Although his early career was spent in the oil industry in his native Russia, Evgenii Chuprov grew up in an aviation household. His father was an air traffic controller and dispatcher, his mother was a maintenance engineer. He combined both industries with a stint working in TNK-BP’s flight department before setting up his own charter operation in 2011. But it was the following year when he co-founded Aviapages, initially as a putative competitor to Avinode. A little over a decade on, the company has found its niche as a business-to-business marketplace for the private aviation industry in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, and Chuprov is beginning to target the U.S. market. He lives in Dubai with his wife and two daughters but says his company—with a corporate HQ in Hong Kong and offices in the U.S. and the Netherlands—will remain Moldova-based.
Q: What prompted you to set up Aviapages?
A: I had a client who didn’t accept any paperwork, back in 2011—he asked us to send him all the information digitized. And I realized that it was so difficult to find information about business aviation, FBOs, meeting points, airports, operators and aircraft. We decided to create a kind of marketplace, like a Yellow Pages where you can find lots of this information.
Back then, the idea was to create a competitor to Avinode. I still think it was a great idea, but it’s so challenging—and is still challenging—to create a new model to connect the people with the business aviation operators. We started with gathering information and the creation of an engine to allow us to calculate the price the right way—this was the flight route calculator. Now it’s one of the main products, and most of our revenue is based on this.
We decided to open our office in Moldova because the rates for engineers were acceptable, and the level of the engineers was high. We started to create our prototypes, and after two years, we realized that nothing works. Nothing! We had no clients, but we had a good model that could calculate the precise flight time from A to B with the fuel consumption. We had to make a decision: close the project and accept the losses, or invent something?
We started with the flight route calculator, and the first operators we showed it to said, ‘We need it. We need it because we need precise flight time. But could you create an API [application programming interface] for this? We need it inside our system.’ In two weeks, we had the API, we integrated that for our first clients, and they paid us.
Q: When was this?
A: It was 2014, which, for Russia, for Ukraine, for Europe, was a crucial moment. For our business, it was the start. Because of the conflict, lots of European operators had to avoid [certain pieces of] airspace, avoid crossing borders, avoid Crimea, and take into account lots of small things. Their sales departments had to call ops much more often, and our clients said, ‘Guys, we need avoidance—we can’t be calling ops every time we do a quote.’
For example, once I was with one of the biggest operators in Europe—now they are clients of ours. In the summertime, they have about 600 requests via Avinode—600 requests for two managers. They cannot take all these small things into account when they’re quoting. And because of this, there’s a percentage of mistakes. If they confirm a mistake in a quote they lose the money, or they have a dispute with the client about why they raised the price. It hurts relationships with the brokers, with the clients. They’d like to avoid it.
So, we started implementing these small things—it was coun- try avoidance the first time. Then we started to slowly but surely develop in Europe. And we began to put more and more information on our website. We understood that it was not possible to compete with Avinode, but we could put out precise information, with our own content department creating content by themselves. We started to sell subscriptions to professional players.