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Talking To

Published on: April 19, 2021, 2:36 a.m.
Things look positive for us, says Jet Airways' new owner Jalan
  • Jalan: aviation has been an area of interest for me ever since I can remember

By Yeshi Seli. Assistant Editor, Business India

By when do you expect Jet Airways to be airborne again?

We are optimistic about getting the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) clearance during this month. Within six months of that, we will be airborne again. Things look positive for us as of now.

Why did you consider investing in an airline?

Aviation has been an area of interest for me ever since I can remember. We were actually looking for an opportunity in this sector all along. Interestingly, despite the pandemic, we got an opportunity to make inroads into the sector by investing in Jet Airways in October 2020.

Do you intend to buy brand new aircraft into the existing fleet? If so, why?

Yes, we do intend to buy 25 new aircraft, which would include 20 narrow-bodied aircraft and five wide-bodied ones. We are looking at both Boeing and Airbus. Once the NCLT’s clearance is in, we will firm up our orders. We would like to fly them internationally, as also in the domestic sector.

Are all the previous routes Jet operated on available for flying?

We have invested in Jet Airways due to its legacy and have submitted a plan to Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, expressing our desire to fly on all the earlier routes. We don’t see any challenges in getting all the earlier slots.

What about the erstwhile employees of Jet Airways? Are they likely to be reinstated in the organisation?

The earlier employees of the organisation are assets and we intend to recruit as many as possible, depending on merit and operational requirement. We may recruit an additional team too, if we shortlist buying Airbus aircraft, as the pilots would have to be different from the earlier ones.

Do you intend to change the look of the airline? Perhaps a new logo!

We have no intention of making any changes. So, nothing will appear any different from what it was in the past.

Are there any changes that one would notice onboard?

We intend to be more youth-friendly - which would include services like the Internet in the Skies and also in-flight programmes, to attract the youth and also keep them entertained.

Will you consider setting up a separate cargo fleet or would you fly combo flights?

We are considering setting up a separate cargo vertical. We can consider utilising the older fleet for the same. But all these are just options we are mulling over at the moment. When the time comes we will make a specific announcement to that effect.

Jet Airways is now going to be headquartered in Delhi. What made you consider Delhi?

National Capital Region (NCR) is more convenient at present; so, yes, our corporate headquarters will be in Delhi/ NCR. Besides, with most things going virtual these days, it doesn’t really matter where one is based. Everything is available at the click of a button now.

Where did you grow up? Can you share a brief on your background?

I was born in Ranchi and began to work there, till I moved to Kolkata for a few years. From there, I shifted to Russia, as I saw a lot of business opportunity there. I later moved to Dubai. At present I have business interests across many continents.

  • We have invested in Jet Airways due to its legacy and have submitted a plan to Directorate General of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, expressing our desire to fly on all the earlier routes. We don’t see any challenges in getting all the earlier slots

Fact file

Murari Lal Jalan was born in Ranchi on 1 August 1964. His father had a paper trading business. He is said to have got involved in the business when he was just 13 years old. He contributed and assisted his father in the paper trading business in Ranchi for a few years. In 1980, he invested in a photo colour lab and began travelling extensively all over India on work. Sometime later, he became a distributor of paper for companies like ITC. 

In 1987, Jalan brought two photo processing labs in Ranchi and then went on to acquire more of them in the neighbouring states of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal – bringing the total number of processing labs to 20. 

He saw an emerging business market in Russia and moved to Tashkent in 1992. As Russia was a big hub for the photo imaging industry, it was an opportune time for Jalan to invest there. He soon became the distributor of Konica Minolta in Russia and other CIS countries, besides Brazil and Eastern Europe. Within a span of 10 years, he had become the world’s largest distributor for Konica Minolta. 

Meanwhile, his interest in paper processing, especially in the photo imaging sector continued. He invested in three paper mills in India – one each in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and National Capital Region (NCR). These mills produce writing and printing paper.

In 2006, Jalan moved to Dubai and ventured into real estate. He set up a company called MJ Developers. He also made inroads into the real estate sector in Uzbekistan. Real Estate was booming and MJ Developers ventured into making low-cost housing in Uzbekistan. Nearly 15,000 people are staying in the houses made by MJD in Uzbekistan. The company intends to invest in a smart city project in Kolkata too but the clearances are pending so the management is yet to make an announcement.

In 2010, Jalan invested in an eye-care clinic in Uzbekistan. As the dynamics of the photo imaging segment was changing, the shift to other segments became more viable. In 2015, he invested in Medanta Medicity in India and became a shareholder.

Meanwhile, in 2016, the first democratically elected government was formed in Uzbekistan, which led to the creation of more opportunities, as new policies favoured investments. 

In 2018, MJD decided to invest in four hotels across Uzbekistan. At present, nearly 32 million sq ft area in Uzbekistan is being constructed by M J Developers. In October 2020, the company, along with an investment company Kalrock from UK, won a bid to acquire Jet Airways. Jalan loves to travel and it’s this fad for travelling that led to his understanding of the civil aviation sector and generated a deep interest in the same. 

He loves cricket and is also an avid reader. He likes to read whenever he gets time between work and travel.

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