- Postado por Guilherme 15 Jul
Stanford Report, August 6, 2008
Class project takes wing with proposal for no-frills Colombian airline
BY MICHELE CHANDLER
Shingo Kobayashi, William Shaw and Rhyan Uy are recent Business School graduates and three-fourths of a team (the fourth member, Gabriel Migowski, is not pictured) that drew up plans for a Colombian airline.
As part of a class project, a team of four Business School students recently drew up plans for a no-frills airline in Colombia. And just to make it really interesting, they intend to promote the new airline through a reality television show developed by Ugly Betty creator Fernando Gaitán.
The team of Mexican, Japanese, Brazilian and Filipino nationals already has an idea, a business plan and a commitment from an experienced former airline CEO. Now all they need is cash—they’re estimating more than $20 million—along with numerous government approvals and enough moxie to wrest customers from existing carriers, notably established market leader Avianca and year-old discount regional airline Easyfly.
The proposed South American airline is the brainchild of Mexican national William Shaw. Before entering the Business School’s Sloan Master’s Program last year, he was commercial manager at the British Airways World Cargo office in San Francisco, the latest in a string of airline jobs he has held ranging from servicing planes to checking in passengers.
The idea began to take shape last fall as a result of a conversation between Shaw and Sloan classmate Shingo Kobayashi. Back in his native Japan, Kobayashi had worked in aircraft leasing and sold planes to the Japanese Defense Force.
What drew Shaw and Kobayashi together as project partners? “We had engaged in a lot of conversations about the airline industry, its downturn, oil prices, all the stuff the airlines are going through,” Shaw said. “I was explaining to Shingo that Latin America is the land of opportunity for airlines. Usually you have one existing airline that’s been around forever. They charge a very high fare. So, if you live in places like Colombia and Venezuela, your choices for air travel are very limited to airlines that don’t provide a great service.”
The pair pulled together a team and applied for the course Strategic Management: Evaluating Entrepreneurial Opportunities. Co-developed and taught by Dennis Rohan, a lecturer in management, the class, with sections taught by four different faculty, is in such demand that only those with the best ideas get in.
To attract the rest of the team, Shaw sent out an e-mail last fall to other business students laying out problems faced by airline passengers in Latin America and inviting them to help create an alternative.
Among the dozen respondents was Rhyan Uy, MBA ‘08. After working in his native Philippines as a university math instructor, Uy joined his family’s chain of optical stores. As a business student, Uy said he wanted to break into the airline industry, “something I really find sexy.” While he lacked airline industry experience, Shaw said he chose Uy for his abundant energy.
The group also chose Gabriel Migowski, MBA ‘09, who is originally from Brazil. A former consultant with Bain & Co, he had authored a major analysis of the Latin American airline market, bringing much aviation industry knowledge to the table.
“We want to grab people with similar but also different backgrounds to get a very engaging and diverse team that will allow us to bring out the best ideas possible,” Uy explained.
Then it was on to complete industry research. Rohan connected the team with a mentor, Scott Bekemeyer, MBA ‘93. In the mid-1990s, Bekemeyer helped to launch Sierra Express Airlines, a regional carrier based in Oakland. He supplied the team with ideas and walked them through what it would take to start an airline business.
The team decided to focus on Colombia—market research showed the country drew more than 1 million foreign airline passengers last year, and its economic and political landscapes are fairly stable. They decided to create a no-frills airline with ticket prices about 20 percent lower than current companies serving the region. To keep costs low, the proposed carrier’s fleet would include newer, more fuel-efficient planes; exclude free meals; use online booking; and stick to high-demand travel routes.
Juan Emilio Posada, a former Avianca president and chief executive, has signed on to become chairman of the proposed airline. Shaw would be the company’s chief executive, Kobayashi would be chief financial officer, Uy would handle product development and Migowski would be vice president of fleet and network operations.
Some team members already have been to Colombia to file the paperwork to charter the company and meet face to face with Posada.
Then there’s the Ugly Betty connection.
Gaitán, who created the celebrated Colombian telenovela that’s now a prime-time television phenomenon in the United States, has agreed to write a reality show for Colombian TV about the airline startup. He would be creative director for the series, under a deal Shaw said was reached last month with the Colombia-based television production firm Vista Productions. Similar to the popular American show The Apprentice, airline employees, including flight attendants and some entry-level staff, would be selected on the show. Viewers might even vote to choose the airline’s name. “Then you create this massive database of people who are already involved in your airline and want to fly,” Shaw said.
The day after the final episode of the reality series, plans are for the new Colombian carrier to hold its inaugural flight.
Before all that becomes a reality, of course, there’s the matter of raising those millions in startup cash.
“We’re at the point where we’re starting to look at the capital markets and using the Stanford network to go reach out to possible investors,” Shaw said.
Michele Chandler is assistant communications director at the Graduate School of Business.
Click on photo(s) to enlarge.