The man who made flying affordable to millions of Indians

14 November 2020 06:26 PM
  • The man who made flying affordable to millions of Indians

In the summer of 2005, retired army officer-turned-businessman GR Gopinath announced that he would enable Indians to fly at one rupee or less than a cent.

It was an incredulous sales pitch from the founder of the country's first budget airline.

Air Deccan, his then two-year-old no-frills airline modelled on European budget carriers like EasyJet and Ryanair, had already made flying affordable to millions of Indians. Capt Gopinath's tickets cost half of what competitors charged.

Now his airline introduced "dynamic pricing" where a small number of "early bird" customers could travel at a rupee. Latecomers would pay a higher ticket price, which would still be substantially lower than competitors. Not surprisingly, booking counters were overrun with customers, many of them first-time fliers. Critics howled such pricing methods would wreck the industry.

"The one rupee ticket fired the imagination of the people and quickly became a buzzword," wrote Capt Gopinath in his memoir. He believed his airline had not "only broken the price barrier, but India's caste and class barrier to flying".

A new Tamil film Soorarai Pottru (Praise the Brave), released on Amazon Prime Video this week, celebrates the life of the maverick businessman. Based on Capt Gopinath's memoir, the film is produced by Academy Award winner Guneet Monga.

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