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Naresh Goyal: Passion and vision

Naresh Goyal



LONDON, England (CNN) -- CNN Financial Editor Todd Benjamin speaks to Naresh Goyal, founder and Chairman of Jet Airways, India. The following is a transcript of the interview.

Q. Naresh, I want to first ask you about India and its potential. As I know, you are very passionate about India. Why?

A. It's a great country. You know we have over a billion people. Even if you take one percent of the people, you have 10 million intelligent people. You take two percent -- you have 20, you take five percent -- 50 million -- almost the population of UK.

Q. But what is it about the potential that you are so excited about in terms of the airline market?

A. The airline market goes as per people's the way of living, standard of living, their purchasing power. When you have three-hundred million people even if they buy a ticket for a dollar you have three hundred million dollar market. Where else in the world you have? So as far as the airline business is concerned it's totally untapped. There are about total number of passengers traveling not even one percent of India's population; so one percent makes 10 million people. Our market, or share or Indian market share is only twenty percent. Eighty percent of the share has been carried by foreign airlines. And I genuinely believe that India can give India a great airline where all of us in India or worldwide are proud.

Q. And there is tremendous potential because only about 50,000 people fly a day, that's just a fraction of the total population.

A. It is absolutely nothing. And the reason is because in India the people all this time lot of people did not have drinking water, food, and everything, now situation is getting better. We have a very good government in place, the reforms first I mean in this government they are bringing reforms which will also help a poor man even in the villages with their minimum common program and so they are opening up the aviation sector; it's not that it was not opened up, it was opened up even in 1991 and 1996, number of airlines came, unfortunately they failed, collapsed I mean we are very fortunate to survive. As Jet Airways we have a number of licenses been given and they always welcome competition and as far as we are concerned in Jet Airways we started the airline on 5 May of '93, which is about 12 years ago, and this 50,000 also Jet Airways came out with the program about two years back which is very much in common .... for the United States for... purchase , so we thought there is a traffic that is going by trains so I mean that traffic started moving we and the competition started to following it up and I believe now the growth in traffic in a last year growth was in two digits over 25-26 percent , I personally believe even on a conservative note 15 percent growth will be in the next 5 years. I mean and Jet Airways is planning and inducting its capacity on those bases in the domestic sector. I am not discussing the international yet.

Q. What is it though in the airline business that you love so much, because you started working when you were 18, working for your mother's uncle's company as a travel agent for 40 dollars a month?

A. Yes. In fact it was by accident. I did not know anything about the airline or travel business you know I came from a very humble family and so had no job and there was a suggestion that if I go to London, I can get some education. I could not afford so the uncle of mine as you accurately said gave me a job, and once got into it's passion it goes into your blood, it goes into your system you can't get out. Most important thing you make friends all over the world and they stay with you. Friends when I was small boy, I was nobody, I mean those people they were already big boys in the nasty, I am in touch with them and this business every day is exciting. Everyday you have a new problem, every day crisis, ... you deal with the crisis ... bad news ... every morning bad news ... loosing money ... so it's a challenge and how to deal with this challenges fascinating and you grow with that and that what I learned from it and that is the only business I know, no other business I know not that I know everything, every day you learn when you rather look at them, admire them, they are institutions, so you still learning every day.

Q. What is it about the airline business that you love so much?

A. I love that this is one business which has created millions and millions of jobs worldwide, it connects people, connects different cultures, different traditions from all over the world. People coming from Spain, or France, or Germany, or India, or United States, from south east Asia or Japanese; they want to know your culture, they want to know you and this airline business brings closer to each other, to understand human beings, people, their temperament, philosophies, nations, so it's different then any other business .

Q. And you are a domestic airline, or your airline has about half of the domestic travel in India and yet only about 50,000 people a day travel in India, so there must be a tremendous potential.

A. There is great great potential. Of course manufacture will tell you great numbers, but the travel is ultimately connected with the purchasing power, that's what I said earlier, on a more realistic not -domestic travel 15 may be 20 percent may grow. Jet Airways has its planning, has planed for it's own five-year business plan. And I personally think this 50,000 a day could become maybe 60,000 passengers a day in a next one year and so on.

Q. But the reason it has so much potential is because it is such a huge country.

A. It is a huge country and people by nature, by temperament want to travel, they love traveling, they want to see places, in fact the domestic tourism has increased; lot of people in India didn't even have a chance to see India and go outside of their own cities.

Q. And there is a huge middle class, some 300 hundred million people, a lot of people don't realize it.

A. There is big big huge, 300 hundred million, I mean even the United States the whole country is not 300 hundred million and then we have 30 million rich and I think which even in Europe, in the continent, so we have a big middle class and rich and they all want to travel domestic and all over the world.

Q. And India itself has tremendous potential.

A. Great potential. Because Indian economy is growing, the GDP is growing, and I mean the economy is today ... the whole world is looking at India, all world wants to do business in India, which makes you proud. And the GDP growth has been very good and the government is putting opening up a lot of things and I see GDP for the growing better than it has grown ion the last few years.

Q. And I know from talking to you that you gave great belief and passion for India itself.

A. Yes, because I feel as Indians we can do everything. And as I feel as Indians are everywhere, even in the United States. They are playing a very important role in the economy. I mean they are in NASA, they are with manufacture, with General Motors, they are with IBM, they are in accounting, they are lawyers, they are doctors.

Q. Let me ask you something about your own past. You said you came from very a very humble beginning.

A. Yes, I actually started my family in the beginning my father was in a jewellery business, things were not going well and at the age of in fact 10 I didn't know if I can pay for my school fees. My mother who is fortunately alive, she is 84, lives with me; she had to struggle to pay for my school fees. So I mean I used to walk miles, few miles to go to my school and then I couldn't afford a bicycle and so some people supported me to get my basic education and after that I didn't know if can do a basic graduation so I was my mother struggled and a lot with the help from her brother, others, the family, so I was able to get my basic education and at that time to do a graduation in those days it was about 12, 13, 14 dollars a month so I couldn't afford that but I was lucky that I was able to do my graduation.

Q. Then you went to work for your mother's uncle's company as a travel agent when you were 18. Why did you do that?

A. Yeah, because I told my mother that if I can get some education and go to London, because some of my friends are going, and some of them might go do law, or do charted accountancy, so she says but how will you pay; don't know and why should you go, there is no one in the family, we have a lot of hope in you. So in India it is very emotional when your parents tell you something, you listen and especially with the mother, you don't argue. So she says I have uncle, may be might help you to get a job. He use to run some cinemas and theatres in India and Indian movies and then he had an agency with Lebanese international airline he knew that I finished basic education, at that time that was bachelors of commerce I knew accounting, so he gave me a job as a cashier. So he saw my work and then gave more job and then I started working, and then I came in touch with the chairman at that time of Lebanese airlines, still lives, is about 80, lives in Mexico. And so he phoned told me that you have a great potential.

Q. Now, obviously, the market has deregulated a lot actually in the last decade. But there is still a lot of bureaucracy in India. How do you deal with that bureaucracy?

A. You know I am sitting in London with you; there are a lot of bureaucracy in England too. I think our bureaucracy is improving, things are getting better, and you get used to a system. And I think over a period even the bureaucracy in civil and I must tell our civil servants are second to none in the world, if there are not the best they are second to none.

Q. How are you going to deal with the onslaught of competition that you now have?

This competition is not new to me. In the first place when I started my carrier, airlines were flying all over the world, they were fighting with each other. I've seen that since '67 may not be in India then in '74, when I started it. When we started the airline there were 10, 11 airlines at that time a lot of airlines were fighting and coming in. So in fact this is nothing new for me. We have already got a plan with this new competition coming in and so we are handling, in fact since the last year more competition came our profitability is better this year than last year.

