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From the Editor

You won't get the lounges with pile carpeting, deep sofas, canapes and laptop docks. You don't have the noise and to-do of Mamatadi's Duronto non-stop trains either.

Chaitanya Kalbag | Print Edition: July 11, 2010

You won't get the lounges with pile carpeting, deep sofas, canapes and laptop docks. You don't have the noise and to-do of Mamatadi's Duronto non-stop trains either. What you do get is efficient ground staff checking you in at the airport; much better on-time performance than the larger carriers; smart and purposeful crew members; crisp turnarounds at airports; and the enticing option of criss-crossing our vast subcontinent without blowing a giant hole in your budget.

What a change in fewer than seven years. With his first flight in September 2003, Capt G.R. Gopinath flew into a territory dominated by the likes of Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Sahara Airlines. Private airlines had been allowed in India a decade earlier and a rush of investments and two spectacular belly-ups later, Gopinath's Air Deccan had a compelling offer for millions of middle class Indians: fares comparable to second-class AP train fares.

The soldier-turned-feisty entrepreneur could not see his airline through its fourth year as his cash dried out. But others have avoided his fate, building their models with tight focus, attention to detail, better funding and lots of luck-notable being IndiGo and SpiceJet. Our cover package tells the story of how low cost airlines dominate the skies today and how these two carriers have forced market leaders Jet and Kingfisher to follow in their wake as demand busts the charts.

Domestic airlines carried 21.14 million passengers in January-May this year, up a sharp 22 per cent from 2009. Other stories in the package: how regional, short-haul airlines have failed as low cost carriers succeeded, the viability risk at dozens of India's upcoming airports, and a fast-evolving aviation eco-system.

Elsewhere, we map how desperate Europe's richest man is to come back to the country of his roots. Five years after he signed an agreement to set up a steel plant in Orissa, little has moved and L.N. Mittal, Chairman, ArcelorMittal, is setting his sights on Karnataka-in part for mining rights in the ore-rich state.

Media magnate Rupert Murdoch is likely more happy with India than Mittal. Not only has Star Plus regained its top slot as India's most-watched channel, Murdoch's Indian operations are catching up with the country's biggies in media & entertainment. There is much else in this packed issue, a compelling invitation for me to a ringside seat at the Great Indian Growth Show. I'm buckled up and ready. I know you are, too.

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