She admits that her favorite business is sales: "I can talk about them for hours!" But the time of our interview is limited - including the distance between continents: it is already evening in Moscow when Lolita gets in touch with me from her American office. In 2000, her 12-year-old girl was taken from Uzbekistan to the United States by her parents. “In 2008, when I received my law degree, there was a crisis in the States. A year later we met Sergei, my future husband, and started working together in the aviation business. And in 2011, after studying the market, I offered to open JetSmarter."
The initial idea was much more modest than it manifested itself later: there were a lot of vacant seats on private flights that no one offered to customers. In 2012, an aggregator application was released that allowed you to book a private flight for a reasonable price. Today, five years later, 3100 aircraft have already been registered in the company's database, and last year about 35 thousand passengers used its services. JetSmarter offers private charters to all destinations around the world: USA, Europe, Russia and the Middle East.
MC: The very idea of an app that allows you to book a seat on a private jet from a smartphone has something in common with the Uber principle: it saves money for both service providers and users. But you work in the luxury service industry, where it was not customary to count clients' money back in the early 2000s. How do you think the very concept of "luxury" has changed today?
Lolita Frangulyan: In 2011, when we came up with JetSmarter, there really were no such "joint" shuttles. We started out by trying to work with rich people who booked charters through the app, and there was strong demand. On the other hand, we analyzed the suppliers' proposals and realized that their management is ineffective - about 30% of private flights fly without passengers. So the idea was born to buy “empty” flights rather cheaply, because the owners of the planes still did not make money on them. A new model, the JetSmarter Membership, was soon available. I realized that such an economical option became interesting for very wealthy clients. Many criticized us: "The rich won't get on the plane with someone else!" But it turned out that they are not at all against flying with people of their circle - especially if they are offered a plane for a quarter of the price,which they themselves would pay in full as a charter. You know, today even the richest want to be smart with their money.
By the way, who is your typical client?
On average, this generation is 40-year-olds - they understand the digital world very well, they are used to living fast and doing everything through applications. Receive everything immediately and at a good price. It is not fashionable to squander money.
But what about exclusivity is no longer a priority?
Now, especially in the US, customers are buying subscriptions to get on a plane with others like them. At first, JetSmarter was just a tech company that helped suppliers make money on empty flights. And today - I can feel it - new people come to us who buy membership in order to belong to the club, to communicate on board.
Do you think the Russian mentality is different here?
The "American Dream" is working in America - everyone immediately responds to an interesting deal. And the Russian people are rather skeptics. But they are much more loyal - they bring friends, support what they liked.
You have found solid investors, among them - the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, and the famous rapper Jay-Z, and top managers of Goldman Sachs or Twitter … Do you think there is a fundamental difference in attracting money to an expensive - like yours - project or a small startup?
I think there are general rules here. It is fashionable to invest in fast-growing businesses today, especially when it comes to technology. For example, we position ourselves as a technology company. Even when we enter a new market - say, Moscow - we can already guess how many subscriptions we will sell, because we know the number of application users. We know a lot about them. All this attracts investors - we grew by 400% last year!
Nowadays there is a lot of talk about the fact that technology is replacing people - how do you see it?
I agree that technology can take people out of the sales process. When we started working with Russia, clients liked to call and say: "Book me such and such a flight." And we answered: "Let's better teach you how to do it yourself." Today we employ 220 people at JetSmarter. The board must take off on time, someone must take care of food, comfort - such personnel cannot be replaced with technology.
And in everyday life, what are your life hacks?
I want to find a balance, although, I admit, today it is not very successful. I have two small children - on weekends I do everything to disconnect from work. In the morning I go in for sports for at least an hour and a half. Sometimes I play tennis, run or walk at a brisk pace. This is an absolutely necessary thing if you spend a lot of time at work.
You and your husband are in the same business - does it help or hinder you in some way?
In our pair, this is an advantage. We are very different in character. Sergey is a visionary, I think he belongs to such a category of people as, for example, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, who created Uber. Before that, people did not see any opportunity, but he did. I have a different mentality - operational. He and his analytical team know how to make ideas, and I know how to turn them into reality. I do not meddle in his work, and we completely trust each other. Although sometimes we laugh: "Would you invest in a company run by a husband and wife?" He replies: "Well, probably." And I definitely wouldn't! In my opinion, it rarely happens that such different people work together - but we did it.
And it's all about her
Co-Founder and COO of JetSmarter Service
City: Boca Raton, Florida, USA
Family: husband; son, 7, and daughter, 5
Education: University of Florida Law School, USA
Clothing Style: Practical - J-Brand jeans and trendy T-shirts
Bags: Louis Vuitton; Prada
Beauty must-have: creams from The Skincare, Shiseido; Concealer Touche Eclat and Foundation Le Teint Touche Eclat, Yves Saint Laurent
Fragrance: Playing With the Devil, by Kilian
Relax: Reading, Relaxing By The Pool, Taking Long Walks
Traveling: Caribbean - Bahamas, Turks and Caicos
Photo: Press Service Archive
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