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A candid chat with Kanika Tekriwal

The dynamic entrepreneur is a game-changer in the private aviation sector

Priyanka A. Roy | Published 08.06.23, 09:05 AM
Kanika in conversation with ALFA ladies Ritika Goyal and Nisha Thard

Kanika in conversation with ALFA ladies Ritika Goyal and Nisha Thard

Pictures: Pabitra Das

ALFA Network’s latest event at ITC Royal Bengal’s Dooars banquet welcomed Kanika Tekriwal, the founder of JetSetGo, for an inspirational chat session with the members. Almost a decade back, Kanika as a 22-year-old had started her entrepreneurship journey in the aviation industry. She is now the owner of 10 private jets and has been dedicatedly striving to redefine the private aviation business. In her talk session, Kanika spoke about her journey and shared with the audience stories of her success and struggles. She also shared her dreams of making private aviation more accessible to diverse income groups. Fighting several big and small battles in her life in the personal as well as her professional space starting from cancer to casual sexism, she now stands strong as the CEO of her company valued in crores. A t2 chat with this queen of the sky.

What do you love about Calcutta?


My parents are from Calcutta. I think I love the food. Even during our childhood, when we used to visit, I remember this market we used to go to for having golgappa. I also love the people and their warmth. We don’t get it anywhere else in the world.

What is that one thing you told yourself to stay motivated during the phase you were battling cancer?

I kept thinking that I have done so little in my life. So, I am not going to give up so easily. I want to make sure that everything I wanted to achieve in life, I have achieved.

What were some of the self-limiting thoughts that you had to battle with before starting your journey as an entrepreneur?

I think every entrepreneur has the same thoughts — ‘What if I fail? What if I don’t make it? How am I supposed to support myself financially? How am I going to face the world if I fail?’.... ‘Face the world if I fail’ is one thing that every single person worries about. Once I was able to change that, everything changed.

What was that one thought that made you jet set go?

For me, it is about getting this opportunity to wake up each morning and think I want to leave a mark in this world and, most importantly, pave the way for other women. I think it is so important to set the standard for every single woman to be able to excel. If we don’t then who will?

Naman Ajitsaria, chairperson of ALFA Network

Naman Ajitsaria, chairperson of ALFA Network

You spoke about the importance of a co-founder. Did you have any mentor or did you ever look for a mentor?

I did. This is one thing I regret in life because I really wanted a mentor, which is why I mentor a lot of young girls now. I think it is so important to have that one person who can guide us and put us on the right track.

What is the most important thing about pitching ideas in entrepreneurship?

I think investors are not looking for perfect ideas. Every investor knows that the business is going to evolve. Things are going to change over a period of time. What they are looking for is the entrepreneur’s will, entrepreneurship gut, the entrepreneur’s transparency, humility and confidence. It is very important for entrepreneurs to be very confident in their capabilities. Only then will an investor be confident.

You have made it to the list of richest women in India several times. How did you balance passion, success and wealth creation? What is your message for young people who are confused about chasing wealth and success?

Wealth creation was never my goal. It happened. I still live in the same place where I used to live before. But yes, balancing passion and work is a little complicated because sometimes passion can overtake reality and one can be so lost in their passion for what they think is right. They can lose their sense of reality. For me, it was very important to constantly keep a reality check of what is really the need of the market. It is crucial to be passionate, to be real in one’s business and to do what the world really needs as opposed to what one really needs.Wealth is a byproduct of success. If one chases wealth, they are more likely going to fail. My focus was never wealth and it is never going to be so. In the end, we have only these many days of our life, we can only wear these many clothes and eat so much amount of food. So, if the wealth is so much and so much, I don’t think the difference is much. I think it is so important for young people to understand that if they are getting into something to make money, the chances of failing will be 99.9 per cent. One cannot go out to not make a difference, then it won’t happen.

What challenges you most as a businesswoman?

I think the fact that I am responsible for so many people’s livelihoods. If I take a wrong decision and do something in the wrong direction, it can affect the lives of my employees. Now, I think I am a lot more conscious about taking risks.

How do you look at success?

I think success differs from person to person. To me, success is being able to go to sleep at night without a worry in my mind and to be able to sleep for eight hours and not be woken up by ‘Oh my God! This is going to go wrong or that is going to go wrong.’ I think success is about being content and about being happy. If you have true happiness, you have the world’s success.

You also spoke about how AI helped your company during the pandemic. Do you see AI as a threat like many other industries do?

I think it is up to us to treat something as a threat or an opportunity. If we use an opportunity and use it in the right way, I don’t think I see it as a threat.

What are some of the most memorable moments from your entrepreneurship journey so far?

I think so many. The day our first plane landed. Our plane had actually landed! (Laughs) I remember, when I got cancer, I told my mum that I will be on the cover of Forbes. Exactly five years from that, I was in the 30 under 30 list and from that day lists didn’t matter! (Smiles) To us, it doesn’t matter anymore but when my parents read something about us on paper, when our friends send something, they get so excited. I think these are little things. My first employee was someone who used to earn Rs 20,000 a month and now he earns over Rs 4lakh a month in seven years and seeing how he has grown as a human being and expanded his family. He couldn’t speak English and now he speaks such fluent English. Somewhere we empowered him and these are the small things that will always remain.

Last updated on 08.06.23, 09:05 AM

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