Ideas and creativity are the driving forces behind a successful start-up, not financial capital. Forty-fouryear old Bambang Edi Istyowanto, now an established entrepreneur, is the living proof it is possible to build a thriving business during a financial crisis.
Bambang's model aircrafts company Dian Artha Replika, which he started in 1992, is now turning over hundreds of millions of rupiah a month and employing more than 60 workers.
"All I had at the beginning was an idea and some creativity. I did not have any capital when I started the business," recalled the father of two.
Bambang's idea of making model planes and airplane souvenirs came about in the 1990s when he was working for an airline company. Bambang noticed that every time he flew, passengers took pictures of themselves with planes in the background. Same with the aircraft crew, from flight attendants to pilots: Everyone wanted photos of airplanes. But for some reason, flight souvenirs, such as replicas of the aircraft, pilots and cabin crew - were not available.
"Why isn't anyone producing souvenirs of the fl ight, such as models of aircraft?" Bambang asked himself.
So he tried to make miniature aircraft by using the timber he found in his house, during his spare time after work or during his breaks. Bambang worked closely on a miniature Boeing commercial aircraft for two weeks, before selling it for Rp 150,000 (US$15) to a flight attendant friend. Bambang then rushed to make another model plane, which his friend immediately purchased.
Bambang's miniature aircraft became popular and orders started coming in. From his hometown of Bebekan, Mulyodadi, Bambanglipuro, Bantul, and with a capital of Rp 150,000 ($15), Bambang dedicated all his time to his model aircraft business from 1992.
It wasn't just the aircraft crew who were interested; many passengers were also thrilled by the prospect of owning a miniature airplane. A miniature aircraft souvenir shop then opened near the Adi Sucipto Airport in Yogyakarta.
Miniature aircraft miniature souvenir shops soon sprouted in places like Jakarta, Papua, Balikpapan, Palu and Semarang. "The souvenir shops are located near the airports and have spread all over Indonesia. They ordered their supplies from us," said Bambang.
In no time, orders started coming from abroad, and Dian Artha miniature aircraft was soon shipping its goods to various parts of the world, such as Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
In fact, the demand for Bambang's products shot up so much he was not able to meet all the orders. "It's difficult enough meeting the needs of the domestic market," he said.
Bambang insisted on not employing intermediaries to handle his export trade, demanding purchasers deal with him directly and pay in advance. The idea was to forestall scams that have sent many craft manufacturers bankrupt.
"Scammers tend to make the first two payments, then they continue to order in bulk. Once we send the goods, they complain about some of them being damaged. This type of fraud often bankrupts exporters or craftspeople."
Bambang's business was left unscathed after the 1998 monetary crisis and the 2008 global financial crisis, with Middle Eastern countries increasing their orders.
"We are overwhelmed when it comes to meeting our domestic demand, so exports remain a side issue."
Bambang's business persistence has also benefi ted the surrounding community. On a normal day, an average of 60 people are employed in his workshop to make miniature aircraft. When there are many orders, the number of workers can reach 80.
Dian Artha Replika can produce 100 to 150 models of various kinds of aircraft. A medium-size model measuring 40 centimeters usually costs Rp 150,000 ($15). If the model measures half a meter, the price varies from Rp 700,000 to Rp 1.5 million.
"The price depends on the size of the model and the level of difficulties encountered during production, such as the coloring and design," said Bambang.
To maintain an attractive design, Bambang routinely conducts quality controls. "I always make the molds myself because these require precise measurements," said Bambang.
Through his perseverance, his ability to survive the crisis and employ more workers, Bambang has become a role model, especially in the Bantul regency, where the government has recognized Bambang as one of its young pioneers.
Since he started his business, Bambang has always found it difficult to meet the rising demand for his products. If he focuses on making models of merchant ships, the warship models are neglected, and vice versa.
"Even when we employ more than 60 workers, we still find it difficult to meet all the requests."
Bambang finds his workers' lack of professionalism at times a problem, as they take leave during celebrations or harvest periods.
This does not prevent him from focusing on developing his business and providing more benefits for people.
"The market is still quite open and if it's developed, it will require a lot more workers," he said.
Although Bambang is getting older, he believes that as long as he can still handle the job, and his body remains strong enough, his creativity should continue to develop.
"My principle is that if we're still able to move, why should we remain stationary?" said Bambang.
His wife Ngadilah still finds the time to work as a teacher at a private school earning a minimal salary. But for Ngadilah, teaching brings invaluable pride.
"The money does not amount to much. But it gives me satisfaction and I can still find time to teach between my other business activities. So why not?" said Ngadilah.