Tony Fernandes has conquered the skies with the budget airline AirAsia he built into a multibillion-dollar portfolio of companies.
And that from an initial investment of just US$1 million (Dh3.67m).
Now he is turning his attention in an unlikely direction: the sports car market.
The Malaysian entrepreneur's latest acquisition is Caterham Cars, a small company based in Surrey in the south of England. The idea is classic Fernandes: his strategy comes down to finding major sections of a market that are "underserved" and delivering a product sold in great volumes. It has worked for him in budget hotels, low-cost insurance and tapping the market for people who could previously not afford to fly. His group of companies is now worth some $3 billion.
"I never forget my roots," he says. "I'm still very connected to those markets. I think about all of the things I would have liked to had 10 years ago."
With Formula 1 technology derived from the Lotus Racing Formula One team, Mr Fernandes, 47, says he wants to help more people enjoy the pleasure of being "thrown back in their seat" - without the price tag of a luxury sports car.
"We lead stressful lives," he says. "We need some way for that energy to come out … We hope at Caterham we can give someone a 0 to 60 experience in 2.9 seconds, which not many cars can do, for a price that won't bankrupt them."
Caterham is famous for its retro-style, lightweight sports cars that are simple, yet quick. Of the designs available, most look like relics of the 1950s compared with the Ferraris, Porsches and Mustangs that prowl the streets of the UAE.
The acquisition of Caterham last month is the latest chapter in the meteoric career of Mr Fernandes, who bought AirAsia from the Malaysian government just two days after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001.
"People thought I was crazy," he says. "We had just a million dollars and we've turned it into this major airline. It's a fairy tale."
The story goes like this: Mr Fernandes, a career music industry corporate executive, decided to quit his plum job at Time Warner just as it was on the cusp of merging with America Online (AOL) - something he thought would be a "disaster".
He mustered some courage, mortgaged his home, and ploughed his entire savings into a bid to create a budget airline in Asia modelled on Ryanair in Europe.
"I was a real career man," he says. "I thought I didn't have it in me to be an entrepreneur."
Since 2001, Mr Fernandes has tackled crises including a tsunami, the bird flu epidemic, an earthquake, governments trying to stop his airline taking off, and fast-rising oil prices.
"It's probably one of the toughest businesses in the world, airlines," he says.
Since starting AirAsia and then the long-haul sister company, AirAsia X, Mr Fernandes has become one of the most high-profile businessmen in the region. He was named Forbes Asia magazine's Businessman of the Year last year and has accumulated a fortune estimated to be about $380m.
Now, he is beginning to think about his future away from the airline business. Beyond affordable sports cars, he recently launched an energy drink and wants to expand his hotel line and get into new businesses that cater to his favourite markets of budget and middle-class consumers.
"I am not someone who can deal at the high-end," Mr Fernandes says. "I think that market is very well served."
When it comes to cars, Mr Fernandes owns a Tesla electric sports car, drives a four-door Smart car around Kuala Lumpur and is about to buy his first convertible, a Peugeot 306. An Aston Martin Vanquish he keeps at his London home was a splurge in the days after the initial public offering of AirAsia in 2004.
"I honestly am the same kind of person I was before AirAsia," he says. "I drive myself. I still take my kids to school. I fly AirAsia all the time."
Mr Fernandes even works as a baggage handler and flight steward on his flights once every two months or so.
"I like going to clubs and concerts," he says. "In many ways, my lifestyle is the same as it was nine years ago. It's only occasionally now that I can stay in a hotel like this," he says, looking around his magnificent suite at the One and Only hotel on the Palm Jumeirah in Dubai.
While he is the founder of many of the ventures under the Tune Group and the newer Formula 1-inspired businesses, Mr Fernandes likes to delegate power to his staff and allow them to make their own decisions.
"You are only as good as your people," he says. "And your people are only as good as they can be when you let them excel. If you keep them in a cocoon, you never see what their talent is."
His role is to "create an environment where there is no fear of failure and where people can innovate".
He has decided it is time Air Asia began flying to the UAE again, but he is letting his executives decide whether to fly to Abu Dhabi or Dubai.
Briefly, in 2009, the carrier operated a flight between Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur, but shut it down because of commercial difficulties with the route.
Leadership is also about knowing when to leave your company, he says. This is a thought he has been having lately about AirAsia, where he feels he may have given his best contributions already.
"You aren't a successful leader unless you have transitioned and the people who take over make it even better," he says. "That's the process I'm going through now. I'm coming to that stage with AirAsia."
He also believes in having a sense of humour. With a big grin, he recalls a challenge with the billionaire and fellow airline owner Sir Richard Branson, who also backs the Virgin F1 outfit, at the start of last year's Grand Prix season. The terms: the man behind whichever team finished lower in the championship would don a dress and make-up to serve as a stewardess on the other's airline.
Mr Branson lost and is planning to pull out all the stops in a charity flight set for July 4 from London to Kuala Lumpur.
"I call July 4 Richard's day of independence," Mr Fernandes says, smiling. "He can liberate himself because he really likes dressing up as a woman. He has offered to shave his body."
The joke goes deeper. Mr Fernandes was once an employee of Mr Branson's in the late 1980s. Now they are friendly rivals.
"He's a free spirit," Mr Fernandes says. "He has humility. I love people who are humble, who don't believe their press and start thinking they are more important than they actually are."
But Mr Fernandes says he has no interest in starting a space tourism company or to ride around the world in a hot-air balloon, like Mr Branson has.
"I haven't reached the point where I'm bored on earth, where I need that thrill," he says. "My spirit of adventure is doing some crazy business ideas, meeting people, hanging out on a beach somewhere."