Q. Your roots are very humble as you said. And now look, as I look around here your home, it's a beautiful home in Regent's Park, a very exclusive area. You are India's first airline billionaire. How does this make you feel?

A. I don't think it makes me. Money doesn't interest me. I enjoy it when people say Jet Airway is running a good airline. I feel very, very motivated because we are motivated people. I feel that what I felt that Indians can do it are doing it and can do I, so for me living in this house or living in a small house really doesn't mean anything to me.

Q. None at all?

A. Nothing

Q. So what matters to you?

A. To me matters when you say something, can you deliver. If you deliver have you satisfied your customers. Are they happy, are they going to stay with you?

Q. You obviously had a vision for your airline and you had a lot of experience before starting jet airways in the airline business. But at the same time you've actually never run Jet airways. Correct?

A. Yes. Absolutely right. This where, because I am not even today I am not an airline man and because people in the airline as I said there are people who are institutions, I am still learning at it. So at that time decided that we should have a very young energetic team of young people who really want to get jobs who want to work, who want a break in life so we wanted to get the best employees, the best training programs. Then I said you need a management. Because in India you had only India airlines only few people and I didn't want to disturb state owned carriers, even today we don't disturb them and so we had to pick up the best management team from all over the world. We brought people from the United States, we brought people from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Singapore, Malaysia, in flight operation, in technical area, engineering. Then I said you need best team from and then besides that you need a very good board. Board who will believe in India, who will believe in Indians, who will love India, who will love Indians so and people who I have known over years so they are on the board today whom I have known over 30-35 years, who know me, who know what I want to achieve, who know what India can do, so they are on the board. And this is how we are doing it.

Q. And they must all have passions that you have?

A. They all have passion, they don't have any agenda, except that Jet Airways must succeed.

Q. This is what you want from all your people?

A. This is what I want and I am very happy all of them they are doing their best. What ever Jet Airways is today thanks to our employees and the confidence the customers are put in us and we are ready to deliver.

Q. What is your biggest worry?

A. My biggest worry is you never know what can happen, what happen on September 11, you never know, there are things which are beyond your control. The big worry is can we continue delivering the products how do I my worry, my concerns are to get more and more best management people as we expand.

Q. Let me ask you some other questions. Do you consider yourself a deeply religious person, because what I read was that every time you fly you pray before you fly is that correct?

A. It is true. But I am not a religious to that I am a fundamentalist. I think all of us have some faith. I don't know about you, you may have some faith in some one. I think we all have faith I believe nobody have seen god, at least I have not seen and I believe in all religions because India is a secular country and my mother believes in all religions. In fact whenever we have a function we have all the priest from different religions my kids they go to Catholic school they are sitting around, I mean so I am a I believe that we should the we should be good human beings and that what my belief is.

Q. And you are a very jolly man, I can tell by listening to you, you love people.

A. I love people, that the only thing that keeps me going.

Q. You love to laugh.

A. Yes, I love to laugh.

Q. You know you have a fantastic laugh.

A. Thank you very much

Q. And where do you think that laugh comes from?

A. I think you don't create, it's in you, my mother has a great laugh, my kids have a very good laugh

Q. Agree with you there. Let me ask you some thing else. One of the great joys you mentioned your kids is your wife. And you and your wife met at your first company ... she ... and now she works with you, she does your marketing. How is that working with your wife?

A. You know I actually she doesn't report to me. She has never reported to me. I met her in 79, when I was running the Jet air, the other marketing organization. She used to work for the Oberoi hotels in India. And in 79 she started from ground zero in marketing department, she grew from a market analysts to a general manager to a vice president in Jet Airways then Jet Airways we had some people from the United States, so they wanted to go and live in the far east and so the chief executive at that time came from TWA he knew my wife because she used to work for them in TWA representing them in India so she has been a great asset to the company, she has been looking after pricing, scheduling, network, revenue management, sales and marketing.

