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Billionaire Jhunjhunwala plans to launch ultra-low cost airline in India, eyes 70 planes

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala

Billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who is known as a stock market ace, is planning to start an ultra-low cost airline in India which will be built into a 70 aircraft fleet over the next four years.

Jhunjhunwala said in an interview to Bloomberg TV  on Wednesday that he is considering investing $35 million and would own a 40% stake of the airline. He expects to get a no-objection certificate from the civil aviation ministry within the next 15 days.

The will be called Akasa Air and the management team, which includes a former senior executive of Delta Air Lines Inc., is looking to buy planes that can carry 180 passengers, he said.

It’s a bold bet by Jhunjhunwala, who’s known locally as India’s Warren Buffett, in a market that has seen some airlines go bankrupt as intense price wars have kept the price of air tickets even as cost of operations have been soaring due to high fuel costs.

With air travel being badly hit due to the pandemic even leading airline IndiGo has seen a widening of losses.

However, Jhunjhunwala said he was “very, very bullish on India’s aviation sector in terms of demand."

"For the culture of a company to be frugal you’ve to start off fresh," added Jhunjhunwala, who also heads the private equity and asset management firm Rare Enterprises.

He is of the view that with vaccination picking pace and immunity growing there will be no third Covid wave which everyone is talking about.

The airline business in India has been considered high-risk as two major airlines – Kingfisher Airways and Jet Airways India have also collapsed in recent years.

But Jhunjhunwala thinks he has chosen the right team to run his proposed airline which will make all the difference.