Meet Retired Army Captain G. R. Gopinath Who Made Flying Affordable for Masses
Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath, 68, also known as Captain Gopinath, is a Bengaluru-based Indian entrepreneur who founded Air Deccan, India’s first domestic low-cost airline, in 2003. Gopinath, a retired Indian Army captain and author, contributes frequently to newspapers and internet sites. Soorarai Pottru, or praise the brave, a Tamil film based on his life, was also released in 2020.He was also a novelist and politician.
Name: Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath
Net Worth: $ 5 million
Education: Sainik School, Bijapur; National Defence Academy, Pune Indian Military Academy, Dehradun
Occupation: Entrepreneur, Author, Politician, Businessperson,
Designations: Founder of Air Deccan
Date of Birth: 13 November 1951
Place of Birth: Karnataka, India
Marital Status: Married
Spouse’s Name: Bhargavi Gopinath
Children: 2 Daughters- Pallavi Gopinath, Krithika Gopinath
Spoken Languages: English, Hindi, Tamil
Hobbies & Interest: Farming, Reading, and Writing
Gopinath was born and raised in the small village of Gorur in the Hassan district of Karnataka State. Gopinath’s father Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar was a school teacher who was determined to educate his son at home because he was of the opinion that the schools were systems of regimentation.
Gopinath, however, was admitted to a Kannada-medium school rather late and immediately enrolled in Standard V. Gopinath joined Sainik School, Bijapur, in 1962 after passing the admissions test. Gopinath received assistance and preparation from the school to pass the NDA entrance examinations.
Gopinath graduated from the National Defence Academy in Pune after three years of vigorous training. After that, he completed his studies at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun.
He was promoted to Captain in the Indian Army after graduating from high school. He served eight years in the military and participated in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971–1972. He felt in some way constrained by the army lifestyle. At the young age of 28, he decided to leave the Indian Army. He started an ecologically sound sericulture farm after leaving the military.
Following that, he established the Malnad Mobikes (Enfield dealership) and built a hotel in Hassan. He co-founded the charter helicopter company Deccan Aviation in 1997. Gopinath established the low-cost airline Air Deccan in 2003. In 2007, Air Deccan merged with Kingfisher Airlines. He started Deccan 360, a freight flight company, in 2009.
United Aviation Services (UAS), a Dubai-based company, and M/s Patel Integrated Logistics (PIL) Pvt. Ltd. also filed petitions in July 2013 asking the Karnataka High Court to wind up Deccan 360 in order to recover money owed to them. Gopinath ran for the Lok Sabha in 2009 as an independent candidate in the Bangalore South constituency but lost. He ran for Lok Sabha in 2014 but lost on the Aam Aadmi Party’s ticket.
Gopinath’s First Venture: Deccan Aviation
In 1992, Gopinath returned to Bengaluru, when he ran into Captain K.J. Samuel, a friend from the military. Samuel, a self-employed pilot, intended to launch a commercial helicopter service. When the Indian government began a process of regulatory reforms in 1995 to promote entrepreneurship, Gopinath teamed up with Samuel to start Deccan Aviation.
Most politicians used Deccan’s helicopters, and the business participated in numerous rescue operations in Sri Lanka, Nepal, Kabul, and South India. The business expanded to rank among the biggest providers of private plane charter services in Sri Lanka and India.
Gopinath’s Second Venture: Deccan Airlines Flight
Air Deccan, his second company, began operations in 2003, amid a thriving Indian economy, with flights from Bangalore and Hubli. Gopinath committed Rs 5 crore from his life savings, friends, and family to create this airline. Air Deccan operated a route network from seven base airports across the country by 2006, with shorter turnaround times than typical. Due to their no-frills attitude, Air Deccan offered tickets at half the price of competing airlines at the time.
With a fleet of 43 aircraft and 350 daily flights to more than 60 locations, the airline quickly asserted a 22% stake in the Indian aviation market at the time. They were well-known for establishing 24-hour phone centres in India where travellers could make reservations, and they made money by allowing advertisements both inside and outside of the aircraft.
Gopinath was compelled to sell the business to Vijay Mallya in 2007 after it began to suffer from intense competition from other airlines. Mallya combined it with his Kingfisher Airlines and renamed it Kingfisher Red.
Gopinath’s Third Venture: Deccan 360
Deccan 360, his third business venture, specialises in moving goods across India via air. Since the business’s revenue source was insufficient, it was shut down in 2013.
Capt. Gopinath repurchased the rights to the name Air Deccan and launched a regional airline in western India in 2017. Under the government’s UDAN programme, which encourages regional connectivity across the nation, Air Deccan was allotted 34 routes. But as of 2020, the airline has suspended operations permanently due to India’s post-COVID closure.
GR Gopinath at Present
Flying became a possibility for every middle-class Indian thanks to Air Deccan, which also permanently changed the Indian aviation industry. The 2014 Lok Sabha elections were a failed attempt by Gopinath, who later went on to run for office. In 2017, Capt. Gopinath published a second book titled “You Cannot Miss This Flight: Essays on Emerging India,” which encapsulates his interests and the breadth of his dedication. He had previously been a prolific and provocative columnist for various outlets. The 68-year-old man currently resides in Bengaluru with his wife and two kids.
Honours and Awards
- Rolex Awards for Business, 1996
- Rajyotsava Award in 2005 (Karnataka)
- 2007 – Personality of the Decade Award from the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (France) (K.G. Foundation)
- Honorary Sir M. Visvesvaraya Award (Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce & Industry)
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