Michelle Saro, current SVP of the iJet Onboard, has been with the company since its inception in 2009. The company was started after a tragic event of the Air France flight which crashed off the coast of Brazil. This incident led Michelle to wonder if there was a different way to capture crucial data from airplanes. Platform-as-a-Service came to her as a solution which led to the creation of iJet Onboard. The idea stems from communication of the aircraft’s onboard system with a ground-based system through satellite, cell or Wi-Fi signals. This provides real-time access to the information and provides a great platform for data analysis.
Aircraft manufacturers have been long participants in the market for data collection and management for its customers. The benefit from big data services offered by the OEM’s is usually limited to maintenance and prevention services. iJet Onboard expands this portfolio of services to operational effectiveness of the aircrafts like weight and balance, baggage maintenance and departure checklist. The company relies on the Apple Developer Network to create unique user applications and satisfy the ever growing demand of its customers for customized apps.
FAA regulations create a barrier for companies to enter the big data space. High capital investment and long term ROI usually keep developers away from the otherwise great market with opportunities for innovation. iJet Onboard comes in with a unique proposition of the platform-as-a-service which diminishes the need for expensive aircraft modifications.
Another barrier that Michelle was able to foresee when she was entering the market was objection from pilot unions. To overcome this iJet currently has several pilots working as full-time consultants thus helping the company to foresee the concerns presented by the unions.
Idea for better data management was first validated through the use of Boston Consulting Group services hired by iJet. BCG’s team went out to the field and interviewed major airlines for the biggest pain points in managing data. These insights were used to create a business proposition that embodied into platform-as-a-service. Consequently, the company marketed its idea to an airline known to be an early adopter of technologies in the industry. The airline agreed to devote an airplane for the beta-test of the platform. In turn, iJet gave the company an early mover advantage pricing which ended up being a win-win for both parties.
The company charges a monthly subscription fee for its services and derives it from the value-based pricing model. Through this unique proposition iJet creates high ROI for the airline participants and promotes an ever-lasting relationship with its clients. This is a great pricing strategy that goes well with company’s vision of disrupting the market with subscription based models.
Currently Michelle and her team invest a lot of time and effort into direct marketing to their potential customers. iJet Onboard makes a presence at every major air transport conference to reach its customers and make connections in the industry. The small pool of customers that is hard to reach is what iJet Onboard has to overcome in the early stages of its growth as a company. With no brand equity it is essential for the company to continue making direct marketing efforts. One recommendation might be to begin investing more time in the publishing of white papers to get visibility as a thought leader in the industry.