India’s business aircraft operators have formed a guild that will help provide a platform to encourage close cooperation amongst the various stakeholders of the industry.

The Business Aircraft Operators’ Association (BAOA) comprises thirty-nine business aircraft operators, representing about 65% of India’s fleet in this sector.

India’s soaring economy has created a class of wealthy entrepreneurs who possess an insatiable appetite for luxury goods ranging from penthouses and fast cars to one of the ultimate symbols of status and power - the private jet.

The surge in demand of these technologically-advanced and luxurious aircraft is due to rising business aspirations and frequent travel needs of the industry to save time and ease pressure, Rohit Kapur, Managing Director of Arrow Aircraft, which sells Gulfstream in India, tells Aviation Week.

“The ownership of a private jet is now viewed as a tool for growth and means to enhance profitability,” Kapur says.

Kapur, who is also the President of BAOA, says, “The business aviation industry is growing at an encouraging rate and India is all set to be the third largest aviation market by 2020.”

The great distances between cities, the need for doing business, safety and especially security issues are causing a greater need for private aviation in India.

Considering the immense potential India has with more than 1,000 aircraft to be added over the next 10 years, there was an imminent need of a body that would aim to bring the fraternity into close cooperation for overall industry growth and mutual benefits, Kapur says.

He says ”BAOA will act as a catalyst to unify the cornerstones of this growth and overcome the existing challenges the business aviation sector faces today.”

BAOA has also been accorded recognition by the International Business Aviation Council, which is the umbrella organization for all business aviation activities across the world.

According to a recent report released by aviation consultancy firm Firestone, India presently has a total of 136 private jets made by global aircraft manufacturers like Hawker Beechcraft, Cessna, Bombardier and Gulfstream.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the country’s civil aviation regulator, puts the number for the existing fleet of private aircraft in India at 277 which includes 86 choppers, 95 executive or business jets and 96 twin turboprops.

Kapur foresees the demand for the private jet sector to increase in the coming years as bad roads and poor transport infrastructure have hampered the spread of business to interiors of India and aboard.

The iron-ore rich belt of Bellary - a small, dusty mining town in Karnataka in south India - has recently prompted many miners to fly in private charters. There are at least eight private aircraft which are owned by mine owners in Bellary.

The buoyancy of India’s private aviation market was also demonstrated during the recent World Cup cricket semi-final held in a small north Indian town of Mohali when many wealthy Indians descended on its tiny airport.

However, the growth in business aviation has outgrown the infrastructure available for the industry. “We will be seeking support and cooperation from the regulatory bodies to develop adequate infrastructure and facilities for business aviation,” Kapur adds.

Private owners and business corporate houses that seek to import their own private jets need to register with the DGCA as a non-scheduled operator. The company can operate the aircraft as per its organization’s requirements only after the completion of the registration process.

“We get many applications from different sectors and companies seeking permission to import these aircraft,” a DGCA official says.

But the process takes its own course with a lot of factors like jet parking, aircraft size and minimum required instruments in the aircraft, which are taken into consideration before the permission is granted to the company.

After the Indian government imposed a custom duty of 2.5% on import of aircraft in March this year, the aircraft got slightly costlier.

However, this was unlikely to put off new customers and companies keen on acquiring private aircraft.

InterGlobe Established Products Ltd, operator of India’s largest low-cost carrier Indigo, has launched its new business of exclusive distributorship of executive jets, seaplanes and helicopters.

The company’s range of aviation products includes Hawker Beechcraft, Sikorsky helicopters, Pacific Aerospace P750 and Dornier seaplane.

The company’s decision to enter the Indian market was guided by its aspiration to feed the growing appetite of burgeoning Indian millionaires, Nigel Harwood, President and Chief Executive Officer of InterGlobe tells Aviation Week. “With the world’s fastest-growing population of millionaires, India is a lucrative market for luxury brands,” Harwood says.

“In fact, India has seen a growth rate of 35% in the private jet segment in the last one and a half years, so the growth opportunity for private jet manufacturers to deliver their products into India is tremendous,” he adds.

Harwood says he does not think the private jet market in the country is restricted to the lifestyle needs of its businessmen and private corporations that evaluate aircraft “not as a lifestyle accessory but as a business tool”.

“With India’s connectivity problems, one can fly from one destination to the other with flexibility and privacy, therefore allowing a much more productive use of time,” he says.

Empire Aviation Group, a Dubai-based private aviation specialist and operator of one of West Asia’s largest managed fleets of business jets, has also announced plans to extend its reach into India.

Executive Director Paras Dhamecha tells Aviation Aviation Week this was the right time to enter the Indian aviation market, as business jet registration in India had risen strongly during recent years and there was a growing interest in the sector.

“The market opportunity is especially attractive for our aircraft management services, in which we take owners’ aircraft onto our mixed fleet and manage, operate and charter them on behalf of the owner,” Dhamecha says.

“Our clear aim in India is to emulate the success we have achieved in the Middle East,” he says.

The list of Indian entrepreneurs who own private aircraft includes Vijay Mallya, the liquor baron behind Kingfisher beer, who owns an Airbus Corporate Jet, Gautam Singhania, head of Indian fashion retailer Raymonds has a Challenger 604 and Tata Group’s Chairman Ratan Tata who possesses a Falcon 2000.

Mukesh Ambani - the billionaire Chairman of Reliance Industries, is the owner of the Bombardier Global Express, Falcon 900EX and Airbus Corporate Jet. His Airrbus is custom-fitted with an office, a cabin with game consoles, music systems, satellite television and wireless communications.