February 14, 2020
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Rahul Bhatia, Indigo

Bhatia’s low-cost airline is now the biggest in India. The flights are 15% more fuel-efficient, ply in routes that burn less fuel. Even the speed is moderated.

Rahul Bhatia, Indigo
Photograph by Getty Images
Rahul Bhatia, Indigo
  • IndiGo’s air passenger market share is  40 per cent


Rahul Bhatia is no born traveller. Yet, he has been setting up companies, starting with InterGlobe in 1988, that take people places. He has IndiGo, the airline that put him among the fifty richest Indians, but he can also put you up in hotels he owns. And, yes, there’s a chance he runs a restaurant in your city.

Bhatia is a product of the New India—the one that was born in the 1990s. After college, Bhatia planned to become a teacher, but ended up at his father’s travel agency. He planned to start a telecom venture then—phones were all the rage in India then—but was running an airline soon after. Sure, there were ups and downs, as when he and his father lost control of their travel business. But there were far more twists and turns than there were upsets. Bhatia’s clients moved with him where he went, migrating to the high-tech travel company, InterGlobe.

Bhatia’s low-cost airline is now the biggest in India. A good partner—the well-known and trusted industry face, Rakesh Gangwal (ex-CEO, US Airways)—proved pivotal. Bhatia went all-economy on IndiGo flights, a novelty for Indian customers. They elected to fly fewer destinations, but cover them more intensively than competitors. They booked the Airbus A320neo, known to be 15 per cent more fuel-efficient. They planned routes that burn less fuel. They even moderated speed to save fuel.

Growth was rapid and built on foundations of successful friendships, deals and partnerships, just like in the old economy. He acquired more than 100 planes at the peak of the global financial crisis. Another 250 were announced in 2015 worth Rs 1.7 lakh crore. In January 2017, the company’s share of the air passenger market stood close to 40 per cent. Bhatia has done this not when the industry was not waning but actually flourishing.

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