Missing the right people
To answer these questions, the 61-year-old son of a village school teacher promises to meet but reneges repeatedly, pleading a hectic schedule.
Those who knew him well, in different capacities, paint the picture of a man with great ideas, but who has been let down, sometimes by the people he employed, or sometimes by as simple a fact as not having a tight enough rein on finances.
Visionary is a term that crops up often if you are discussing Gopinath.
And it is a tag not unwarranted - after all, how many silkworm farmers even harbour dreams of becoming aviation entrepreneurs?
HL Rikhye, who joined as CEO of Deccan 360, recalls his first meeting with the ever-smiling, bespectacled businessman in 2009.
"He explained his vision, that the company would be the FedEx of India and that it would connect over 600 cities veritably overnight. I was quite impressed and agreed to come on board, even though I had never considered shifting from Delhi."
Like with Air Deccan, Gopinath had big plans for his express logistics venture, the seeds of which were sown when he realised it was easier to fly in an aircraft engine from Singapore than transfer it within the country.
"My vision is to make Deccan 360 ubiquitous. It must be present across the length and breadth of the country. If someone wants to set up a factory in a remote corner of Tamil Nadu, he should be able to do it because of Deccan 360," he had said in an interview.
To another publication, he had said, "My goal is to connect 75 cities in India to each other on a 24-hour delivery schedule within the next year." For the man who made the aam aadmi fly with Rs 1 tickets, no dream was too big.
But the express cargo venture, which was to pioneer the hub-and-spoke model favoured by FedEx in India using Nagpur as the central hub, folded up within two years of its launch.
"He had great vision but he did not have the right people. He appointed as franchisees people without prior knowledge of the sector. Handling cargo is not like selling soap, but that's how others treated it," says P Shanmugam, CMD of Coimbatore-based Shaan's Cargo, which has been in the cargo business for over two decades, and a Deccan 360 franchisee for a year before pulling out.
Rikhye's experience was not dissimilar. "He had tremendous energy but he did not have the right people to execute his vision," he says.
While the plan for an express cargo and logistics company was good in theory, it clearly faltered in execution, due to a variety of reasons.
"The aircraft that the company had procured was not suitable for short-haul domestic flights. And in a logistics- environment, you must have exceptionally good pick-up and delivery, otherwise you will fail," says Rikhye, who set up his own aviation consultancy after quitting.
Nevertheless, Rikhye stayed on till 2011 and by deploying the three Airbus A310s on long-haul international flights, he was able to take revenue figures from Rs 1 crore a month to Rs 15 crore a month.