Navigating through a global pandemic in the aviation sector: insights from Azim Barodawala, Volantio
Azim and I recently enjoyed catching up and discussing all things aviation. I am very impressed with how he and Volantio have navigated these past 12 months so I asked him if he would kindly share his successes and experiences. He kindly agreed, so please enjoy!
Please introduce yourself
Azim Barodawala, Co-Founder and CEO of Volantio. Our company has built the industry leading Post-Booking Revenue Management System, which helps airlines drive an incremental 2%+ revenue in the post-sale period. Prior to Volantio I was the Global Head of Strategy for Jetstar Airways, and a Project Leader with the Boston Consulting Group.
How has Volantio faired since the COVID-19 outbreak?
I'd be lying if I said it hasn't been a difficult year, but we actually managed to grow certain areas of our business during the pandemic. Given the extreme volatility and variability with respect to forecast data (which powers Revenue Management decisions), our platform has become more necessary than ever for global airlines. We recently launched with Vistara, and we are growing our existing partnerships with Qantas, Alaska Airlines, and others. We've also seen a substantial growth in our modules related to operations and disruptions - as airlines look for ways to reduce costs and provide superior customer service through greater automation.
What have you learned as a CEO operating a travel technology business these past 12 months specifically?
2 big lessons: prepare for the worst and listen to your customers. When COVID hit, we looked at various forward projections, and decided to manage our business on the worst possible scenarios. That forced us to manage the business in a conservative manner - particularly with respect to how we have managed cash, and this has proven to be extremely effective. Regarding listening to our customers - this has been critical to Volantio's success throughout this crisis. We realized early on that we needed to pause and schedule time to really listen to our airline customers about the most acute challenges they needed solved. We had to think creatively around how we could craft solutions – using our existing platform – to meet the acute challenges that they faced. Volaris was a great example of this type of collaboration - we worked very closely together with them throughout the last year to address a number of operational opportunities and challenges, using our platform to help them automate previously time consuming and manual processes.
How is Volantio preparing for the recovery of international travel?
We want to ensure that our platform remains most relevant and effective as international travel resumes. This has meant asking our airline partners (and potential partners) about the core challenges that they believe are going to be most important to solve, in order to drive the highest possible revenue in the recovery period, and ensuring that our platform is able to meet those challenges. A common theme we continue to hear is that the lack of reliable historical demand data will cause challenges for revenue management in the recovery. Our solutions are being designed to help airlines mitigate this challenge and drive incremental profits.
What tips and advice can you offer entrepreneurial technology companies working with, or seeking to work with, airlines?
Patience is critical. There are few cases of "overnight successes" in B2B SaaS companies who hope to deal with airlines. The sales cycles can be brutally long, which can tire even the most hardy of souls. It's a grind, but if you believe in what you've got, it's worth it.
And finally, if you were not the CEO of Volantio, what would you be doing?
I'd love to run network planning at a global carrier with a complex network. I've always loved all the aspects (and significant challenges) involved in running a smooth network, and I'd love to do it!