Kids Corner


He Created A Unique Airline:
Canada’s Surjit Singh Babra





Ludhiana-Punjab-born Surjit Singh Babra doesn't hold any MBA or business degree, but he went on to start a unique airline in 1988.

Gifted with extraordinary business acumen, Toronto-based Surjit Singh, 65, has turned SkyLink Group into a multi-million-dollar conglomerate of SkyLink Aviation, SkyLink Travel, SkyLink Express, SkyLink Holidays and Dollar Rent-a-Car, with each unit servicing a particular segment of travel, tourism, aviation and cargo transport.

Surjit left Punjab with his family for Kenya when he was just two. From Kenya, he moved to London as a student.

"I got part time work as a helper in a travel office and then a full-time job. That's how I got a break into this profession. Then I started a retail travel agency called SkyLink.”

As he learnt the tricks of the travel trade, young Surjit saw a big opportunity for himself as a general sales representative in the huge North America market.

"So I left London and landed in Toronto in 1979 to set up my small travel office in Canada. By that time I had developed a great passion for business and we set about establishing our offices in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Vancouver and Montreal,'' he says.

A chance meeting with Israeli immigrant Walter Arbib, a former travel agent, led to the two jointly floating the SkyLink airline in 1988.

"It was the burning passion of two Canadian immigrants (Walter and I) to succeed that drove our business to new heights. Every year we reached new milestones. By the time 9/11 happened, we had become a very visible and respected brand. That's why we survived when many airlines sank.''

Before long, SkyLink became globally known as the UN, the Red Cross, and US and Canadian government agencies hired it to fly relief supplies or personnel to troubled spots of the world. Lauding the humanitarian missions of SkyLink, Ontario included the SkyLink profile in its school textbooks.

However, Surjit describes the airlifting of new 149 saroops (copies) of the Guru Granth Sahib from Amritsar to Canada by his airline as "the most satisfying event'' of hisl ife. "The local ‘Sacha Sauda’ book store came to me for bringing the saroops from India. Since the Guru Granth Sahib is a living Guru for us, SkyLink made arrangements that each bir was seated on an individual seat.''

In 2008, Surjit and his partner started strategically exiting from their multi-million-dollar aviation business empire by selling its various segments to pour money into his newly created investment company SkyLink Capital.

However, as this father of three was about to retire in 2014, a new opportunity presented itself.

"The American food processing giant Heinz was closing its plant at Leamington in Ontario. We - four partners - formed an investor group called Highbury Canco Corp and bought this plant and saved 250 jobs,'' says Surjit.

He links the success of the Sikh diaspora to the `everything is do-able' credo.

"Guru Gobind Singh meant the same thing when he said `savaa lakh se ek larraun' (Each Sikh is equivalent to 125,000).

“This, coupled with the spirit of the Sikh jaikara (clarion call) -- ‘Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal!’ -- is the secret of the global Sikh success story .''

[Courtesy: Times of India. Edited for]
December 7, 2016

Conversation about this article

1: Rabinder Singh Riar (Jalandhar, Punjab), December 09, 2016, 2:47 AM.

I have read of your achievements. It shows your faith in the Guru's words and your determination with clear vision and honestly doing the job.

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Canada’s Surjit Singh Babra"

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