AHMEDABAD: In a first of its kind initiative, four Surat-based diamond companies have come together to start an airline service to connect Surat with smaller cities in Gujarat.
At an initial investment of about Rs 30 crore, these firms have already acquired three aircraft.
According to former president of the Surat Diamond Association (SDA) C P Vanani, this service is the brainchild of four Surat-based diamond businessmen including Govind Dholakia of SRK Exports, Lavji Badshah of Avadh-Anjani Group, Lalji Patel of Dharmanand Diamonds and Savji Dholakia of Hari Krishna Exports.
"A few years ago, Govind Dholakia floated this idea for businessmen as well as others who need to come to Surat frequently. Finally, they came together to provide connectivity, and not earn profit. Our flight will take off even if we get only one passenger," Vanani said.
Giving more details about the project, Lalji Patel said that three aircraft have already been purchased by them.
"The project will cost us Rs 30 crore to Rs 40 crore. We have already acquired two nine seater planes and one four-seater plane. The two planes will run on a fixed route within Gujarat, while the smaller plane will be given for a chartered service. It can be also used as an air-ambulance, as it is very high tech and equipped with night vision landing and take off technology," Patel said.
To operate their own airline, they have acquired a license from the Bhopal-based Ventura Airline, Patel said.
"We don't have to apply for any registration or licence to operate, because we have taken over the operation of an existing airline based in Bhopal called Ventura, which already has a licence," Patel said.
"Surat's diamond industry has opertations and dealings across the world and the country, but only two flights land and take off from Surat everyday. So we wanted to add more flights, which can connect Surat with other parts of Gujarat as well as India," Patel said.
The service is expected to be operational from Diwali and cater to smaller cities of Gujarat in the initial phase. At a later stage, services would be extended outside Gujarat, Patel said.
"As of now, our plan is to connect each and every city in Gujarat with an airport. Initially, we will start regular flights to cities like Bhavnagar and Rajkot from Surat. Then we plan to add Jamnagar, Bhuj and Palanpur," Patel said.