Mario Gavira, our VP of Growth has been working his whole life in different areas of the travel industry and when the internet started to boom, he moved to the technology side of travel.
“In 2020, joining Kiwi.com in the position of VP of Growth was an amazing opportunity for me because Kiwi.com was one of the companies that have been shaping travel and technology for the last 10 years,” said Mario.
In this interview, Mario shared thoughts on his work at Kiwi.com, explained what Growth teams are responsible for at Kiwi.com, and shared his views on leadership topics, our Barcelona office, culture, and more.
Hi Mario, you joined the Kiwi.com office in Barcelona as a VP of Growth in November 2020. How did you get where you are today?
I have been working for the last 20 years in different positions in online travel agencies or with meta-search engines. Prior to Kiwi.com, I worked at companies such as Opodo, Odigeo, and Liligo. I started on the supplier’s side, negotiating with different airlines, and over time I moved to more marketing-focused and general management roles. I was a Managing Director of Liligo.com prior to Kiwi.com and I was pretty much focused on the online marketing side of the business and how to acquire traffic efficiently.
Also, I have been raised in a multicultural environment and I have been traveling since I was a little kid. Since I love to travel and since I speak more languages, it was a natural thing to work in this industry.
Since I have been in the industry for a long time, before joining I heard a lot about Kiwi.com and I knew it was one of the most innovative companies in this industry. I was very admirative of what the company had already achieved before Covid and I was confident that we would come out of this crisis as a stronger company. Also, I need to say that I was impressed with the ambitious view of Kiwi.com leaders when the industry was in a very dark place with the whole Covid situation. The opportunity was a good fit for my skill set and I had a good fit with Golan, the CCO who is now my manager, and the rest of the Executive Board.
Didn’t it feel a risk to join Kiwi.com during a pandemic severely affecting travel?
Many companies were in a difficult situation once the pandemic started. I asked myself if I wanted to move out of the travel industry and see how other industries are working. However, I always loved working in travel and I feel I have much more impact here than potentially in other industries where I start from zero. In the end, I thought that as long as there is hope, people will keep traveling.
Can you tell us more about the Growth team and the work they do?
It’s true that Growth is a very vague definition and that Growth departments in different companies can mean very different things. When it comes to our team, we’re basically trying to develop all of the B2C marketing channels in which we haven’t really invested much in the past, such as search engines, paid, and organic search. The other part I also look into is B2B2C, where we already are extremely successful but we continuously keep exploring how to optimize our relationships and business further.
Where are we now and where do we want to be?
When I joined Kiwi.com, our B2C business represented less than 20 percent and now this is already doubled. B2B2C has kept growing too in this period, but we have managed to outgrow B2C versus the rest of our existing business lines. I foresee, and it’s part of our 5 years plan, to continue increasing the percentage of our business being B2C generated. We will have a much stronger brand and engagement with our loyal customers than we have today.
What do you see as the biggest strength of our company at the moment?
We have built our success around Virtual Interlining and that has been the key factor that allowed us to become a multi-billion business. Moving forward, what will allow us to keep growing and move to the next phase is being able to process billions of data points. Not only process but also leverage them to optimize our air content, our pricing, our consumer journey, and our traffic acquisition strategy.
You are based in our office in sunny Barcelona. What do you like the most about working here?
I’m originally from Madrid, and historically there is a rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona so probably I am kind of a “strange beast” living here. Jokes aside, I love Barcelona, I have been working and living here with my family for the past seven years. We feel the conditions here are perfect, having the beach and mountains very close, and this is a city where you can do any kind of sports and other outdoor activities. It has 300 days of sun and it’s an open, multicultural city, which fits perfectly with my family. It’s not massive in terms of size, so I can personally go cycling everywhere, but you do have a lot of offers in terms of culture and festivals here in Barcelona.
When it comes to the office, there’s a strong diversity in the Barcelona team, both from a functional and cultural point of view. We have people from Iran, the Philippines, Moldova, Croatia, Portugal, Czechia, Slovakia, Hungary, and many other parts of Europe. It’s very enriching to have such a multicultural team in the same office. So I would say we are a bunch of open-minded and fun people to work with. And also, we’re in a great central location, our new offices are super cozy and I feel more and more people are coming to the office to work, to hang out, to enjoy our rooftop with a view on Sagrada Familia etc. It’s a great vibe, I love it here.
In your opinion, how important is resilience in a leadership role?
I think it has proven to be critical during the Covid times to all of us individually but also for the company itself. This word was popping up when we were in these dark moments. Being able to stick to a long-term vision, remain optimistic, and be patient was crucial.
What values are the most important for you as a leader?
First of all, curiosity for me is extremely important in the sense that we should always try to learn new things. Having worked 20 years in the travel industry and in different companies, I realize that every day, I have the chance to learn something new in the travel industry.
The second value I would mention is being open-minded in a way to actually accept that whatever shaped you and your perspective of life doesn’t have to be the only truth. You have to challenge yourself on a daily basis. You have to ask yourself if you are biased and how you can accept other opinions and test other ways of doing things.
The last thing I would mention is being humble. We’re all from different backgrounds, and different levels of responsibility, and treating everybody with the same level of respect is extremely important to me.
What do you see as the most difficult part of being a leader?
The difficult part is mostly related to the human challenges you face with your team. When there are problems, sometimes you have success in trying to revert the situation and sometimes you fail, and you need to take hard decisions. I would say this is so far the most difficult part I have experienced.
What makes you happy outside of work?
My family and sport. I enjoy having time with my kids, they are still in wonderful age, 14 and 12 and we tend to do a lot of things together. Running, playing ping-pong, or soccer, or just being together as a family and enjoying our time. And of course, a very important one – traveling! We always sit together and plan ahead trips we want to do and these are very exciting moments for us.
What is one piece of advice you would give to your younger self that could have changed your life?
I think I have no such advice to give. I’ve done many things wrong in my life that brought me to where I am today. I am happy with all the mistakes I made and what I learned from them. I think all of those things were enriching and in the end made me who I am today.
Do you want to work together with Mario and boost your career at the Kiwi.com office in Barcelona? Check our open positions and don’t hesitate to apply.