Q. But you don't talk about the business.

A. We hardly, because I don't want to fight because I am very demanding so she reports to the people, so she gets the messages to her own bosses.

Q. And how do you think it works having your wife work for the airline.

A. I think it is a great asset. Two things. A- she doesn't mix my relation with the people in the company, she has her own relation on one to one, because she has grown with a lot of people who are working in the other company supporting Jet airways, so she has a compartmental relationship with those people. So people can confine in her. She can convey grassroots information to the people she reports with and I think that way she helps the company.

Q. And since your wife works for the company, and is in marketing, who gets the last word.

A. I think last word is mine on the board.

Q. Always?

A. Yes.

Q. But you don't mix business and pleasure?

A. I don't. I think this would be a disaster.

Q. Why?

A. You should never mix your personal relation, because it must be a professionally run company, because none of us are their for permanent. Institutions last longer than the individual.

Q. Naresh, what do you think separates good leader from a great leader?

A. A great leader sets examples for others to follow. A great leader- people can look up to you., people believe in you, people will just follow you where you want to go. A bad leader just doesn't know which direction, how to go and he doesn't set examples.

Q. And the great leader has the ability to connect to people?

A. Yes, of course, people must believe in him, the great leader must be able to give direction, and then if things go wrong he takes the responsibility.

Q. Did you realize at a very early age that you have the ability lead?

A. I saw that because people told me, people who I started with, they told me there is a lot of potential and I always believed in me that it can be done, and I don't think what Napoleon said there is nothing at all impossible.

Q. India right now is considered one of the emerging economies of the world, it's all India and China. You believe passionately in India. Why?

A. Of course, you believe in India, because today India, you know what they are doing in the United States, as I said earlier, you know wherever they are and in India today I mean 5 or 6 top economies in the world deserves to be the one and will be one.

Q. Is this a great environment for entrepreneurs in India right now?

A. It is a great environment, people from all over the world are running to India to do business, and it will increase, it will improve. India will have a very important say in the world economy.

Q. But people who are not that knowledgeable at India, there seem to be still almost backward looking view of India.

A. I think they are educating. I think now they are seeing that return on their investment in India is better than in a lot of countries.

Q. Let me ask you some other questions here. (pause). How worried are you, you said you are not worries about the competition, correct?

A. I am not worried; competition keeps you on your toes. Otherwise we would all go to sleep.

Q. You are not worried about increasing competition because there is more competition in India?

A. We are equipped in India. First of all people go low cost; I think I think generally it is so called low cost there is nothing to call low cost carriers in India because there is no alternator second airport like in Europe or even in the United stets, we all paying for the same fuel, navigation, landing, 80 percent of the cost you can't touch. It is only 20 percent cost you can give extra seats. Jet airways seat factor this financial year which was 31 March 2005 was 71,2 percent. We have 29 percent seats without yield management program, we are able to even cater to that traffic.

Q. You are very relaxed when we are talking, and of course you are very personable. And People like being around you it's clear, but they also say you are very shrewd, that you are very shrewd about how to deal with Indian bureaucracy. Where do you think this acumen comes from?

A. I think in the United States people even like Jack Bells knew how to deal with senators in Washington, even people in Boeing know, IBM knows, everybody knows, in England people know, so it is nothing called shrewd, you have to understand your system, you have to respect your people, you must respect your civil servants, you must listen to their point of view, that's what I do.

Q. When you are not working, what do you like doing?

A. I enjoy Indian movies, because there is nothing to think after that, relax, I love to see the children whenever I can and come home, I love to see my friends, I love to spend time with my friends, that's what I like.

Q. What is it about the Bollywood films you like?

A. They are entertaining, I mean there are certain emotional movies that we all go through in our life, and there is fun, there is entertainment, and you don't have to remember what you saw last time

Q. In India is the country of so much contrast, so many different colors, in terms of emotion and physical colors, and everything there seems larger than life.

