Murari Jalan, the man linked to the Gupta brothers, now behind the Jet Airways revival

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More than six months after hitting Indian airspace, Murari Jalan, the man who breathed life into Jet Airways’ tendering process, is still an individual shrouded in mystery. The man is making headlines again as the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) on Tuesday welcomed the Jalan-Kalrock consortium’s offer for the airline and the resolution professional hopes the carrier will return in the sky by the end of this year.

Apparently Ranchi, Jalan, born in Jharkhand, lives by the adage “don’t put all your eggs in one basket”. His business interests span various sectors such as real estate, mining, trade, construction, fast moving consumer goods, dairy, travel and tourism, and industrial works. Therefore, an investment in the aviation sector seems like a natural progression. Likewise, its investments also extend across geographies, from Russia to Uzbekistan to the United Arab Emirates and India.

Jalan began his career in the 1980s in Calcutta taking over the family paper trading business. Jalan is also said to have worked as a trader for established manufacturers such as JK Paper and Ballarpur Industries. After a successful stint in the paper business, he is said to have created a photo imaging and equipment distribution company.

Once Jalan moved its base to the United Arab Emirates, it quickly expanded into industries such as real estate, mining, fast moving consumer goods and construction. He was president of the Agio Image group, which sold and distributed photographic and consumer products from well-known companies such as Sony, Panasonic and Konica.

According to various press reports, Jalan acquired Kolkata-based Kanoi Paper and Industries and renamed it Agio Paper in 2003 to expand its paper trading business. Later in 2015, Jalan acquired a stake in the company from Dr Naresh Trehan and Associates Health Services for Rs 75 crore. Yet little is known about his wealth history.

Interestingly, Jalan focused on Uzbekistan, part of the former Soviet Union, after making significant investments in the country’s capital, Tashkent. We learn that his real estate development company, ‘MJ Developers’, has contributed to the development of infrastructure in the cities of Namangan and Bukhara in the country which gained independence in 1991.

“An investor is always looking for opportunities. We have always been drawn to investing in developing markets for the new challenges and excitement it brings and the scalability of growth it offers by compared to the saturated markets of the Gulf and the West. In addition, we are fascinated by the culture and tradition of the region, “Jalan said on an online portal in response to a question about his interest in Uzbekistan.

Based in Dubai, MJ Developers’ main activities span countries such as Russia, Brazil and India.

The reports also give clues to “mysterious but not established links” between Jalan and Patanjali Ayurved belonging to Baba Ramdev. Apparently, there are documents from the Indian Ministry of Commercial Affairs which show that the company Murari Lal is allegedly involved in the trade, export, distribution and marketing of dairy products, health foods, herbal medicines and Ayurvedic cosmetic items for Patanjali. “Regardless of these claims, the company never opened its doors and the founders never looked back. We know that Patanjali Ayurved belongs to yoga guru Baba Ramdev. However, it is not clear whether the two companies are related in some way, “a report in Market flow said.

The Jalan family also maintains close ties with the Gupta brothers (Ajay, Atul, Rajesh Gupta) of South Africa who face serious charges of corruption in that country. Shashank Singhal, son of Atul Gupta, is married to Jalan’s niece, Shivangi.

A Activity area A report earlier this year said Jalan was considering launching a full-service airline and developing an airport in Uzbekistan. Jalan has no aviation background, but members of Kalrock’s management including Manoj Madnani and John Oram have been looking at freight and logistics while working for Polish billionaire Jan Kulczyk. Still, many questions and concerns remain about Jalan and how the low-key businessman is preparing for Jet Airways’ return to the skies.

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