Friday, August 05, 2022

Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, India's Warren Buffett, set for take-off with Akasa Air

The world is gripped by recession fears, jet fuel prices are sky-high, and aviation is a notoriously fickle industry. But the billionaire dubbed "India's Warren Buffett" is launching an airline on Sunday.

Co-founding Akasa Air was a rare departure into entrepreneurship for Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, who made his fortune on the stock exchange as a value share investor and is often compared to the Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO.

The 62-year-old's entry into the capital-intensive sector has raised eyebrows, with many pointing to the chequered history of billionaire-backed airlines in India as well as the daunting global economic outlook.

"A lot of people question why I've started an airline. Rather than answer them, I say I'm prepared for failure," the billionaire said at an industry event in February.

"It's better to have tried and failed than not tried at all."

Several such ventures have failed in recent years.

Fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya is fighting extradition from Britain on charges of financial fraud after his pet project Kingfisher Airlines went bankrupt in 2012, losing Indian banks more than $1 billion.

Disgraced entrepreneur Subrata Roy counted Air Sahara as a part of his empire for more than a decade, until consecutive losses forced a sale to fellow self-made billionaire Naresh Goyal's Jet Airways NSE 0.63 % in 2007.

Jet collapsed in 2019, with many blaming the Air Sahara deal for its downfall.

05/08/22 AFP/Economic Times

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