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Naresh Goyal's success story

P R Sanjai | January 21, 2006

Naresh Goyal had to walk for a few miles everyday to school as his parents could not afford a bicycle for him, and started his career as a cashier at his maternal uncle's company at a starting salary of Rs 300 a month.

Today, the net worth of the Jet Airways promoter is over Rs 81 billion (Rs 8100 crore), which makes him the sixth richest Indian as per the Business Standard Billionaire Club.

Goyal, however, hasn't forgotten his humble past. A reason why he remains modest and avoids the limelight. For e.g. minutes after announcing his decision to buy Air Sahara for Rs 2,225 crore (Rs 22.25 billion) - a deal, which gives him control over almost half of India's domestic aviation airspace - Goel refuses to give it much importance and said, "It's no big deal. I am neither happy nor excited. Such acquisitions have been the way of life in the west."

The modesty has been interpreted in many ways. While his associates say it shows that the man has his feet firmly on the ground, others say it's his way of avoiding controversies.

Which is understandable, as Goyal has had his share of questions raised about the origin of funds. More recently, the US government has been dragging its feet on giving Jet permission to fly to that country because of what it called the airline owner's questionable links.

For the moment, however, the 56-year-old Goyal is on Cloud 9, and says he is "open to all new trends and will grab the opportunities coming his way."

He has been doing precisely that ever since he got into the civil aviation industry 36 years back. He also has clear ideas about which way to go. For example, he thinks low cost airlines are just a myth in India.

There is nothing to call low cost carriers in India because there is no alternate second airport such as in Europe or the US. All airlines are paying for the same fuel, navigation, landing charges, which add up to 80 per cent of the total cost. There is hardly anything you can do with the balance 20 per cent.

Goyal holds a Bachelors of Commerce degree and after completing his education in 1967, joined the travel business as a general sales agent for Lebanese International Airlines.

Subsequently, he was appointed the public relation manager of Iraqi Airways in 1969 and from 1971 to 1974 was the regional manager for ALIA, Royal Jordanian Airlines.

During this period, he also worked with the Indian offices of Middle Eastern Airline, where he gained experience in various areas including ticketing, reservations and sales.

He was, thereafter, appointed regional manager of Phillipine Airlines where he handled the commercial operations of the airline in India.

He started on his own in 1974 by floating Jetair Private Ltd (then known as Jetair Transportation Private Ltd) to provide sales and marketing representation to foreign airlines in India. Shortly thereafter in 1975, he was appointed regional manager of Phillipine Airline in India.

Finally, in 1992, he took the big step of setting up his airline - Jet Airways. A firm believer in numerology, Goyal is fond of number "5". People close to him say his decision to acquire Air Sahara was also taken on the 5th many months ago.

In his free time, he loves watching Bollywood movies for their emotional and entertainment value. But the bigger reason, as he once said, is, you don't have to remember what you saw last time.

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