Home' Asian Aviation : AAV_May2012 Contents 16 AsianAviation | MAY 2012
For a man who s been at the helm of Garuda
Indonesia for seven years, Emirsyah Satar
is very relaxed. No doubt this is helped by
the fact that those seven years have seen
the carrier transformed from an also-run to an airline
that is giving the region s big name flag carriers
something to think about.
While most Asia-Pacific carriers have seen profits
plummet over the last year, Garuda saw net profits
up by 56% to IDR805.5 billion (US$88.2 million) last
year on revenue up 39% to IDR27,165 billion. The
situation when Pak Emir stepped into the hot seat at
Garuda back in 2005 was very different.
Coincidentally, the very day he took over as
president and CEO, the Wall Street Journal had an
article on airlines in South-East Asia, and Pak Emir
recalls the exact phrase they used for his airline.
"Garuda is not even on the radar screen."
For a man who appears to enjoy the job so much,
it is somewhat ironic that Pak Emir needed a lot of
convincing before agreeing to head up Garuda. "At
that time Garuda was not in a good position," he says.
Pak Emir knew more than most how deep the
problems were - he was CFO from 1998 to 2003,
before returning to the world of banking. "When
the minister called me, first of all, I rejected it. I was
thinking - five years was enough. But, after three
phone calls, I finally accepted the offer. At that time,
a new government was in place and I thought this
was something I could contribute to the country."
The challenge of transforming Garuda was also
clearly an attraction. Behind this relaxed demeanour,
Pak Emir clearly has a passion for the airline. "There
would be some personal satisfaction if you could fix
it up. Garuda is an icon."
He was under no illusions about the task ahead.
During his time as CFO, he was instrumental in
reducing the debt from US$1.8 billion to US$1.2
billion, and when he took over as CEO it was around
US$900 million - and the carrier had been in default
for about a year.
Drastic action was clearly needed. "The first thing
I did was identify what are the problems," says Pak
Emir. This meant looking at management organisation
and what Pak Emir terms, "human capital". He recalls,
"At that time, the structure of the organisation was
not a market orientated structure. Therefore it was
very difficult to link individuals to their KPI [key
As a result, if something went wrong, it was very
difficult to pinpoint who or what was to blame. The
RACI (responsible, accountable, consult, inform)
management tool to define responsibilities was not
There have been few more remarkable turnaround stories in the airline
industry than that of Garuda Indonesia. The man behind it, Garuda
president Emirsyah Satar, talks to Colin Baker
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