Jose Thomas

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GETTING SET TO FLY
Saturday 26th February, 2011



     

 

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My mind was fully set to enter the aviation industry.  The aviation industry was then controlled by the Government of India.  Air India and Indian Airlines, the government owned carrier, had the monopolistic benefit as only they were permitted to operate scheduled flights within India.  Monopolistic practices always leads to poor service and currently, the Government of India, under pressure from the people of the country, decided to open up the Indian skies to the private sector. 
I remember clearly that those days’ customers were not treated fairly and didn’t get value for their money.  There were neither sufficient flights nor seats available for travel which impacted the tourism sector and the industrial growth.  Thus, in 1993, the government announced a policy inviting private operators to launch air taxis.  They didn’t want to allow operation of scheduled airlines, hence air-taxis.

The first private operator to enter the industry was East West Airlines, followed by Jet Airways, Modiluft and so on.  The entry of these private air lines brought a complete change to the industry.  Air traffic started to grow.  These new comers operated various routes within the country using Boeing 737 aero planes.  They began to hire pilots from Indian Airlines, who willingly joined the private sector because they were offered hefty salaries and perks.

The national carrier began to feel the pinch as they not only lost their customers to these private air lines, but also lost several cockpit crew and ground staff as well.  The benefit of competition was now made available to the traveling public.  The services offered by the private air lines were in no way comparable to national carrier.  Smart and well dressed cabin crew, cleaner aero planes, better service in the air and on the ground, excellent food, alcoholic beverages and so on.  The customer became king!

I was so excited watching this transformation and I knew this business would be ideally suited to me as I had reasonable knowledge and sufficient travel experience.

I started to work on this project, but soon realized the challenges that were ahead of me, permissions, licenses, and clearances, all to be obtained from New Delhi plus a huge capital requirement.  The Government of India had prescribed a minimum capital of Rs.15 crores for any new entrant to operate air taxis within the country.  This was a check to prevent small players in the field. They wanted responsible companies to enter the fray.

Even though my businesses were running successfully, the Rs.15 crore capital requirement was a bit too tall for me.  We simply could not divert Rs.15 cores overnight from our existing business to start a new business and that too, a high risk one like aviation.  The only solution I found was, to take the company public by diluting my holding in the parent company.  I consulted various merchant bankers, accounting firms and consultants and I got the go-ahead from all of them to take the company public and raise the necessary capital.  So the funding was all set.

I flew to Delhi, my first trip for this project.  It was a brand new experience for me.  I barely spoke Hindi and understood just enough to move around.  I checked into a five star hotel which eventually became my office and home.  I was exposed to a new way of things – influential people, middle men etc.  I also learnt that to play the big game, you had to know guys with a great amount of influence and money.  I was not used to all this. (A simple kid who grew up in GOD’S OWN COUNTRY “KERALA” where everything was small and simple.)  I was clear about why I was in Delhi.  I wanted to get the necessary approval to operate an air line.  This final permission was to be obtained from the Director General of Civil Aviation, Delhi. 

We put in our application and I was given a long list of clearances that we had to obtain, including getting security clearances.  The paper started to move from table to table.  I quickly learnt the game of how to do it and I was promised that I could obtain my permit as soon as the security permits were obtained.  My frequency of travel to Delhi increased.  My network of relationships grew. 
Lots of friends came to visit me at my hotel.  In fact, I booked a full floor, accommodating my friends and entertaining them.  Money was flowing.  All I wanted was my license.  In the meantime,
I got several opportunities to call on the then, Civil Aviation Minister, who promised his full support.  I had convinced the Government that I was going to start a full service air line, offering a high level of security and safety standards and top quality service.

I was all set and suddenly I realized how my company and my profile would change when my first flight gets off the ground.  I started to dream day by day and my circle friends circle started to grow.  Many were chasing me with multiple requests.  They were all looking for opportunities to associate with me.  There were some investors who were ready to put in the money because they had confidence in me.  Whenever I flew out of the Delhi Airport and visited Chennai and Bombay, I was greeted by many people, especially youngsters aspiring to be cabin crew and of course, senior and junior pilots.  I new my profile was changing to one of a high flying individual with flamboyancy, style and so on.  I just couldn’t believe that I was going to launch an airline. 

