ROTE is not Bali, but many foreign tourists visit the island for the great surfing it offers. Another interesting feature about Rote is that you can see the Australian continent from its coasts.
There are many other islands that have pristine beaches and interesting culture in East and West Nusa Tenggara (NTT and NTB), but these places never used to get many domestic tourists visiting their shores. However, when Trans Nusa Air Service started operating in the region, El Tari airport in Kupang became very busy, unlike three to four years ago.
Juvenille Jodjana was born in Alor, a small, beautiful island in NTT. Early in life he moved to Surabaya and attended school there. Then he studied at a U.S. university and later found a job in Jakarta. Thirty years later he returned to his hometown. A finance/management graduate of the University of Wisconsin with 11 years' experience in banking and investment, Juvenille was tempted to do something more challenging in his birth place.
He could clearly see the difference in infrastructure in NTT and NTB. He learned that there were 15 airports in these two provinces. "So, the problem was not an absence of infrastructure but that the infrastructure available was not being taken advantage of," he said. "I had no background in the airline industry at all, and if I had known what the aviation business is like, I may not have wanted anything to do with it," quipped 37-year-old Juvi, which is how he is intimately addressed. The airline business is very complicated. Unlike the banking business, which only has a single regulator, namely Bank Indonesia, the aviation business has many regulators, such as the department of communications. It also has a lot of overheads.
Nevertheless, Juvi took on all these risks and challenges. A father of two sons, aged seven and three years old, he feels it is fortunate that he had no background in aviation. "My way of thinking does not stick to just one thing as otherwise it would make the work flow inefficiently," he said. For 1.5 years, he planned a business in the aviation business as an operator without aircraft or crew. "It's a virtual airline," he said jokingly, adding that it was in fact a wholesale airline.
This means an airline without aircraft, crew or maintenance facilities. He has opted for this business model as he has neither capital nor airline experience. For Juvi, two brands are better than one. He believes that every company has its own strengths. The only thing left to do was to work out how to bring aviation companies together and establish a relationship not only as partners but also as brothers.
For months, Juvi intensively built relationships with professionals in the airline business. At that time he met Capt. Momi Surjatmoko, a retired pilot who is now the corporate secretary of Trans Nusa. Also, he tirelessly asked a number of airlines to cooperate with him. He contacted about 10 big and small airlines, some of which have since gone bankrupt. They rejected his plan, either arguing that there was no aircraft or not believing in Juvi's plan or his financial commitment. "It was true nothing happened but I learned a lot," he said modestly. Instead, he learned more about good human resources for recruitment. "I believe if we have a good business concept, we can attract other people," the 37 year old emphasized.
A good business concept and the ability to convince people with capital are not enough to build a new company. Juvi believes, however, that with persuasion, nothing can stop his concept. Even Trigana Air, his first partner, did not believe in his business model when they met Juvi for the first time. "If you operate in a poor area, will you have any passengers? Slowly, I tried to convince them. I spent four months negotiating with them and eventually they believed in me," said Juvi, who loves traveling and playing tennis. Today, he said, what is happening in his company is the concrete manifestation of the business model and plan that he introduced 4.5 years ago. "It is exactly what is happening now," he said, his eyes sparkling.
In August 2005, Trans Nusa (TN) became operational using ATR 42-300 turboprop aircraft belonging to Trigana Air. A second plane was added in April 2006. In June 2006, Trigana added Boeing 737-200, which TN uses for the daily Kupang-Denpasar-Surabaya flight, in addition to flying the Kupang-Makassar route twice a week. Before the end of 2006, the operation of the 118-seat Boeing was stopped and TN replaced it with a 85-seat Fokker F28-4000. TN serves eight islands and 15 towns in NTT and NTB. "Trans Nusa came into being at the right time," said a doctor in Kupang who frequently flies. "It is present when things were hopeless. We were otherwise left with an airline that is often late or even delays the flight."
The flag of this "virtual" airline -- bearing a symbol of the ikat cloth of Nusa Tenggara and the red, black, yellow and white head of a cockatoo -- continues to flutter. In late 2007, another ATR 42 was added to serve the daily flight from Kupang to all destinations such as Lembata, Alor, Ende, Maumere Ruteng, Bajawa, Larantuka, Rote, Waingapu, Tambolaka, Labuan Bajo, Mataram and Bima.
Even Mandala Airlines, which a foreign company has purchased, is also attracted by TN activities. In November 2007, TN officially became the general sales agent of Mandala, which is Mandala's designated ticket agent for the Kupang-Surabaya-Jakarta route. "The arrangements with each airline is different. Each is customized," Juvi said. "However, with Mandala, the arrangement is different again. It tends toward a block seat arrangement. If the tickets are not sold, we have to pay for them," he said.
Since April 2008, TN has hired Fokker 50 from Riau Airlines so that the passenger capacity from Kupang to NTT can be expanded. Although Juvi has to commute between Kupang and Surabaya -- his family lives in Surabaya -- every other week, he feels comfortable in this airline business. "I have had a lot of challenges but I have forgotten them again. I just enjoy the business!" he said, laughing.
From the very beginning he has set the corporate culture standard in his company so now everything runs smoothly. Juvi, who loves reading books on motivation and leadership and autobiographies, also keeps to the principle that a leader must be a model. He, for example, does not smoke and often reminds his staff not to smoke either. He works hard and wants his team to work equally hard. And most importantly, he has found that his teams imitate his spirit. "I just really enjoy working here so even if sometimes I have no time to sleep, it is no problem at all," he said.
It is most disturbing to him when an aircraft breaks down and cannot take passengers. "This means causing disappointment to a third party. For me, this is really a serious problem," he said. So, aside from approaching an international route (Australia) as his next step, Juvi also feels it necessary to increase the number of aircraft in the fleet of TN. "As ours is still a small company, we can be flexible. We won't be rigid in our relations with any parties. This is the advantage of Trans Nusa," he said.
The fact that TN flies a lot of routes and that El Tari airport is always crowded is an indication that the average air ticket of Rp 600,000 for a single trip is not a big deal to the company's passengers. "The most important thing is that the schedule is kept to. This is the principle of an airline!" said Juvi.
So far, he said, operators have never given any certainty so people feel reluctant to travel. "What matters to our customers is not money but the feeling of comfort because the aircraft is available and it flies at a fixed time. So, they will feel that what they pay is worth it," said Juvi, who also believes in the principles of "Never give up" and "Always think positively." For him, it is these two principles that have made him successful in the airline business.
According to a source, after two years of operation, PT Trans Nusa Air Service, which was established with a capital of Rp 5 billion, has erected a building worth Rp 7 billion in downtown Kupang city. Still, Juvi is determined to focus on NTT, NTB and Bali and is yet to expand his business to other provinces. He hopes to forge an alliance with any party as a wholesaler and can cooperate with other wholesalers. His dream is that there must be a flight every day in each region and that it would be better if he could establish a shuttle service. TN flies to all islands except Attambua and Sabu. Perhaps he must wait until 2009 before he sees TN fly to these two places.
In future, Juvi wants to help develop tourism in NTT and NTB. "We have excellent beaches, culture and events, but who will come if they have to take a 23-hour ferry trip?" Therefore, he has established a new tourism business, Trans Nusa Holiday. Juvi hopes that he can help regional administrations by packaging the potentials available in every regency. When it is easy for people to gain access to beautiful places in NTT and NTB because the infrastructure is available, the finances of the community will also improve. Local people can offer accommodation, open restaurants, rent out vehicles and so forth. (Lily Glorida Nababan)
The Jakarta Post, November 12, 2008