Mysuru: Captain G.R. Gopinath last evening announced that he would be starting flights from Chennai to Mysuru shortly as his private charter firm Deccan Charter along with Air Odisha had won a huge contract across India to fly to small towns and later big cities under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme, UDAN.
He disclosed this news after his new book “You Cannot Miss This Flight – Essays on Emerging India,” was launched by renowned Kannada novelist Dr. S. L. Bhyrappa at a fully-packed hall in Wind Chimes, Nazarbad, in the presence of K.B. Ganapathy, Editor-in-Chief, Star of Mysore and Krishna Prasad, former Editor-in-Chief of Outlook.
The launch was followed by a conversation between the author Capt. Gopinath and Krishna Prasad. He was replying to a question from Prasad on when or if ever he was going to re-launch his Air Deccan and said that he could not start the airline earlier than he wanted to as there was a six-year non-compete clause with Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher airlines.
“I am in the fortunate and fortuitous circumstances now to start the airline after Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the new scheme Udan to link 500 airports in small towns and in small airfields and later more metros with bigger aircraft. Deccan has won a contract, which was the original Air Deccan plan. Out of the 126 routes, we have won 84 routes (75 per cent of the routes). Now we will be flying from Delhi to Shimla, Mysuru to Chennai and other routes like Dr. Bhyrappa suggested — Mysuru to Mangaluru, Mysuru to Hubballi, Mysuru to Hampi,” he revealed. Mysuru is still the cultural, emotional and heritage capital of Karnataka and the nostalgia for the city is there among many people in the country. Even flights from Ahmedabad to Mysuru will do well as there are lot of Marwaris who want to fly, besides honeymoon couples, as the city has so much to offer. Mysuru-Varnasi and Delhi are the other routes that will be definitely viable, said Capt. Gopinath.
Asked whether he regretted selling his Air Deccan to Vijay Mallya or would it have been better if he had sold it to Mukesh Ambani, his reply was very revealing.
“I should not have sold it all. I capitulated. In retrospect, if I had not sold it, I would be successfully running it,” he said.
He definitely did not want to sell to Ambani. Mallya at least believed in what he wanted to do though he was over ambitious and foolishly believed that his model would succeed. “Though I tried to convince him that there is no scope for growth at the top as there were only 2 to 3 per cent, whereas the remaining 97 per cent wanted to travel in an aircraft, he refused to buy the argument. He told me, Air Deccan is not sexy, not glamorous, it has no stock value and Kingfisher was a better brand. He bought off the board,” said Capt. Gopinath.
Krishna Prasad began his conversation asking Capt. Gopinath what his hope for the country was after three years of Modi Government. Capt. Gopinath said that he was an eternal optimist. “Many nations are not poor because of lack of resources, they are poor because of poor policy,” he said.
According to Capt. Gopinath, Modi is a visionary who has no real corruption charges against him, but there has to be other changes. You need to create institutions both at the Centre and State level where there is complete autonomy. For instance, an Attorney General takes instructions from the State, which should not be the case. All institutions have to be independent of government.
He categorically stated that regarding ‘Demonitisation,’ Reserve Bank of India should have stood up to it and if it had done it, then there would not be so much of economic suffering.
Talking about corruption, he said that we definitely need to weed out black money from the system. But, for that to happen everyone from a judge to a lawyer to a journalist to a lecturer should stop being corrupt.
To another question on the GDP growth which has slid to 5.7 per cent and “how you want India to catch the flight?” his reply was, “Is the ease of doing business happening on the ground? Everyone has started believing in all kinds of catchy slogans. There is no power in most of the villages in the country. I know because I am also a farmer. The biggest mistake that everyone is doing is, mistaking the slogan and hype for reality.”
Unless far reaching reforms are not affected there is no scope for improvement. “Modi is not realising that his sloganeering will not carry the day. He is falling short,” he said.
Asked on reforms and whether reforms in aviation has helped the country, he said that there was crony capitalism at work because of which Jet Airways founder was given special consideration. “He did a good job. The Jet Airways founder was just a travel agent. He came up the hard way. But after growing he opposes competition,” he said.
Hence there are two kinds of cronyism — one is Crony Socialism and the other is Crony Capitalism. In the first kind there is a politician—bureaucratic nexus as pointed out by Dr. Bhyrappa. Taking the example of Indian Railways, he said that it was crony socialism at its best and as long as this continues, it will continue to suffer losses and accidents will keep happening. “Large number of employees in the Railways have been given protection. Modi has to revamp and restructure the Railways,” he said.
Dwelling on the ills of privatisation, he gave the example of GMR which runs a few airports in the country and said how they were suffering huge losses as they have borrowed heavily and now finding it difficult to repay.
On the Infosys imbroglio, he said that everyone at the top should learn to let go.
On the question of what are the three things for success that the many in the audience who were young need to understand and learn, Capt. Gopinath said, I am really superstitious. The first is they must dream big but it should be combined with venture. The second is, like Goethe said, “Dare to dream, but begin it.” As entrepreneurs if they just dream and do not begin, it is of no use. It is not correct to go to the Gurus to find out whether what they are doing is correct. If there is a problem then they have to sort it out. In Kannada there is a proverb ‘Angai ina hunnige kannadi beke.’ Everyone must have to look inward to find answers.
The third is, there is no short cut to success even for a genius. They have to labour hard and persevere and not give up. It must be combined with optimism and enthusiasm,” were the three mantras for success, he advocated.
He also talked about his flirtation with politics and his disillusionment with BJP and how he had contested as an independent. “I am an agnostic and I abhorred the BJP because of RSS. But when I decided to contest the election, there was no ‘nationalism,’ those days. I had met Vajpayee who came across as a very liberal and practised a broad kind of philosophy for India. Hence, Modi should not only reign in Islamist jihadis but also Hindu zealots,” he said.
On his take on how he could write on a range of topics in his book, he said that he was not a creative writer like Bhyrappa. “I have one per cent of writing ability because of the genes of Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar,” he said.
Recalling his childhood in the village and how systems were in place, he said, “If a cow was stolen everyone knew where it would be found. But mostly it was the old and infirm cows that were slaughtered by the beef eating Adi-Karnataka people in the villages. My father always used to say that God always compensated, when he saw how the poorest of the poor found food.” And added, “Nobody went up in arms and beat up the Harijans for eating beef.”
A brief question and answer session followed and on the question of Mysuru airport, Capt. Gopinath said that it has to be modified and unless Boeing aircraft cannot land then flights to Delhi, Mumbai cannot take off. All that is needed is another100 acres to increase the runway length and if the government wills, it can be done.
Earlier, Shubha Urs of Mysuru Literary Forum Charitable Trust and founder Book Clubs-2015 welcomed. The news letter ‘Book Leaf,’ was also released on the occasion. Raian Irani, Industrialist, received the first copy of the book. Saras Subramaniam introduced Capt. Gopinath, Vasanth Kumari introduced Dr. S.L. Bhyrappa. Sasikala Ramanathan proposed a vote of thanks.