The Jakarta Post
Driven and steered by passion, the plane modeling industry in Indonesia grows and remains alive, no matter what.
Forty-something Marison has been fascinated by airplanes since he was little. Living near Halim Perdana Kusumah Airport in Jakarta, little Marison always wondered how a machine weighing up to 350 tons could fly.
Failing to become a pilot due to economic constraints, Marison channeled his aviation obsession into similar yet smaller objects: models plane.
Marison met Dyono Sumaryo and took lessons from him, the man believed to be the pioneer of fiberglass model airplanes in Indonesia.
In 1992, with support from people in the airline industry, Marison set up his own model company, Son Models.
'The untapped market was so big, it has always been, and at that time Dyono was the only player and he could not handle all the orders,' Marison told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview at his workshop in Cijantung, East Jakarta.
Son Models started small, hiring four people and handling orders from local airline firms like Sriwijaya air and now-defunct Sempati Air and Bayu Indonesia Air.
Yet, the business has not always been smooth. Many times, Marison faced financial difficulties but his love for planes made him stay in the business until now.
'I put all my heart into this business,' he said.
Currently, Marison has a partnership with another aviation buff Tony Jennings from the UK. They established Anglo-Indonesia Aircraft Models, replacing Son Models.
The business has grown steadily with the company hiring more than 35 people and a plan to open a new workshop in Cibinong, West Java. Their specialty is 70-cm and 1.5-meter-long model planes.
With Jennings' help in the marketing division, Anglo has received many orders from international clients and major airlines.
Their clients are collectors from Europe and Australia and top airline companies like Etihad Airways and Qantas.
Anglo-Indonesia Aircraft Models and other Indonesian model plane companies have slowly gained a reputation in the global miniature plane industry.
Indonesian modelers have been known for their skills in designing immaculate plane replicas.
In the world of plane modeling, the rule is quite simple: the more the model looks like the original design, the better it is.
The quality of Indonesian plane models has been acknowledged by many plane hobbyists, including Hendrawan.
The 40-year-old man has collected plane miniatures since he was little. His collections have reached the hundreds with most of them coming from local designers.
'They can deliver what we order,' he said of the work of Indonesia plane modelers.
As an avid collector, Hendrawan does not buy collections available in outlets. He tends to order particular models, requesting details on designs and specifications.
The Bandung-based shoe businessman spends between Rp 4 million (US$305.69) and Rp 5 million every three months on buying plane models.
As a collector, Jennings agrees with Hendrawan. The Jakarta-based banker used to be Marison's client. Aware of Marison's high quality products, Jennings decided to support the local company to compete in the international market.
'Anglo's quality can equal the best in the market and we try to add more details than competitors,' he said.
Apart from collectors and airlines, Anglo has been receiving bulk orders from Aviation Mega Store, the biggest aviation hobby shop in the Netherlands and a similar store in Australia, Hobbyco.
Foreign interest is also present in another company, Ozi Aircraft Models. Half of its orders came from international clients, Harto Alkarim, the owner said.
Begun in 1986, Ozi has grown into one of the biggest plane model manufacturers in Indonesia with more than 60 workers. It produces up to 1,000 models per month with sizes ranging from 15 cm to 1.5 meters.
Its clients come from Switzerland, Denmark and the US, Ozi sales manager Rahmat Hidayat told the Post.
As with Anglo, Ozi is built on the passion of its owner. Harto is also an aviation enthusiast and he learned making models from Dyono.
Harto said that his business had also experienced ups and downs but it was love that made Harto stay in the business.
Bogor-based Ozi had to cease operations in 1998 due to the financial crisis and many times experienced financial woes that hindered its business growth.
But nothing seems to stop Harto.
'I love making planes. It is like a hobby. I just love it,' the man said.
Harto said that the main problem in his business was the high rate of staff turnover.
'The workers just come and go, no one really stays,' he said.
But for Marison, the biggest challenge comes from the government's lack of support and the limited production capacity.
Nurhayati, Marison's wife, who is also Anglo's marketing director, said the company had not received any support from the government even though the company had contributed to the country's export drive with 80 percent of its products being exported.
In addition, Marison is also aware of his company's limited production capacity. With only 35 workers, Anglo can only handle up to 250 orders every month.
'We cannot take more orders because we don't have the human resources and space,' he said.
Thus, Marison has plans to move his workshop to Cibinong and expand it so it can receive more orders.
'The market is really big and untapped, so we want to take our chance slowly because we don't want to do it in a rush,' he said.
Up to now, it is difficult to describe how big Indonesia's plane model industry really is as most of the companies are small home industry players, which are scattered.
But as an illustration, Anglo's sales amount to Rp 5 billion a year, still far below the figure of the world's biggest plane model manufacturer, Pacific Miniatures, which makes $10 million in annual sales.
Meanwhile Ozi, even though the owner is hesitant in providing the numbers, is estimated to have the same value as Anglo with product prices ranging between Rp 150,000 and Rp 26 million.
Despite the promising prospects, there is no guarantee of clear blue skies in this business, as shown by Anglo and Ozi's experiences.
Both Marison and Harto seem to follow the steps of their senior and mentor, Dyono, who keeps producing plane models, no matter what.
Aging has not stopped Dyono from making plane miniatures. At 81, Dyono is still making model planes with his company Dyono Models. He is still receiving orders from state flag carrier Garuda Indonesia, the company's long-time client.
Dyono explained that one of the reasons why he still made plane models was because planes had always been his passion and hobby.
'I will never stop until [short pause] the end of my life,' he said in a frail voice.
' Photos by JP/Ika Krismantari