Monday, February 26, 2007

My man of the decade: G.R. Gopinath

What should any socially sensitive government do when it spots a visionary who is out to bring a revolution by providing a service that can ease lives of millions of middle class countrymen? If I were representing a nation, I would reward him with the highest civilian award for his service regardless of whether the initiative is run with a profit motive or not. As long as the initiative is bringing a positive social change to my country, I as the representative of the government would try to be a facilitator in providing all support to keep the initiative going forward. Instead, this country has failed to realize the vision of this visionary and has set a pathetic example to all the selfless entrepreneurs who have similar vision as that of GR Gopinath.

First thing first. Why is the world going gaga about this man? Air Deccan, also called the Udipi Hotel of the airlines business, a subsidiary of Deccan Aviation owned by GR Gopinath has today broken the social barrier to flying in the country, by providing the cheapest cost base to its traveller. It flew 1.5 million passengers last year, of which 60% were first time travellers. People who earlier saw planes from the ground are now actually flying them. I call this a huge social change, similar to the revolution that the country created in the field of mobile telephony by reaching to the remotest pockets of the country. And how has the Govt fared in encouraging this initiative. Read ahead:
• Though Air Deccan enjoys a share of 21.8 percent in the market, they have not been provided a single hangar till now. They engineers do engine changes out in the open on the tarmac, fighting rain, sun and mosquitoes. In comparison, Indian Airlines enjoys a count of 13 hangars.
• Air Deccan faces lot of bird hits, which translates to huge revenue losses, for the low cost ailrline as it is. The Indian airports have been virtually converted to bird sanctuaries! It is the AAIs responsibility to clean the airports and nothing is being done for it.
• They are not allowed to compete on certain routes. For e.g, in the most profitable Delhi-Mumbai route, Air Deccan is kept at bay and the existing players enjoy the unbridled patronage of the govt.

I would sweep aside all criticisms thrown to Deccan Airlines on its quality of services. But any new initiative of this scale (cheapest cost base) will need some gestation period to stabilize. Its high time Government wakes out of its narrow political machinations and look at the greater good for the nation.

(As I write this, the railway budget presented reduced the AC railway ticket prices by 5-6 %. No respite from any corners for the low cost carriers(LCC). )


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