On 17th October, the partnership consisting of Kalrock Capital and Murari Lal Jalan won the bid to revive Jet Airways. The troubled airline will finally be able to fly the skies again after more than a year, by initially kickstarting domestic flights. However, this will have to wait, as all the required formalities have to be completed. That aside, we believe that the name Murari Lal Jalan is one that none of us have heard before. Let us understand what this random stranger does, and why he plans to enter the airline industry.

The Mystery Man

According to many in the business world, Murari Lal Jalan is a very mysterious man. There is not much information about how he was able to create all his wealth. He has always kept a very low profile, and is not popular among the business communities in India or abroad. Totally inexperienced in the field, he has confused a lot of people as to how he was able to enter into the airline industry. Let us look at some of the facts which we know are for certain: 

In the 1980s, Murari Lal Jalan began his career by entering into the paper industry. He started working at his family’s paper trading business in Kolkata. He also worked as a trader for JK Paper and Ballarpur Industries, which were once big paper manufacturing companies. In 2003, he wanted to expand his paper business, and thus, acquired Kolkata-based Kanoi Paper and Industries. He renamed the company to Agio Paper, and currently has a manufacturing facility in Bilaspur (Chattisgarh). However, In 2010, the paper company faced a lawsuit from government agencies, for pollution-related issues. The production activities of Agio Paper have been suspended since then. So almost his whole career, his focus was on the paper industry and even that did not end well either.

After his paper company received backlash, Jalan began plans to enter the real estate and healthcare sector. In 2015, he approached Dr. Naresh Trehan and Associates Health Services. He went on to acquire a stake in the company for Rs 75 crore, through a secondary share sale transaction. A secondary sale means that Jalan bought-out the shares from an existing stockholder. Around the same time as the acquisition, Dr. Trehan’s Medanta Hospital had plans to establish a hospital in Dubai, with the help of Jalan. Unfortunately, this plan was not implemented.

Jalan kept going and began to secure his vision of entering into more businesses. Once he moved his base to the UAE, he quickly expanded to sectors such as real estate, mining, fast-moving consumer goods, and construction. He was chairman of the Agio Image group, which sold and distributed photographic and consumer products of well-known companies such as Sony, Panasonic, and Konica.

He established the real estate development company, MJ Developers. The firm has its headquarters in Dubai, but its main businesses span over countries such as Russia, Brazil, and India. MJ Developers is currently engaged in developing residential and commercial properties in Uzbekistan. Jalan is also contributing to the development of the city of Namangan (in Uzbekistan), which has been termed as a land of investment opportunity in pharmaceuticals, the health sector, automobile, and information technology. Various reports state that he was able to improve his business position through these projects in Uzbekistan. In fact, if you search his name on Google, many shady self-praising articles from Uzbekistan will show up.

It is also interesting to know that Jalan had partnered with his own family relatives to set up Patanjali India Distribution Ltd. Certain documents from the Indian Ministry of Corporate Affairs state that this company would be involved in trading, export, distribution, and marketing of milk products and health foods. The list of products also included herbal medicines and ayurvedic cosmetic items. Regardless of these claims, the company never opened, and the founders never looked back on it. We do know that Patanjali Ayurved is owned by the yoga guru, Baba Ramdev. However, it is not clear whether the two companies are linked in some way.

Entry into Airline Industry

At a time when most airline companies are going through huge losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we see that Kalrock Group and Murari Lal Jalan have plans to revive a very troubled airline- Jet Airways. You can read more about why the airline company failed here. Some may question as to why there was a sudden need for Jalan to enter into this field. Many have suspicions whether this deal would really help the airline to bring back its former glory.

Through the bid to revive Jet Airways, it would be the first time that Jalan starts his venture into the airline industry.  “Jet Airways is a renowned Indian aviation company with a strong legacy. The aviation sector underwent substantial correction on account of Covid-19 and created an opportune time to enter the sector. Our vision for Jet Airways is to operate the carrier as a full-service airline, both domestic and international”, he declared in a statement. The point to be noted here is that Jalan has no expertise in this particular sector. However, the management team of Kalrock does have the essential experience from cargo and logistics management through past deals. They have big plans to take Jet Airways to new heights.

Now, we know that Murari Lal Jalan has always been interested in entering into multiple business sectors. His latest entry into the aviation or airline industry can be analysed as part of his plan to speed up the expansion of his empire. The proverb ‘don’t put all your eggs in one basket’  can clearly be attributed to him. 

But now, a major doubt remains to be answered – how was Jalan able to create all this wealth and expand his business to such a large magnitude? We have seen that his initial business in the paper manufacturing industry had failed. Also, when Jalan moved to the UAE, he was not able to contribute effectively towards the implementation of projects in the healthcare sector. He created a company in India that was never launched. Moreover, the fact that most business people don’t know about him, makes everything all the more suspicious. All these facts make us feel very unsure and doubtful about his new deal with Jet Airways. Let us wait and watch for the results of this revival plan.