IO – ENTREPRENEURSHIP, in its popular definition, can be described as an effort to apply creativity and innovation to achieve success in business. With that perception in mind, it will be intriguing to explore entrepreneurship in the aviation sector.
At a glance, we can see that no airline in Indonesia has attained authentic business success. As a matter of fact, our aviation industry, focused on aircraft manufacturing, airlines and airport management, can never seem to thrive.
Ironically, we do have great potential and competence in those three areas. Indonesia once manufactured its own aircraft, had a slew of airlines and managed numerous airports across the archipelago.
Alas, our aircraft production has come to a halt. In the past few years, rumors were circulating that Indonesia would start up production once again, namely the N-219. But nothing has been heard about this since.
One after another, airlines began to shut their doors, usually because of poor performance and corruption scandals involving management.
Airports are another tale of woe. Since Soekarno-Hatta Airport (Cengkareng) was perpetually running over capacity, some fights were reassigned to Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base, an excess of takeoffs and landings wearing out and severely damaging the runways. Thus Halim Perdanakusuma Airport is now closed, at least for the next few months, to rehabilitate the worn-out runways, starting to crumble from excessive and repetitive overloads.
Kertajati International Airport tells another story, where trillions of Rupiah were spent to build a fancy, modern airport that has never been put to use until now – for no clear reason.
A prolonged COVID-19 pandemic, enduring over the past two years, has imposed financial hardships for all airlines globally. What’s more, it blatantly exposed how airlines are indeed heavily dependent on their respective governments. With such a history, investors are reluctant to pour bailout funds into airlines to help them survive during the pandemic.
In most countries, particularly developed ones like the United States, the Government immediately intervened, to provide operating funds to rescue their national aviation industry. The aeronautical industry has revealed its vulnerability, looking helpless without being propped up by governments, especially when dealing with the pandemic.
Air transportation plays a crucial role in Indonesia, because the country has a very strategic location, vast territories and a large population. Without a competent air transportation system, it will be difficult for the national economy to prosper. It will be tough to develop national resilience. It will not be easy to manage the country’s defense and security system.
The extremely high demand for an air transport system can be seen as a golden opportunity for the entrepreneurial sector. Yet, despite this great opportunity, the aviation industry in Indonesia has not made any significant progress – if we do not actually call it a failure.
This is where entrepreneurship could play a part. Entrepreneurship in aviation, especially the airline business, usually comes in the form of service provision. Thus, the most dominant factor is marketing strategies and innovation in managing the “operating cost” structure.
On the other hand, the role of the Government in the aviation industry is critically dominant. In airline management, particularly, the Government plays a strong deciding role because it holds power over numerous permits in the industry. Partiality by the authorities towards a certain airline will certainly determine its success or failure.
It became evident why our aviation industry, especially airlines, kept spinning its wheels. The main factor was inferior management performance, one aspect of which is corruption, and the most dominant factor is the Government’s role. It is also worth exploring to discern the level of aviation knowledge the industry takes into consideration.
Acquiring aviation knowledge largely depends on education and training, as well as research and development. Those two aspects highly depend on a national commitment or national interest and national policy. If the Government does not devote adequate attention to education & training and research & development, the aviation industry will struggle to thrive.
When faced with such problems, a meticulous study is surely needed. As the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” The problem is how such details can be seen if the big picture is overlooked.