Thursday, July 31, 2008

Next Generation of Air Transport: Capt Gopinath


I am a 25-year-old mechanical engineer based in Lucknow. I have started a business aimed at setting up a network of movie exhibition units in villages, using low-cost projectors. I wish to create a chain of 10,000 movie units across rural India in a span of seven months. After nine months of experimentation, my projector now works fine for a 120-inch display, but I have having a tough time trying to raise the required capital of Rs 1 crore. My parents say they have spent enough on me and friends say they need money for houses, cars and bringing up kids. I tried banks and venture capitalists. Banks ask for income tax returns for three years, while VCs insist on a track record. Is it possible for me to get seed capital or will the money come only after my business begins to bloom? Should I slog for several years before I get basic capital. Please guide.

CAPTAIN GR GOPINATH Executive Chairman, Deccan Aviation

THE creation of a large capital is undoubtedly a critical requirement for entrepreneurs across the board, at every stage of their growth. To get an idea off the ground, however, the critical factor is not money but passion and commitment for your vision, which for the truly committed, is inexhaustible. From Dhirubhai Ambani to Narayana Murthy, the success stories of Indian businesses are rife with first generation entrepreneurs having no prior business education, funding or even experience. Indian entrepreneurs now have the advantage of a dynamic and robust economy acting as a fertile ground for their innovations, experiments and success.

Market Your Dream

People have to buy your idea, if they are to put their money into it. Do make sure you have a vision, a well researched plan in place and stay positive. Ask yourself: What is your vision? What is the relevance of your idea? Are You cut out for the grind? This will help you chart the different stages of development for your business, as you envisage it. Each stage of growth will require different strategy, approach and budget. You will have to don different hats to deal with different challenges and crisis in order to stay afloat and make a success. You want to set up a rural network of movie exhibition units. You can start with the prototype you have already built, make it work and build your product reputation around it. It also helps to build a committed team, and acquire the right know how to market yourself and your product effectively.

Build Your Credibility

If you have to get someone to fund your dream project you have to make them believe that your commitment is 100%. This cannot be simulated, only your sweat, toil and tears can speak for you. You have to be prepared to throw in everything that you have to realise your business concept. An investor will go along with you once he’s convinced that even though the failure of the venture would definitely be a setback for him, for you it will be nothing short of a financial catastrophe. I do not prescribe to any management theory instead I prefer to rely on my gut instinct which is backed by my own research and observation. In the early 1990s I stumbled on a news report about a Vietnamese born French pilot using helicopters to help foreign investors travel all over Vietnam. This made me think about the abysmal lack of helicopter services in India and the potential of the enterprise. The process of economic reforms had begun but commercial aviation was a negligible industry and air travel had remained stagnant in the past decades. Under the circumstances, getting finances for a helicopter looked almost impossible. It took my friends and I four long years to get a single helicopter on lease. By 1996 I had mortgaged everything I owned, borrowed heavily from friends and relatives. I succeeded in getting a few private investors on board and acquired our first helicopter and launched Deccan Aviation. While we earned profits right in the first year of our operation, my vision for Deccan Aviation was not just about securing an annual profit. We wanted Deccan Aviation to become India’s largest, most specialised and customer focused helicopter charter company. This required, further investments, a large fleet of helicopters and more financing. Until four years back, I drew a net salary was Rs30,000, but my company remains well supported by investors.

Early Mover

You must realise that the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And If you want to dream big you must act fast and be decisive. The bottom line is if you have a vision and are willing to put all at stake, you will be able to prove your commitment and get support.

No comments: