Despite an MBA from the UK and a well-paying job in the aviation industry there, Kanika Tekriwal’s conservative, Bhopal-based Marwari family was upset when she refused to get married.
“I was just 21 when I returned to India. My family wanted me to get married but I said ‘no way’. The standoff was resolved rather unexpectedly when she was diagnosed with cancer. The need to break free of her dominating family, she adds, was so pressing that the cancer was a boon of sorts.
“Cancer actually saved me,” she says. In Mumbai, she battled cancer for nine months – a period during which she got to research the aviation industry. During her MBA, Ms Tekriwal was working at Aerospace Resources, which gave her solid fundamentals. Once cured, she decided to move to New Delhi and set up a consultancy. This upset her father so much that he refused to speak to her for six months.
Ms Tekriwal’s business plan – formulated during her convalescence – eventually took the shape of JetSetGo, which broke new ground in the aviation industry.
For two years, her firm worked to provide expertise in buying and selling aircraft, optimising operations and the market, and bringing down costs. “Many customers asked why a trip should cost them as much as a Rolex,” Ms Tekriwal adds. Such queries sowed the seed of an idea to offer a service for booking chartered flights, and JetSetGo was launched in April 2014. Eighteen months down the line, the company has 77 aircraft on offer and last month, it recorded a 100 per cent growth in revenue.
“There is at least one JetSetGo flight in the sky every day. We are improving the market share of private aviation and putting India on the global map. Next year, we are looking to expand internationally,” she says. The firm also has tie-ups with operators for aircraft equipped with medical facilities. The industry, though, is taking its time in getting to know her – at a business summit last year, Ms Tekriwal was asked to bring the coffee.
“The clients were aghast when I was introduced as the CEO. It has been a task, but I have taken it in my stride. I believe girls can make it happen,” she smiles.
Kanika Tekriwal, 27
Her game changer: JetSetGo, a chartered flight booking service