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July 30, 2013

G.R. Gopinath- Success Behind Air Deccan

Captain G R Gopinath and Air Deccan

The self made entrepreneur and ex-army officer, G R Gopinath introduced the concept, what we call “the low cost airlines” in India in 2003 with the inception of Air Deccan.  Prior to this, India’s largest private helicopter charter company Deccan Aviation was launched by him along with his colleague from army in 1997. 

Captain G R Gopinath, an award winning sericulturist ventured into the Indian domestic aviation sector, when it was monopolized by the Full Service Airlines working under strict government regulations.  He chose the niche in charter helicopter business in India, which was picking up demand due to increased corporate travels. 

National Defense Academy and army service

After graduating from National Defense Academy and serving the Army, he created a whole new market of low cost airlines by launching Air Deccan.  Gorur Ramaswamy Iyenger Gopinath was born in a remote village Gorur in Karnataka in a Hassan Iyengar family.  After his primary education in a village school, he joined Sainik School, Bijapur.  Then, he was selected for prestigious National Defense Academy.  He then graduated from the Indian Military Academy before being commissioned into Indian Army, where he served for eight years.

Commencement of an air charter company  

In 1995, Indian government introduced reforms in the aviation sector, encouraging entrepreneurship in the sector that was long been detached from private participation.  He saw the opportunity in helicopter charter business and started with a commercial helicopter service along with his ex-colleague from army.  They started with just one helicopter in 1996.  Deccan Aviation, his charter company has now around 10 helicopters and two charter jets.  Not only is this the most reputed air charter company in India but also the one which has a presence beyond the borders in Srilanka too.    

Struggle for success and perseverance

Captain Gopinath is a story of perseverance personified.  He didn't get success easily, and he wasn't from an affluent family either.  Rather, he was born in a poor farmer's family in a remote village of Andhra Pradesh.  He slept under a thatched roof and earned his living through farming in a land which was provided by the government, as his ancestral property was gobbled by the dam constructed in the area.  In 1985, he started silkworm rearing as an alternative to farming.  He didn't get success in it initially and had to wait for around five years to see the business succeed.  But he never gave up and it became his habit.

Beginning of Air Deccan

The success in the aviation industry was also not that easy.  After launching Deccan Aviation, he again had to wait for around four years to get the single helicopter, which is not a short time for an impatient entrepreneur.  He faced a lot of resistance in the form of government control, competition, and adverse situations.  In fact, the first Air Deccan flight caught fire and everybody was ready to write the company’s obituary.  But, he was a diehard optimist and decided not to quit even in the face of the toughest circumstances and failures.  Air Deccan was in fact his gift to Indian people, with the most competitive fares, quickest turnaround time, enhanced connectivity and easy ticketing process.

Follow your dreams

Captain Gopinath is an inspirational story for the youngsters, who usually invent excuses for their failures.  His message for the young generation is-- follow your dreams!  If you have any passion, pursue it and never allow the fear of failure to creep in and stop yourself from your path.  You should have focus, dogged determination and ability to continue despite failures and discouragements.  He did farming and dealing, served the Army and started an aviation company, and all through his journey of life, he never succumbed to pressure and always focused on his objectives to make a difference.  

Success was never a smooth ride for Captain Gopinath, who worked for Army for eight years and left it in 1979.  He started farming and sericulture for seven or eight years and then ventured into silkworm rearing.  Then he started his heli-charter business and finally launched the lowest fare airlines in India in 2003.  He ran Deccan Aviation for several years and finally sold it to Kingfisher in 2007.  

Deccan Cargo Captain Gopinath launched Deccan Cargo as his next business venture in 2009, along with Express Logistics Pvt. Ltd, which was renamed from original Deccan 360.  Due to sharp rise in operating expenses, Deccan Cargo was also facing difficult times, so Captain Gopinath tried to restructure it, cut cost and downsized its staff and franchisees.  He's also tied up with logistics companies, which needed space on cargo planes, but its profitability dwindled.  Deccan 360 was grounded due to insufficient demand and higher cost of operations.  The company has defaulted on several hundred crores of loans from different banks, such as State Bank of India, Axis Bank and Syndicate Bank.  Reliance Industries was a partner in this business.

Deccan Shuttles Then, Captain Gopinath started his regional aviation company Deccan Shuttles, which connected small cities.  According to him, the aviation sector is under pressure almost everywhere in the world, but it is toughest in India, probably because the number of passengers is shrinking year on year basis, despite a booming economy.  It is a strange scenario, as people do not have enough income to dispose off.  Deccan Shuttles also doesn't operate anymore.


Captain Gopinath has applied for the license for a new low-fare airline to be operated inside India.  Some foreign players have shown interest in it and are willing to buy a 49% stake.  However, many banks have protested against it as they want their debt to be recovered before any license is issued to him.

Awards and books

Captain Gopinath has won many awards, including Rolex Awards for Enterprise, Chevalier de la legion d’Honneur from France, Rajyotsava Award, Personality of the Decade Award from KG Foundation, and Sir M Visvesvaraya Memorial Award from Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry.  He has also authored the book Simply Fly: A Deccan Odyssey, which was published by Collins Business in 2010.  Despite problems and challenges, Captain Gopinath has emerged as a serial entrepreneur.  He has ventured into many risky businesses and has succeeded in most of them, barring a few exceptions.  He would always be respected for his gift of low-fare airlines to India and he did it despite coming from a humble rural and lower middle class background.

Tags : Deccan Shuttles, Deccan Cargo , Deccan 360, Air Deccan, Deccan Aviation, Captain Gopinath, Captain G R Gopinath, NDA

About Nashaat Quadri

Freelance Content Writer (Compare Infobase, New Delhi.) Ex Sr Content Writer, Western Software, New Delhi. Ex Relationship Manager, Mashreq Bank, Dubai.