You’ve already heard a bit about some of Travelpayouts team members and ends and outs of other Aviasales team workflows. But we haven’t introduced our head of Travelpayouts Affiliate Program — Ivan Baidin. So, we clean up our act. Finally, we fished Vanya out from an infinite stream of tasks and asked about his work and life on the island.
Please, tell us, what are you working on? Are you «the Affiliate Program Boss»?
I’m trying to develop the Affiliate Program, specifically improving the product, increasing the conversion rates, and entering the foreign markets. Besides strategic planning and setting targets for developers, together with managers I answer the questions asked through Technical Support, attract new partners and communicate with advertisers.
What did you do before Travelpayouts?
In the past I’ve already been engaged in the Internet activities, to be specific, Affiliate Programs, mostly foreign. A friend of mine once «brought» me to the Internet, gave a link to an online money making forum and said «Read this». So, I started reading, gradually turning the accumulated knowledge into money. In other words, I was a regular affiliate member of different Affiliate Programs. Somewhere I’ve managed to get into the top, somewhere I haven’t.
I took part in creation and promotion of several Affiliate Programs, almost all of them are already closed as they exhausted themselves.
But my own project, which I myself initially launched, is still alive and it’s related to foreign offers promotion. Then I found a partner and we started to grow and hire people. Now our team consists of 43 designers, copywriters, developers, and SEO experts. All of them work remotely. They are mostly from the CIS, but we also have a teammate, for example, from Puerto Rico. I gave up the major part of the action and delegated all the operational activities to my partner, with me engaged in making strategic decisions only. In brief, we have a network of websites, blogs, and forums that attracts a lot of traffic, which is then sold to advertisers like Amazon and eBay.
How do you manage to balance your business with your main job?
As I’ve already said, for my own project I do strategic planning only. On average, I spare like 1–1.5 hours a day on it and sometimes I don’t for a couple days. By the way, we don’t try to get in travel related business to exclude the competitive interests. In other words, doing my own business don’t interfere with my main job in Travelpayouts.
How would you describe your workday?
I get up between 7 and 8 am, answer my email and browse statistics. Then I have breakfast and go to the gym. After doing sports I head to the office and then get back to the gym in the evening. Sometimes I skip my evening workouts. Before going to sleep, when at home, I check my email, Skype, and Facebook again. Well, this is my everyday routine.
Alright, and when do you relax then?
My mind winds down very well while I’m in the gym. Possibly those are the only hours when I really don’t think about my work at all. Anyway, for me, doing sports is another proof showing that everything is possible. You know, I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but being stubborn and working persistently on reaching the goal may result in growing muscles and bringing success in business. The main thing is not to draw back and breathe easy.
Over time my mind becomes apathetic, cause the island lifestyle is really slow paced and laid-back. In a word, it’s like living in a countryside.
So that’s when I call for some impulse. To get that impulse, for me it’s just enough to get out for a weekend to some neighbor Asian megalopolis — Singapore or Hong Kong — where I can get charged with an «energy of a city». This charge is quite enough for a month of life on the island. That’s why I try to travel somewhere every month. All in all, I am satisfied with my life in Thailand.
What do you think are the advantages of living in Phuket?
Phuket is a perfect place to live with your family and raise your kids. Sun, sea, fresh air and fruits all the year around. Here you need fewer clothes than in Russia — no need to buy furs, boots and hats. It’s always summer here.
There are almost no traffic jams. Even if there is, they usually happen at around 8–9 am or 5–7 pm. And our office hours are 12 am till 9 pm Thai time, so we don’t get into local congestion.
Besides, there’s multilingual surrounding here, so since their birth, children communicate with same-age foreigners speaking Russian, English, Thai or Chinese. In future they will become tolerant individuals perfectly speaking several languages.
But to be honest, when children born, I’d try to move to the USA to get education, but only after they are 5–6 years old.
For sure, the Bounty Island has its negatives, isn’t it?
Sure. First of all, it’s a closed community. Your colleagues, who are also your friends, you work together in the office and spend your weekends together as well. Many girlfriends or wives who come to the island with our fellows have no job and suffer because of this. It’s a great luck if your lady-love already has some remote job or a kid to dedicated all her time to, otherwise a guy will have a lot to bear. It’s difficult to get a legal job in Thailand and for sure it will be a low-paid one. That’s why we had a couple of situations when guys had to return back home to Russia, start working remotely or even quit.
Secondly, there are a lot of things that you get used to when living in Russia but you don’t have them here. For example, for girls there’s no place to wear high-heels or evening dress, no place to have a walk except of shopping centers. You can’t even have a walk on the street cause there’re no sidewalks and the weather is too hot.
