IT Helps Bring Down Airline Costs: Capt Gopinath

by Manu Sharma    Jan 20, 2009

When Captain Gopinath started a low-cost airline in the form of Air Deccan in 2003, it was often ridiculed and dismissed as unsustainable in the long-term. However, today we have several low-cost airlines plying in the country, which has brought air travel within the reach of the common man. It was the vision of this man who dared to think differently that kick-started the low-cost airline revolution in India. Capt Gopinath may have sold off Air Deccan to Kingfisher, but he is busy giving shape to another idea, a new cargo airline, Deccan 360. Publishing house Harpercollins has also roped in Capt. Gopinath to write his autobiography. Captain Gopinath, pioneering entrepreneur, spoke to CXOtoday s Manu Sharma on the criticality of technology in the aviation industry. Excerpts from the interview.

What are the key factors that impact growth in your industry? How are you as a company responding to these challenges?
I think the ability to sustain your dream down the line especially for a start up company right from selling your dream and getting good talent to join you and also investing in your organization are the some of the key factors. Also the challenge to execute and get the project off the ground by getting all the proper government clearances is indeed tough.

What has been impact of the global economic meltdown on your business? How are you coping with the current recessionary business climate?
Recession has impacted every one not just the airline industry. The huge credit squeeze and the slump in demand have now percolated down the line. I think the whole ecology across most sectors is depressed however I feel it is only a temporary phenomenon.
One way to cope with recession is to be innovative. Besides also be courageous and hardworking to get your cost down on an on-going basis during these difficult times. But I feel there are opportunities for the courageous by using technology to reduce costs and inventory, since recession has been happening time and again and many have come out of it safely. You need to stimulate demand by making more people participate in a country like India and buy your product/services. And the way to do it is to understand the customers needs and offer something better and lower-priced.

Over the last ten years large enterprises have automated their business processes and increased their efficiencies by deploying information technology, what has been your own experience in this regard?
Information Technology (IT) is very important for us. It does some very crucial things like brings you the ability to lower your costs drastically especially in the airline industry. It has also helped us eliminate a lot of middle men, who were taking a cut in our revenue. These include travel agents, service providers, network providers and a whole lot of people who were taking away a margin that can be otherwise passed on to the customers directly.

Moving forward do you see technology becoming increasingly critical to business success?
Technology is ultimately needed everywhere at your work place. Basically it is enabler to look at things.  IT based technology will enabled you to check inventory from your drawing room be it New York, Paris or Bangalore. As today aircrafts are running only with about 50% occupancy but with technology, we can come out with a suitable pricing policy accordingly. 

Do you pursue IT as a strategy or is it merely a tactical tool?
I think IT is more a tactical tool. Strategies mostly in terms of innovation are done otherwise it is a tactical tool to bring in efficiency and real time information.

What are your expectations from your CIO/IT organization?
We expect a CIO to bring in that technology that is beneficial to the common man. Today only three percent of the Indian population has access to Internet and so is the case with credit cards with only two percent of the Indians having access to it. So getting customers to benefit by using the Internet is a major challenge and our CIO and the IT department address all these issues.

Personally, are you gadget-savvy? What are the gadgets you use?
I am not a gadget-savvy person since I don t use the computer at all. I feel it kills my creativity and so don t use computers. I do use a Blackberry though only to check mails and send SMS.