GR Gopinath's Story: Founded Air Deccan, Ticket Worth Rs. 1, One Deal And Vijay Mallya Destroyed It

Meet the man behind Akshay Kumar's 'Sarfira' and Suriya's 'Soorarai Pottru,' GR Gopinath. He founded India's first low-cost airline and made millions of people fly on tickets worth just Rs. 1.


By Rishabh Naudiyal Last Updated:


GR Gopinath's Story: Founded Air Deccan, Ticket Worth Rs. 1, One Deal And Vijay Mallya Destroyed It

Akshay Kumar's film, Sarfira, directed by the National Award-winning director, Sudha Kongara dropped its first trailer on June 18, 2024, and it erupted the internet with immense excitement. The film is all set to be released on July 20, 2024, and is an official remake of the Tamil film, Soorarai Pottru. Soon after the release of its trailer, people started talking about Soorarai Pottru and its lead actor, Suriya, whose little glimpse in Sarfira alongside Akshay Kumar has been leading the headlines. Both films are directed by Sudha Kongara and are based on Captain GR Gopinath's inspirational life.

Meet Captain GR Gopinath, who inspired Akshay Kumar's Sarfira and Suriya's Soorarai Pottru

Captain Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath, better known as Captain GR Gopinath, is a retired army officer turned businessman. GR Gopinath is one of the most famous businessmen in India's history, as it was he who founded the country's cheapest airline. Courtesy of his vision, he succeeded in making millions of people fly for just Rs. 1. Yes! You read it right. GR Gopinath even won the Personality of the Decade Award from the K.G. Foundation.

Recommended Read: Aniruddh Dave's Story: Sold Wines, 57 Days In Hospital, Wore Diapers, Comeback With Chandu Champion

GR Gopinath was born on November 13, 1951, in Karnataka's small village, Gorur, Hassan. He was born into a middle-class family, while his father, Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar was a school teacher. Details about his mother's identity aren't available in the public domain. For the unversed, GR Gopinath's mother's uncle was a renowned novelist, Ramaswamy Iyengar, who was popularly known as 'Goruru'. Right from an early age, there was a strong emphasis on education in his family, however his parents struggled financially.

Talking about his educational background, GR Gopinath completed his schooling from Kannada Medium School. Interestingly, he took admission straight into Class five, as he couldn't start his education in time due to family reasons. It was in 1962 that GR Gopinath sat in the entrance exam of Bijapur's Sainik School and cleared it. After this, he got admission in Sainik school, where he received formidable training to clear one of India's toughest competitive entrance exams, NDA (National Defence Academy).

GR Gopinath's Army career: From becoming a Captain to taking an early retirement from Indian Army

After getting a lot of training, GR Gopinath joined the National Defence Academy in Pune and trained there for three years. Soon after getting trained at NDA, he went to Dehradun's Indian Military Academy. GR Gopinath earned the rank of a Captain quite early in his life and reportedly spent eight long years in the Indian Army. He even fought in the 1971-72 Bangladesh Liberation War. However, at the age of 28, he took an early retirement from the Indian Army. After leaving the Army, the former Captain worked to develop ecologically sustainable sericulture farms in order to help poor farmers.

You May Like This: Vijay Mallya's Wives: Marrying An Air Hostess, Becoming His Childhood Crush's Third Husband And More

GR Gopinath's airline business: Deccan Aviation to India's first low-cost airline, Air Deccan

GR Gopinath was bestowed with the Rolex Laureate Award in 1996 for introducing innovative methods in agriculture. His next business venture was related to motorbikes, as he started Malnad Mobikes, which was a dealership in Enfield. Not only this, he even opened a hotel in Hassan. After doing a series of small-term businesses, GR Gopinath took the giant step in 1997, when he co-founded Deccan Aviation.

The entrepreneur took the help of his two friends, who were in the Indian Air Force, in order to establish Deccan Aviation. For the uninitiated, Deccan Aviation was a charter helicopter service, which was solely for the rich and VIPs. The charter helicopter service was reportedly doing well when GR Gopinath decided to take another step closer to his dream of making the airline cost-effective. In 2003, he founded Air Deccan, which completely changed the dynamics of India's aviation space forever.

GR Gopinath's Air Deccan officially started its operations on August 25, 2003, with its first flight from Bengaluru to Hubbali. The affordable and cheap prices of the tickets helped common people travel by air. GR Gopinath's airline witnessed a massive growth of 30 per cent in its passenger numbers in 2005-2006. In a short period of time, Air Deccan became the third largest airline in India, with 19 per cent in the country's airline business. After the massive success of Air Deccan, multiple low-cost airlines like SpiceJet, IndiGO, JetLite, and GoAir emerged in India.

Don't Miss: Meet Murlikant Petkar, AKA 'Chandu Champion': Won India's First Gold Medal But Denied Arjuna Award

GR Gopinath sold Air Deccan to Vijay Mallya, and the latter changed it to Simplify Deccan

GR Gopinath's low-cost strategy turned out to be a game-changer in the airline business, and his growing success caught the attention of Vijay Mallya. Once back in an old interview, GR Gopinath opened up about his strategy and talked about his dream. He said:

"It is not the elite that I consider as my customers. It is the humble cleaning women of my office, the auto-rickshaw driver and other such people that we would like to cater to. We want them to dream that they too can fly, and we want to make that dream happen."

In 2005, GR Gopinath won the Rajyotsava Award, Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur, and Sir M Visvesvaraya Memorial Award. Amidst all the success of his airline business, GR Gopinath couldn't foresee what was coming ahead of him. In the year 2007, he suffered heavy losses. As per multiple reports, Air Deccan lost Rs. 213 crore during the quarter ending March 31, 2007. When GR Gopinath was unable to take out his company from the losses, he struck a deal with Vijay Mallya. As per a report in DNA, GR Gopinath sold Air Deccan to Vijay Mallya, and it was rebranded as Simplify Deccan. In August 2008, Simplify Deccan migrated to Kingfisher's reservation system and was once again renamed as Kingfisher Red.

When GR Gopinath said Vijay Mallya destroyed his airline, Air Deccan

Years after he sold his airline to Vijay Mallya, in a candid interview with Moneycontrol, GR Gopinath opened up about his decision to sell his airline, Air Deccan, to Vijay Mallya. The entrepreneur admitted that Vijay Mallya had destroyed his airline, and he should've listened to his heart. He said:

"I don't believe in rebirth but if there was one, I would not have sold the airline to Vijay Mallya. I mean, it was very good returns for the investors who invested in my airline, but Mallya destroyed the airline after the merger. I mean he didn't rob me of money but he robbed me of my dreams. So, maybe I should have listened to my heart instead of my private equity investors. But we should never shed tears on the past or complain of the present or fear the future."

What are your thoughts on GR Gopinath's incredible story and his contribution to India's aviation space? Let us know.

Also Read: Meet Siddharth Mallya's Fiancee, Jasmine: A Humanitarian, Civil Rights Advocate, Traveller And More

Stay updated with latest entertainment news
Follow us on
Google news, flipboard, facebook,
whatsapp, instagram, twitter