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Chronicle of a dream

Captain GR Gopinaths book Simply Fly charts his entrepreneurial journey in meticulous detail and tells a cracking good story of what ideas, grit and unfailing optimism can achieve. Shrabonti Bagchi meets the first-time author.

Shrabonti Bagchi

Sitting on the sunny poolside deck of Captain GR Gopinaths bungalow in the heart of the city — lovingly refurbished after he bought it in a hopelessly run down condition from the previous owners — it is a little tough to imagine him once living for months in a tent in the middle of his farm or using a bullock cart to ferry his would-be bride and her family to inspect his living arrangements.

Thats exactly the reason why Captain Gopinath equates his story with that of a New India — an India where a poor school teachers son from a village in Karnataka can launch one of the most capital-intensive businesses and, through it, change everything about a sector once thought of as elite and exclusive.

While Gopinaths textbook rags-to-riches story has often been quoted as an example of what a compulsive Indian entrepreneur with more ideas than he knows what to do with can achieve, his book Simply Fly: A Deccan Odyssey helps the reader fill in the outlines with colour.

“Too many people suggested that I write this book for me to think about it seriously,” says Gopinath while clarifying that while he wouldnt strictly call the book an autobiography, it isnt just the story of his launching Air Deccan, as seems to be the general assumption. “Nor is it a how-to book on entrepreneurial success,” he says. Instead, the book provides detailed glimpses into Gopinaths early life, his years in the army, the decade he spent as a farmer and his subsequent foray into aviation. There are few literary flourishes, yet it is obvious that when Gopinath gets down to telling a story, he tells a cracking good one with characteristic single-mindedness.

Thats also the kind of thoroughness needed to get this book out. When he started work on it about a year and a half ago, Gopinath was in the middle of launching a new company (Deccan 360, a logistics solutions company which he heads as chairman and MD). Subsequently, there was also a much-talked about election campaign. Yet, he managed to put away three to four hours every day for writing. “When it finally became too much to handle, I took to dictating large parts of the book into a recorder, later painstakingly transcribed by my colleague Pratyasha Singh,” says Gopinath. That done, his friend MK Shankar helped him edit it and bring it down to the desired number of pages during four-hour sessions every morning over a six-month period.

Ask him how he did it and pat comes the reply: “Someone once said that it is the busy man who has the time to spare.”

Writing the book, he says, has been cathartic in many ways. In a disarmingly honest confession in his introduction to the book, Gopinath says he has often been “arrogant, dogmatic, argumentative, delinquent…selfish (and) short-tempered”. “Writing a book like this makes you think about things you did not stop to look at along the way because you were too busy,” says Gopinath. “It has helped me admit the mistakes I made.”

The book provides insights not just into Gopinath the successful entrepreneur but also Gopinath the activist, conservationist and the sometime philosopher. While his activism, including his two forays into politics, is well-recorded, it is perhaps less well-known that his was the first few initiatives into organic farming in the state. A firm believer in back to nature, Gopinath practiced organic sericulture or silkworm-rearing on his farm in the 1990s, and was awarded the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 1996. The book also lets loose the romantic nature-lover in the seemingly business-hardened man: references to the romance of rivers and the monsoons abound in the narrative.

It is obvious that in spite of the numerous hurdles he has faced — created by the government, by competitors and by negative Indian attitudes — Gopinath is an optimist. It is the Tagore-loving philosopher in him that makes him rebel against resentment and cynicism and say: “Theres so much beauty in nature; in art, music, books. If you learn to appreciate that, you can rise above resentment.”

It is that, and an abiding faith in India as a land of possibilities, that makes him tick.



“We have been very happy with the services of Deccan 360. The initial hiccup in delivering shipments to our warehouse in the interiors of Derabassi district in Patiala was smoothly sorted with the intervention”.

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