The Business Idea Challenge is a program that collects ideas for new business at Kawasaki. One of the projects that has attracted attention is the Web-based Helicopter Charter Service (hereinafter the “Heli Charter Service”) where the customer can call a helicopter simply by just sending an application online and then hopping over to the destination. This service shortens travel time for more effective use of the workday. The operation between Tokyo and Gunma is currently being prepared for commencement, and helicopters are expected to be available like taxis for convenient sky transportation in the future.
Marketing & Sales Division
Aerospace Systems Company
Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd.
Joined Kawasaki in 2002 from being motivated to use the knowledge about energy plants studied at university and yearning to be involved in the aircraft business. He thought these two goals could be realized at Kawasaki. After design and development of thermal power stations and guided drones, participation in discussions on new business at Aerospace Systems Company he decided to attempt to launch the Heli Charter Service.
It All Began from Awareness during a Business Trip. Seeds of Business Lie in Experiences
What is the Heli Charter Service?
Stated plainly, the service is a (sky) taxi using a helicopter. Online applications reduce waiting time and facilitate transportation. For example, it takes 50 minutes from Tokyo to Kusatsu Onsen, Gunma*.
* Hot spring resort in the Kanto area of Japan. Travel time is about two and one-half hours from Tokyo by car.
It’s an interesting business.
I was aware of the first prompt during work. I used to work in a design department, which required frequent business trips at that time. Traveling for several hours on a Shinkansen bullet train and changing trains and airplanes to get to a site made me wish I could travel by helicopter, which was the seed of the idea.
A new business can occur from a bit of an idea.
At first, I didn’t think about starting a new business when the concept of the Heli Charter Service came to me. The trigger was a call as a member of an internal project considering new businesses. “Anything will be fine. Think about new lines of business.” The company encouraged us, and I began to reflect on ways to use the current idea as a new enterprise.
Creating a new business is a difficult subject no matter what it might be.
This is absolutely true. However, I was excited rather than anxious. I learned a lot about how to build a business, including methods of exchanging and developing ideas and details about the business framework. Then, we examined a variety of different suggestions, and the one that we foresaw as interesting was the Heli Charter Service. As the activities progressed, I came to have a stronger desire to spread this idea not just among the project members but across the company as a major venture. Therefore, I entered the in-house new business idea recruiting program, the Business Idea Challenge, in 2020. Formal activities for commercialization were initiated, which led to the present situation.
Believe What You Think is Good Subjectively
Based on your experience, what is the key to launching a new business?
I think there are two main points. One is to present the evidence and numerical values to arouse interest and to be convincing. For example, the service of using a helicopter like a taxi is fascinating but seems impractical, doesn’t it? However, what would you think if you were given data showing that helicopters typically fly about one hour per day on average according to helicopter operation companies? Now you know that there are many unoccupied helicopters, and I believe you can become interested in the possible use of them.
You are collecting reasons for feasibility.
A questionnaire survey was conducted with the cooperation of international airports and major travel agencies, which revealed that many foreign visitors to Japan wanted faster, easier transportation, even if they had to pay more money compared to trains and planes. The unique survey enabled us to obtain rare information and user insights, and the project became more defined little by little.
Such materials that convince people it can be commercialized should also be significant when reviewing the Business Idea Challenge. What is the other key?
The key component is describing the dream to excite colleagues to become involved, encourage partner companies and the government to willingly cooperate, and to remain personally motivated. Painting a business vision with a dream is important. You need to communicate the great ideal that will be achieved when this project comes true.
How do you specifically share the dream?
Together with the relevant parties, I try to see a world where the Heli Charter Service is diffused. The starting point is the convenience as a means of transportation and the resolution of the issue of idle helicopters. However, an additional part of the service is to serve during disasters and sudden illnesses, assist physically disabled people to travel, and deliver medical and other services to underpopulated areas. When helicopters are used as normal, the negative images we have had, such as being frightening and noisy, are expected to be removed.
I see. You say with a sense of anticipation that this is possible and that wish will also be fulfilled means a great deal.
In addition, as you suppose, when you describe a dream, you need heartfelt enthusiasm to achieve it. In my case, I first wanted to make business trips much easier. The performance rooted in a genuine passion exerts major energy. Although calculations, grounds, and frameworks are obviously crucial in the business context, the best foundation should have something you personally consider good.
Confidence is Backing Us and to be Handed Over to the Next
What challenges did you face to commercialize the Heli Charter Service?
I learned through work some essentials of producing a business, more specifically, developing empathy among the persons involved from absolute zero when asking for cooperation, and acquiring knowledge of contract forms and laws. I had difficulty with the administrative procedures and maintaining a balance with my regular job. I realize that I steadily completed each one by one.
You go forward through consistent effort.
You are right. Speaking of new businesses, some people have the image of eccentric ideas and peculiar attempts. However, the truth is completely the opposite. An actual enterprise is serious, inconspicuous work, including reading for hours to understand the legal rules and regulations and handling questionnaire answers one by one. You should not neglect such tasks.
The word, new business, sounds cool and unusual, but it is different.
I think it is very important to perform the ordinary work in front of you. Some persons with experience in sales know the real voices of transport operating companies, and others who worked in an accounting department before understand how money flows in business. The shortest way to move a project forward is to take advantage of the skills of each individual.
Because you steadily work on existing business and day-to-day assignments, something is achieved in a new project.
The achievements of a new project can inversely be used for existing operations as a matter of course. Some new insights discovered by user questionnaires and some true opinions from other companies expressed during the new project will help improve present practices. Each business is not independent but can serve as a clue to generating good circulation within the organization.
What has been achieved thanks to the nature of Kawasaki? And what has helped to launch the business?
Needless to say, the confidence of the persons involved is significant. Not everyone knows of the project, but everyone knows about the company. We are professionals in this industry with a record of no accidents after 80,000 hours of operation since commencement of the helicopter business in 1977. Therefore, people expect that we will do something great, and they want to encourage us. The trust built up by the senior employees of Kawasaki has been a considerable support. Meanwhile, my duty is to establish a firm business and respond to social expectations so that I can hand over the baton of faith to the following generations. I continue to address the project in this way.