Sramana Mitra: I’m going to need you to start at the point where you’re launching this company. How did you set up the pieces of this business? How did you get jets? How did you get seats on jets? How did you get customers?
Ferren Rajput: I got engaged with a source through which I could see who’s flying and who owns planes. I was providing a service. The service was a brokered service. All I had to do was get a client who wants to fly on a private jet.
He would resource a broker. The broker would go out and find the right opportunities and present them with three or four options. The client would then say, “I want option C.” I knew I could do that.
I started promoting to those people who owned private jets. Then this individual would not buy a chartered flight. He would buy a membership which I had created to get certain benefits of flying charter under a member program. We were calling people who owned aircrafts.
It was basically about getting a list of people who owned aircrafts and calling them. That’s how the work started. You can imagine. I was starting from zero. I was living in a one-bedroom apartment. Me and my wife ended up getting divorced. That was another blow. I had my kids every other week. We slept in this tiny one-bedroom apartment just to get by.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s get down to the absolute basics of business building. Your story of resilience is something to learn from for sure. I’m also trying to capture the technicalities of how you built the business. This one person who you turned into a jet club member, how did this materialize?
Ferren Rajput: Just by getting a list of people who own private jets and just calling them.
Sramana Mitra: How did you get this list?
Ferren Rajput: It’s a public list. Anyone who owns an aircraft is registered with FAA. A lot of people own the aircraft under business names. A lot of them have individual names tied to them. Just sourcing out how to find the list was an important piece. There were a couple of different sources where you can get such lists from. It cost $100.
Sramana Mitra: You basically went and got this list, and started dialing and asking people who would want to list their jets in this mode.
Ferren Rajput: I got this list. On the list were names of people and phone numbers, and what type of aircraft they owned. It was just a matter of picking up the phone. We called every day. We made 200 to 400 calls a day. We eventually got our first guy. All we were doing was establishing relationships and building these contacts. Eventually, one of them jumped on board. That started the whole thing.
Sramana Mitra: Help me understand that move. What did you do with that one person?
Ferren Rajput: He bought a membership. That was our first revenue.
Sramana Mitra: You charge people who have jets to sign into your membership-based model.
Ferren Rajput: Right. The product we sell is chartered jets. It’s like renting a car. These are chartered aircrafts. We got the first guy to listen to our story. He jumped on board and bought a membership with us. That was our first revenue stream.
Sramana Mitra: How much did you charge?
Ferren Rajput: We charged him $68,000. That got the ball rolling. Majority of it was to be expensed for his flight costs. We were able to cash in on a couple of thousand dollars each. We were able to sustain ourselves until we found the next member.