How did you get to Phuket and settled in Aviasales?
First time I came to Phuket for wintering far back in 2008 with my friends. I liked the island a lot, though I had almost nothing to compare with. Before I took a batch tour to Hurghada and been to Montenegro as an independent tourist. After that wintering I started to go to Phuket every winter.
To the point, I met Kostya Kalinov (founder of Aviasales) during my first wintering. I moved for permanent residence here 4 years ago and have been working in Aviasales already for 3,5 years. Kostya offered me to join him several times but I had my own business that brought me nice profit, so I didn’t want to burden myself with some extra work and what is moreover go to the office (!!!). I’ve never done that before in my life. But all in all it happened that I considered all pros and cons, thought about it and decided to give a try.
When I came to the company, there were about 10 thousand affiliates there and the Travelpayouts team was just formed, so it was decided to separate the Affiliate Program itself into a single project, because formerly it was just an Aviasales Affiliate Program.
So you’re 4 years abroad. Do you miss your home?
I don’t miss Russia and go there rarely. For instance, last September I’ve been to a conference in Kazan for 3–4 days. This year I will be travelling to my native Tomsk, Staryi Oskol to see my grandma, and Moscow to attend my friend’s wedding, but not longer than for 6 days.
Tell us about Travelpayouts team. Some of your teammates work distantly from Russia. How do you communicate?
Currently our team counts 16 people: developers, managers, designers. We also reach out to freelance illustrators, translators or developers for help. I am very proud of all of our guys. Our team is probably the most solid among all those teams from Aviasales.
In our office we have a big TV and all the remote part of team is connected to us by Skype all the time, in other words, we all see each other during the whole working day and can discuss issues anytime. Yes, many of us are scattered all over the world and have different time zones. For instance, recently we had: Bali, St. Petersburg, Moscow, Khabarovsk, Samara, Barnaul, Kazan, Izhevsk, Phuket, London. Of course, it’s difficult for some of us to get up at 8 am Moscow time, because every day at 9 we have a standup meeting which everyone should attend. But remoteness doesn’t affect us doing our jobs well. All of us cope with it and can plan our time.
Are you the one to hire new team members?
Yes, I personally select suitable candidates and interview them. And then I send them to our HRs to sign papers and clarify contracts.
I remember how we were looking for our first manager, Lena. We posted a job on hh.ru and wrote a post on Facebook. To be honest, I can’t remember where we found her. But in general I think that Facebook is enough to search for employees.
Now I can easily entrust our managers with a task to find a business developer or a developer-freelancer. And they perfectly cope with it, so I don’t even need to take part in the process.
Of course, they regularly write us even if we don’t have open positions. In this case we communicate to the applicant but he will need to convince us that we won’t cope without him. As for now, nobody has managed to do it.
How difficult is it to be interviewed by you?
An interview is divided into a couple of different stages. The first one is emailing, then maybe some test, and a Skype interview (maybe even several calls). I often talk on life’s topics by Skype, for example, about achievements on previous position or what the one could bring into our team. It’s important for me to find the psychological compatibility. We have a very solid team and it’s important to get a person who will perfectly fit in working processes and all the rest of activities as well. All of us go in for sports — surfing (for example, Igor, our developer, is a member of National Surfing Team of Russia), snowboarding, motorcycling, and travel together.
Generally, interview structure is developed individually and strongly depend on mood. I don’t have any prepared scripts. Let’s say, I may ask some nonsense like «What kind of seasoning are you?» or start to dissuade from getting this job because life on Phuket is not as easy as it may seem after spending a two-week vacation here.
And last, but not least, what are Travelpayouts plans for capturing the world?
Now we actively work on the White Label. We already have 50 affiliates engaged in alpha/beta testing. I think that in September we will release the flight booking part and then go on with the hotel one. But it has lower priority as it’s less popular.
For sure we will improve API and add more data into it. By the end of the year we want to totally redesign the user account, improve the statistics and its layout, make affiliate’s funds flow more transparent, totally redesign statistics interface and improve integration with 3rd party advertisers.
It’s difficult to plan the work too far out in the future since travel services market constantly changes and we need to stay synced with it. There is a general trend, but we basically are aimed to work in the international market, since abroad they have really poor travel partner market — webmasters use product affiliate programs, like Booking.com or some definite flight company program. We also have competitors emerging in Russia so they keep boosting us to develop quickly and efficiently.
What questions would you like to ask Vanya?