The Bubble Busts: Seaplanes In India
Corruption and regulatory red-tape are not conductive to a successful seaplane industry. This sentence or a derivative of it may be what most, if not all readers of recent news about the Federal Bank of India impounding Seabird Seaplane’s Kodiak 100 may have thought.
With the bank now struggling to recoup approximately 8 Cruore (1,128 Million USD) for an airplane that looks sad, neglected and beaten up by the elements, the future will show if and when someone with the desire in negative return investments feels the urge to burn a stack of money, for what appears to be systemic failure.
Nithin Gadkari in January of 2018 promised 10.000 Seaplanes flying in India within two years time. A ton of hype, also often referred to as a bubble business model for what? No amount of well wishes and support (or money, for that matter) has or would be enough to actually make it happen. In November we spoke with an industry insider to help us figure out what is going on. His revelations are a sobering account that should make most of us pause and think.
A lack of vision and purpose in state and federal government mixed with severe corruption on ministerial levels creates an almost idiotic number of regulations. In order to get a seaplane service going, one needs green light from up to five ministries. Besides the lack of qualified staff on all levels of government, India faces challenges with nepotism, meaning that everyone with a government job would like to see relatives and next of kin secured by the government as well.
Grotesque Living Conditions
Miserable infrastructure remains as much a challenge as drying up water-bodies, making water levels too low for practical purposes. Those who have been to the country know that some bodies of water are floating garbage patches and within the garbage one could find things ranging from dead animals to human remains (!), which causes masses of scavenging birds to congregate in such areas.
Misinformed Public And Crooked Banks
Single engine aircraft do not enjoy the benefit of being considered safe by a largely unaware public as well as policy-makers. Financing and investment are incredibly hard to get, given that government- and private banks are largely unregulated and officials demand high kickbacks for approving loans. Interest rates of 9-14% are the norm. Most wealth in the country is in the hands of very few ruthless people. The caste system is alive and well.
Lack Of Resources
Next comes a look at the availability of Avgas and Jet A1 as well as a look at vandalism, theft or locals pelting stones at low flying aircraft. One would think that India has far other challenges to take care of, before thinking about making full-mouthed promises about having anything that closely resembles a functioning aviation and seaplane industry. When and if the population finally rises up against categorical injustice and inhumane living conditions, traveling by seaplane will be a severe risk to those who can still afford it.
Human Rights Are Violated
Lived democracy, human rights, women’s rights, religious freedom and a governments focus on providing a better environment for its populace may or may not lead to a rosier outlook for an industry our manufacturers and professionals can’t wait to create and develop. Modi’s India is in the dark ages, compared to other, less dictatorial areas of the world. As an industry, its up to us to either support or deny status quo. Delivering airplanes into India may look good on this years P&L sheets, but sustainable business looks quite a bit different from what we have been seeing out of India.
Taking The Pink Sunglasses Off
Its good to be in touch with various aviation professionals in India on behalf of our Seaplanemagazine.com. This allows us to look beyond the fake news media and the propaganda on display in most if not all sectors of news coverage about – and from within the country. Important lessons remain to be learned, even for long-time editors and news researchers. Reality is just barely ever reflected in broad daylight and for all to see. Whats written in any and all visible news releases should not just be taken with a “pinch of salt” – we’ll need a truckload of this stuff. The bubble is finally busting.