In 2016, Kanika Tekriwal made it to the highly coveted Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. The year before, she was one of the seven Indians in BBC’s list of 100 most inspiring women. As one of India’s youngest entrepreneurs, Kanika has almost single-handedly stormed a male bastion and inspired millions with her personal story of grit and determination.
Kanika is the founder of JetSetGo, India’s first marketplace for chartered private jets, a feted entrepreneur, and cancer survivor.
The young entrepreneur made her foray into entrepreneurship early. “I belong to a typical Marwari family and entrepreneurship is in my blood,” she says. “I always knew from a young age that I would be running a business of my own at some point or the other.”
Planes have fascinated Kanika since she was a child, who began working at 17 and has worked for a number of renowned aviation companies, including India Bulls Aviation and Aerospace Resources. An MBA in finance from Coventry University, UK also played a role in enhancing her entrepreneurial skills.
As she was developing the plans for her path-breaking initiative, cancer came knocking at the door quite unexpectedly. Kanika was 22 when she was diagnosed and though early doctors didn’t offer hope, she did not give up till she found her way back to health.
“I have always shied away from talking about cancer and everything it entailed,” she says. “I don’t want to be a hero for a condition compared to which many people have suffered and continue to suffer a faith far worse than me. However, the nine months of cancer treatment served as a perfect break for my entrepreneurship ideas and from here the foundation of JetSetGo started.”
A reluctant hero she might be, but Kanika’s story proves the age-old adage — where there’s will, there’s truly a way.
Often hailed as Uber of the Skies, JetSetGo is a digital platform enabling customers to reserve their own private jets and helicopters.
Founded in 2013, the company boasts the country’s largest fleet of private jets at its disposal as well as helicopters. Customers can avail the flight for a variety of purposes, from destination weddings to medical emergencies.
Traditionally dominated by men, the aviation sector is not an easy place to break into. Glass ceilings abound and pre-conceived notions of women as air hostesses continue to thrive. For Kanika, however, the challenges of overcoming patriarchy are but minor hurdles in the path of offering customers a hassle-free, one-of-its-kind experience.
She says, “Initially it took time for people to take me seriously for the business I am in and I did receive remarks such as ‘you should take up baking cupcakes’ and the likes. Sometimes when I am assertive I am considered arrogant whereas a man being more assertive than me is considered passionate. But these are very non-consequential things.”
JetSetGo also boasts a line of star-studded investors, including cricketer Yuvraj Singh and businessman Puneet Dalmia.
Needless to say, her work keeps Kanika breathlessly busy. “I don’t remember doing anything apart from working for the longest time. But I do enjoy running, painting and reading a lot,” she says.
JetSetGo operates in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Dubai and New York, and Kanika envisions a global presence for her swiftly emerging brand.
Breaking out in the aviation sector is challenging. Demanding as the job may be, it keeps Kanika excited. “It has all the elements that excite me—tech, finance and marketing,” she says about working in aviation. “No day is ever the same – I get to learn something new every day.”
Every success has been important for Kanika, from receiving the first big contract for the company and signing their first aircraft, to winning the national entrepreneurship award and getting featured in the BBGC and Forbes lists. Her sights are now set on expansion into one region at a time.
“We will soon be the only travel platform for high-end domestic travel and experiences,” she says. “Our focus is to cater to the $18 billion rapidly growing in-bound travel market and to the travel needs of the Indian UHNIs who are expected to triple in number in the next 5 years. They have very different travel needs, which the current ensemble of online travel companies and startups can really not cater to effectively.”
Soaring to one achievement after another, Kanika holds that self-belief is the key to success. “Use every no as a stepping-stone to success. Turn every no into a yes through your journey should be your mantra.”