My staff was posted in Delhi to follow up and everything was moving along.  This is when I realized that it would be a good idea for me to rope in a partner with experience in the aviation industry.

I began to look around spoke to all my international contacts and came to know that the AP Moller Group owned and operated an airline, based out of Copenhagen called 'Maersk Air'.  I had a long standing relationship with the Maersk Group (with their shipping division.)  AP Moller Group is a conglomerate headquartered in Copenhagen.  Their main business was operating container ships between major trade lanes. Their subsidiary, 'Maersk Air', was operating out of Copenhagen to several European destinations.  They had the expertise in operating Boeing 737 new generation aircrafts.

Using my connections with the shipping team at Maersk, I got an opportunity to meet with the Chairman of Maersk Air.  After a few trips to Copenhagen, of course accompanied by some pilots who had already joined me, I could convince Maersk Air to put in equity and they became a partner in my Indian airline venture.    Thus, we formed this joint venture company “Choice Air”.  The main objective was to start up an air-taxi to operate in India and position itself as a full service carrier, providing top class service, backed by the highest level of security standards. 

My equity in Choice Air was coming from Choice Group, the parent company, through an IPO.  Merchant bankers, consultants were all ready to take the company public and raise money.  So here
I am – permission in Delhi under process, partners with experience, capital identified through the IPO process – All Ducks in a Row!

Several meetings took place between the Danish partners and my team and they brought in their expertise, which was very valuable.  They had a fool proof operating procedures which were going to be implemented in the launching of “Choice Air”.  Mearsk Air was also very excited about this venture because, I am sure they knew the potential that was waiting in India’s open skies. 

I got so busy and began finding it extremely difficult to manage my existing business – shipping, seafood exports, constructions and even the school.  I simply had no time because days were full of meetings. I soon realized starting the air line wasn’t easy.  I started to put in extra hours, trying to keep everything under control, but had to make a decision to delegate my existing businesses to people I could trust.  The process of delegation started and all was set to take the company public to raise funds and I was anxiously waiting for obtaining the permission from the government. 
Media began to publish news articles about my intention of starting “Choice Air” and even published the start up dates.

Friends, I started hiring employees, pilots, ground staff, and engineering personnel and so on.

Stay tuned for more!!

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Responses to
 B.Rajeev says:
Wish your dream come true.Best of Luck.
 
 Sinjini says:
True Example of a "go Getter attitude"... looking forward to the next Blog---
 
 Monzy Oommen says:
Sir I am so proud to know that you are moving to greater heights. I know I can one day proudly say-Mr Jose Thomas is a man who was close to me as a boss and more as a parent. God bless and keep you growing to be a source of joy courage and creator of employment to many in need.
 
 Monzy Oommen says:
Sir I am so proud to know that you are moving to greater heights. I know I can one day proudly say-Mr Jose Thomas is a man who was close to me as a boss and more as a parent. God bless and keep you growing to be a source of joy courage and creator of employment to many in need.
 
 anu cheriyan says:
congrats sir, for taking the guts and god bless ur new venture abundantly
 
 laly John Mathew says:
Best wishes!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 
 Ambily Chandran says:
Hi Jose Thomas, we all kochites are grateful to you for giving us JTPAC. The vision is amazing!!
 
 Lashondia Goodman says:
Congratualations and look forward to next blog... God Bless
 
 Arunkumar says:
Hi Sir, I read your story in a malayalam maagazine, it was really an encouragemnet. Best wishes for all your new business deals.. Thanks Arunkumar
 
 Mrs Chandra Singh says:
Hi, I keep reading all your write ups and i am highly impressed with your progressive attitude. It is indeed a very encouraging for all youngsters. Wish your dream come true. Congratulations and All the Best. Regards Chandra Singh
 
 Marneu Mcananye says:
Thanks for your write-up on this blog. From my own experience, there are times when softening way up a photograph may possibly provide the photo shooter with a dose of an inspired flare. Sometimes however, that soft cloud isn't exactly what you had under consideration and can often times spoil a normally good photograph, especially if you thinking about enlarging them.
 
 Maureen says:
Thanks guys, I just about lost it lokonig for this.