“When all is going to plan, it is easy to please a client, but when you have unforeseen issues out of your control, it is the efficiency at which you provide a solution that wins over customers and buys their loyalty.” Ameerh Naran, CEO of Vimana Private Jets.
Vimana Private Jets is an independent broker with access to over 5,000 aircraft worldwide. It is also recognised as the industry’s most unrivalled and sought-after private jet service, with a repeated annual growth of more than 250% since it was founded.
Simon Wittenberg caught up with its CEO, Ameerh Naran, to talk planes and the Coronavirus.
LM: You entered the private aviation sector at just 23 years of age with very little knowledge of the industry. How and why did you choose to establish Vimana Private Jets?
AN: At 23, I was approached by someone working for Halcyon Jets in the USA, asking whether I would like to represent them in Africa, as they knew I was from Zimbabwe. Despite having no aviation knowledge, apart from having flown light aircraft at 16 years of age when doing my Private Pilot’s Licence, my research proved it would be a good opportunity because there were no competitors on the continent.
Not quite fulfilled with the terms offered to me by Halcyon, I approached the world’s two largest private jet brokerages, one being Blue Star Jets whom I convinced to offer me exclusive representation rights for the Africa region. Impressed with my performance in Africa, I was able to add Asia, Greece, Monaco, Switzerland and the Balkan region to my portfolio. Blue Star Jets merged with Apollo Jets in 2016. Spotting a niche to provide a more unique and personalised service, Vimana Private Jets was established. We very quickly gained a loyal client base and built up a network with access to over 5,000 aircraft worldwide.
LM: Excuse the pun, but how did you get the business off the ground, and why did you choose the name ‘Vimana’?
AN: The first-ever mention of a flying object in any language was Vimana, which in Sanskrit, was a mythological flying chariot or palace. Our aim was to be the first private jet brokerage to specifically cater for clients travelling primarily on VIP airliners, and to supply the customer service at the level we do.
As for “getting it off the ground”, I had a client base I had built up during my time at Blue Star Jets, which I moved across. However, this still meant I continued to work seven days a week at every hour to personally oversee every client’s trip, as I had done for the five years prior when setting up Blue Star Jets.
I needed to build client trust based on an offering of unparalleled service – my ability to meet any requests and get the most extraordinary requirements met, whether getting an airport specially opened for a client, to providing a jet in the fastest time possible to meet very last-minute urgent requests, all whilst offering the most competitive pricing in the industry. Our clients recognised this unique service offering and have remained very loyal as a result.
LM: What have been the key ingredients to create such a successful company?
AN: Initially, it was tenacity above all else. I spent nearly a year spending 18 to 20 hours a day, every day, cold calling and writing to potential clients with no success before getting any clients on board. Once I had customers, the focus was on exceptional client service, maintaining the highest standards of professionalism, confidentiality and value, the unique aircraft offering and availability and high-quality recruitment.
We strive to get the best fit to join our charter teams. We invest in the intensive training of every employee to ensure standards are kept high. We also limit the number of clients we work with, so we can guarantee the Vimana level of service is maintained.
From my experience, what buys client loyalty is the way you deal with issues when things go wrong. We always plan for things, such as technical problems with aircraft, or airports being closed due to bad weather, so we can expeditiously move to an alternate back up aircraft, or to an airport with ground transport at the ready etc. Client feedback has shown that this has been the largest differentiator between us and other brokerages.
When all is going to plan, it is easy to please a client, but when you have unforeseen issues out of your control, it is the efficiency at which you provide a solution that wins over customers and buys their loyalty.
LM: Where is your company located, and is your customer base global?
AN: We have offices in the UK, UAE, Africa, Asia and the USA. Our customer base is global, which is why each office operates 24/7, 365 days a year.
LM: Who are your typical clients?
AN: They are heads of state, ultra-high net worth individuals (UHNWIs), royals and corporations.
LM: Which is the most popular type of jet that customers ask for?
AN: With over 5,000 aircraft available to us, and clients flying for both business and pleasure, there is no one jet that is the most popular. However, we are now well known for our exceptional offering of VIP airliners. These are large aircraft, such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, that would usually accommodate 250 people, but has been reconfigured for 40 passengers.
There’s also the Airbus A319CJ that would seat 160 passengers in a regular configuration, but has been reconfigured to accommodate 19 people. These aircraft will usually have a dedicated stateroom (master bedroom) with en-suite bathroom and shower, studies, dining rooms and relaxation areas. The aircraft are treated more as a flying hotel suite than a private jet.
LM: Which are the prime destinations that clients ask to fly to?
AN: We constantly fly our clients to every possible destination around the globe. Whether it be corporations who need access to their remote asset locations, such as mines or dense jungle areas, to UHNWIs flying regularly between their properties. Our trips are incredibly diverse. We have close relationships with Civil Aviation Authorities and airports around the globe, and as such, are able to obtain overflight and landing permits in restricted locations even during natural disasters and war.
LM: How has the Coronavirus affected private jet travel, and how is your business helping with transporting vital medical equipment?
AN: First and foremost, we are no longer rejecting a single request. Usually, we only work with a very select list of approved clients who are regular flyers with us, and in the main, use us exclusively. Given the unparalleled level of service we offer our clients, Vimana Private Jets does not, as a rule, take on many new clients for ad hoc requests. However, in the last month, we have been experiencing very high demand for private charters, from new clients which we are accommodating, given the situation.
As a socially conscious company, we are mindful of the need to meet this exceptional demand and so we are not turning away any new request, even though it means our operations teams are flat out 24/7 – we are taking on far more clients than we typically would.
We are especially proud to be part of a collective solution with embassies in the repatriation of citizens worldwide, to return people stranded overseas safely home. Due to a chronic shortage of commercial cargo aircraft, Vimana Private Jets has also been meeting daily demand for medical cargo and we are proud to be part of this global effort, utilising both dedicated cargo aircraft, as well as VIP passenger aircraft to transport medical equipment and supplies to many developing countries in particular.
Our diplomatic contacts have been especially useful in getting things moving quickly, and we have successfully delivered to countries desperate for supplies. With our highly trained teams working across four continents, we can respond very quickly and efficiently to every urgent request.
LM: Thank you for your time Ameerh, and it has been a pleasure talking to you.
Vimana Private Jets – Where and How?
For more information on Vimana Private Jets, visit https://vimanaprivatejets.com.
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