL), Harsh Vard­han (Hi­malaya Heli) and Col. San­jeev Sethi (Ray­mond). With­out their sup­port then, and over the years, BAOA would not have come into ex­is­tence or sur­vived so well.

The ini­tial elec­tion was to be held in three months, and I was elected as the in­terim Pres­i­dent with an aim to over­see a free and fair elec­tion. That was the man­date given to me. Within three months we held the elec­tion and I got elected as the first Pres­i­dent. We hired Group Cap­tain R.K. Bali in De­cem­ber 2011 as the Man­ag­ing Di­rec­tor of BAOA, and he has been the main driv­ing force for the As­so­ci­a­tion since then.

When I be­came the founder Pres­i­dent, I had two things in my mind. Firstly, I wanted to make sure that this be­came a pro­fes­sional or­ga­ni­za­tion and no sin­gle per­son or or­ga­ni­za­tion should be able to dic­tate its agenda in times to come. Sec­ondly, it was im­per­a­tive to me that the As­so­ci­a­tion should be an in­de­pen­dent and vi­brant body, run demo­crat­i­cally, with in­puts and views of all mem­bers be­ing im­por­tant to us. It was also es­sen­tial to make the As­so­ci­a­tion fi­nan­cially in­de­pen­dent as soon as pos­si­ble. We have achieved some suc­cess in this, but still some work needs to be done here. It is a mat­ter of pride for all of us to­day that BAOA is rec­og­nized as the voice of the in­dus­try by all ma­jor stake­hold­ers, be it the Min­istry of Civil Avi­a­tion, DGCA, in­dus­try bod­ies, such as FICCI, CII, Assocham etc., or by the in­dus­try it­self. Our mem­ber­ship con­sists of all the lead­ing oper­a­tors in the coun­try, ser­vice providers and OEMs. We have achieved a fair amount of suc­cess in our work and hope to get more done in the com­ing years.

In the end, I would like to say that I am grate­ful for all the op­por­tu­ni­ties that have come my way. Very rarely do peo­ple have the chance to get the best of both worlds. I truly en­joyed my ser­vice in uni­form and loved fly­ing heli­copters in the Army. At the age of 41, and with 20 years of uni­formed ser­vice, I set out on a dif­fer­ent ca­reer path. Achieve­ments came with a lot of hard work, strug­gles, sup­port of friends and fam­ily. Giv­ing up was never an op­tion. I believe that the big­gest fac­tor in achiev­ing any­thing you believe in is hard work and per­se­ver­ance. The rest will fall into place.

“All our busi­nesses are unique, and we pro­vide a holis­tic so­lu­tion to our clients. From the time a client thinks of fly­ing in a pri­vate air­craft, and till the time she is ac­tu­ally fly­ing in one, we walk her through the en­tire jour­ney.”

DY­NAMIC LEADER: RO­HIT KA­PUR LED AR­ROW AIR­CRAFT SALES & CHAR­TERS HAS RE­CENTLY BAGGED THE SOUTH ASIAN TRAVEL AWARD 2018 IN THE ’LEAD­ING DO­MES­TIC TRANS­PORT PROVIDER (AIR) CAT­E­GORY’

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