Small fly

Chennai: At a time when cars are available in the Rs 13 lakh-Rs 42 lakh price band, an aircraft for Rs 19 lakh certainly seems to be a good buy. It is more so for industrialists living in small cities and districts, who have to drive down a couple of hundred kilometres daily to visit their plants.

With the government not interested in reducing the travel time by improving the country's roads, a drive between two nearby cities or towns takes a much longer time than travelling by air between two Indian metros. With the attendant risks, a busy industrialist would love to cut the time that he has to spend on the roads.

In addition, the prestige of an aircraft-owning small town industrialist or exporter goes up several notches vis--vis those who do not possess it. Technically, he will be on par with the likes of the Tatas, Birlas, Ambanis and the Mallyas as an aircraft-owner.

Making this happen in India is the Bangalore-based Agni Aviation, assembling the short takeoff and landing (STOL CH 701) micro-light aircraft. Promoted by Arvind Sharma, the company imports the aircraft kits from Zenith Aircraft Company, Mexico.

A dream come true
The three-year-old company has sold around 40 aircraft to National Cadet Corps (NCC), the paramilitary arm of the Indian Air Force, for training its cadets. Now the micro-light aircraft is getting the attention of several industrialists and businessmen living in non-metropolitan cities.

Magnum Resources general manager Anand Kumar is reluctant to give the names and numbers of the 15 private sector companies that he claims to have bought the aircraft. He, however, says: ''Apart from industrialists and air-taxi operators, our clients include executives of FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] companies who travel to different districts almost every day.''