A. Yes, we people basically are very friendly people. Indians love life, they enjoy life, they want to mix, and in India English is our main language we all speak to because of course Hindu is the national language and but people generally love to understand in India we have so many different states, different cultures, so and it is a very colorful country. There is always some festivals, something to do and everything is so fascinating every day.

Q. But you spend most of your time here in London

A. I spend more than 50 more majority of my time in London in the last two years because kids moved here they are studying here and it is center for me because I can go to Europe, go to the U.S. and then come go to India and finish my work and in any case Jet Airways is under proper management team and don't need my time every day.

Q. When you die, what do you want people to remember you for?

A. I want people to remember that this Indian guy did something for the country, he did something for the society, he created something, he created an institution, where my family and my friends and the country can be proud of.

Q. And you think that India right now is just starting to grow.

A. India is growing and it will grow every day, as you see.

Q. Potential there is tremendous

A. Unlimited , I think it's a tiger.

Q. But also it's a tiger with a lot of wounds, there is a lot of poverty there.

A. Yes, but tiger gets up.

Q. You are a fan of Bollywood films, why?

A. Because I have lots of friends in the film industry, I see them in real life, I see them on the screen. It is fun watching them.

Q. India is famous for it's hospitality and borrowing things from the West; you like to believe your airline gives a lot of hospitality?

A. Yes, because I am born and raised that way in a family. In India when any guest comes to you, we say, it is like that god has come to your house. And so this is how we have been brought up. And India as far as Jet Airways mission when we had a mission statement before we started airline that Jet Airways must become the first preferred choice for travelers when they travel in India whether they are Indians or people coming from anywhere else in the world. And so I like to see Jet Airways one of the first two or three best Asian carriers in the world in terms of service, hospitality, warmth and standards.

Q. And you're expanding outside of India now?

A. We have start, we were, the government of India came with a civil aviation policy on 29th December 2004 that we can fly overseas anywhere in the world except Gulf for three years. We started our operation to Singapore on 18th April, just a few weeks back, London just last month on 23rd May, between Mumbai-London Heathrow, London on a daily flight basis and we hope to start our Delhi-London in Winter of this year, and Kuala Lumpur started on 18th May last month and we hoping to start soon Bombay-Brussels-Newark.

Q. And do you think your airline is successful because the time that you went into the airline and the growth in India or do you think it would be successful otherwise?

A. Jet Airways is the, is the creation of India is a part of Indian economy, is part of the growth of India. So India grows Jet Airways grows, India economy grows we grow. So our future is linked with the India future.

Q. Your wife of course works for the Airlines too, she, she, she heads up your marketing. And I know that you're very proud of her, but do you mix business with pleasure?

A. I'm in in as for you're talking about my wife.

Q. No, no yes do do you, just generally do you mix business with pleasure?

A. Yes of course I go, I go, I go for, when I go for business I go enjoy myself. I went to Tokyo we went out we had a great Japanese meal, I mix with different cultures when I travel, of course I mix my business my with my pleasure. But it does, not at the cost of business suffering.

Q. No of course not. And who always has the last word, you or your wife?

A. It depends in which area. I mean if it is in going for holidays, pleasure, I think she decides.

Q. And in business?

A. Business I decide.

Q. And why is that?

A. Because ultimately at the end of the day I'm responsible to the shareholders and the board.

Q. And and as a Chairman you always have to have a strong vision don't you?

A. Yes of course. I mean if you, then then I'm not the leader. A leader must have the vision and the foresight. If I don't have how can I lead people?

Q. I want to go back to this, this thing about. You and I have met each other twice now and you're you're extremely personable, you light up a room with your smile and you you're very, very, very jolly for lack of a better word. Where does this joy for life come from?

A. I enjoy. I enjoyed knowing you, I enjoy meeting you I'm feel I've known you for years. And I saw your team, I thought it was a great team I mean when I see friends like you, people like you I get very excited, I get very happy.

Q. That's very kind of you. We appreciate your time today.

A. Thank you.

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