The cashier who made India fly- the story of the founder of Jet Airways

‘From street to sky’ is a good way to summarise the story of India’s sixteenth richest person. Naresh Goyal was only 12 when his family went bankrupt and everything they owned was auctioned. “I had no money to eat, no money to educate myself, and no place to stay,” Naresh told CNBC TV18 – Moneycontrol in an interview.

Image : Arabian Supply Chain
Image : Arabian Supply Chain

Naresh was born into a prosperous jewelers’ family in Sangrur, Punjab. After going bankrupt, he and his family moved to live with his mother’s uncle. Insistent on studying further, Naresh, with no electricity at home, would sit under the streetlight and weave the future that was to come.

He wanted to become a Chartered Accountant, but was forced into doing a B. Com due to financial constraints. After his graduation in 1967, he joined his uncle’s travel agency as a cashier. He earned Rs 300 per month.

His dedication and hard work soon paid off, and in 1969, he was appointed as the Public Relations manager of Iraqi Airways. Between 1971 and 1974, he served ALIA, Royal Jordanian Airlines as a Regional Manager. During these years, he travelled overseas and underwent extensive training in the travel business.

In 1974, Naresh decided to start up. He borrowed some money from his mother and formed his own travel agency – Jetair. His agency represented the likes of Air France, Austrian Airlines and Cathay Pacific in sales and marketing.

1991 witnessed the boom of India’s aviation sector, an opportunity which Naresh didn’t miss out on. His travel agency was now transformed into Jet Airways, an airline company. Jet Airways started operating as an air taxi operator in 1993, and added international flights in 2004.

Related Read – The story of B P Baliga, the aviation pioneer, who spent over 50 years at Air India and Jet Airways

In 2007, Jet Airways acquired Air Sahara and went on to become the largest air carrier in the country by 2010, a position which has been held by IndiGo since 2012.

Naresh has had his ups and downs. Having lived through the nationwide aviation crisis and fare-wars between airlines, he has been continuously transforming his business in a constantly changing market. Jet Airways continues to be India’s second largest airline in India with an over 21 percent passenger market share.

In 2016, when Jet Airways posted its first annual profit in 8 years, which is also the highest annual profit reported by the airline in its history, Naresh told The Hindu, “Jet Airways has been revitalised as a business in the last two years. Our focused efforts have resulted in significant improvement in operational performance, leading to record profitability.”

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