I feel competition and opportunity are both motivational drivers towards growth. As we climbed the ranks in our virtual events industry, we saw immense opportunity of what our product was capable of and thus, wanted to expand and dominate into adjacent spaces.
Appforshare.io: Hello Aatir, thank you for joining us. Let’s do a quick introduction, can you tell us a little about yourself and a bit about vFairs?
Aatir: Sure! I’m Aatir and I’m currently working as the Director of Product Marketing at vFairs. My product management journey started more than a decade back in Microsoft when I interned there for the Office Business Applications team in Seattle.
After falling in love with discipline, I returned back to Pakistan and was lucky to land a gig as Pakwheels’ first Product Manager. After growing traffic there for a couple of years, I moved to Bayt (Dubai) to work on a number of B2C and B2B web products. I led the launch of platforms like Yallamotor (automobile classifieds), vFairs (virtual events platform), Talentera (recruitment solution), and AfterHire (onboarding platform).
Most recently, I’ve moved over full-time to vFairs which has now spun off to become a booming startup of its own making waves in the virtual events industry.
vFairs is a virtual events platform that helps organizations conduct events online – be it tradeshows, conferences, job fairs, or any other mass gathering you can think of. Our mission is to “help organizations delight the audiences they care about” without any limits. We’ve been assisting companies and universities extend their reach by going online and connecting with their audiences in meaningful ways. And during the pandemic, specifically, we helped several companies retain business continuity by giving them a platform to remain in touch with customers and prospects.
AFS: We believe that you have been deeply involved in forming the strategies at vFairs and defining the product vision. What do you think sets the offering that vFairs has today in terms of what customers are asking for?
Aatir: We believe vFairs align with customers’ needs in 3 essential ways:
1- Customers want to impress audiences & stand out.
We recognize that people suffer from webinar fatigue and hosting a series of Zoom meetings tunes out audiences after a while. Such engagements leave audiences bored and jaded after a while and retention of what was said during the session is pretty low. To counter this, vFairs build memorable experiences & journeys, not just an online castle for meetings. Our events consist of spaces that are represented by stunning 3D visuals which aren’t just delightful to look at but also easy to learn and navigate. We give attendees a number of ways to network – from chatrooms to matchmaking to audio-spacial networking. We ensure audiences are looked after by giving them a rich gamut of interesting tools to engage with from online scavenger hunts, photo booths, leaderboards, trivia, and social walls. Thus, with this approach, every event we conduct has a unique feel which creates a positive affinity towards the organizer.
2- Customers want to be heard, respected & well-supported.
When we interview our early customers, they tell us that they are loyal to vFairs because we didn’t just sell and throw a tool at them. We listened. We understood what they were trying to achieve and consulted them on the best way to go about it, even if it meant not opting for vFairs if we were not the best. Thus, one thing we never compromised on was customer service and that sets us apart from the competition. We lead the virtual event platform rankings on G2 for that very reason. “Helping Customers Win” is a basic value at vFairs and we are hard-wired to go the extra mile to set up events that resonate.
3- Every customer is unique & needs tailored solutions.
A university that wants to help students find jobs is vastly different from a corporation that’s looking to market its product & services. Both of these are different from a non-profit association planning to conduct an online fundraiser and conference. At vFairs, we have developed our solutions in a way that they are highly malleable so that they can be adapted to every customer’s unique needs. You’ll find every vFairs event to be distinct from each other because we understand that one-size-fits-all doesn’t work for companies that care about their brand and the experience they want to deliver to audiences.
AFS: What does ‘future of work’ mean to you and what role vFairs plays in shaping it?
Aatir: In my humble opinion, the “Future of work” will intensely focus on what & why you deliver rather than how and where you deliver it from. We already have seen that Work from Home for a large part of the economy (barring front-line workers) has been a success. Organizations demand value creation, and the future of work will need to afford people the freedom of where they create it from – be it at home, a workplace, or a beach for that matter.
Moreover, the “future of work” also will push the envelope in creating a global village. It will bring people from all walks of life and different backgrounds, geographies, ethnicities, etc. together to create things of exceptional value. I remember that vFairs used to limit its hiring to just Lahore and Dubai at one point. However, as things evolved, we now employ people from all over the world in regions like North America, Europe, South East Asia, MENA, and Australia. That has not just expanded our employee footprint; it has removed the ceiling of what we are now capable of.
vFairs is committed to supporting this Future of Work by providing organizations a way to connect their employees under one platform to work, network, play and create shared experiences that drive business outcomes. This is why several companies use us to power Virtual Town Halls, Company onboarding fairs & training expos.
AFS: When you work within an environment having an extreme growth area, you are naturally exposed to what’s next? How was your journey in stepping to the next leader board every time?
Aatir: I feel competition and opportunity are both motivational drivers towards growth. As we climbed the ranks in our virtual events industry, we saw immense opportunity of what our product was capable of and thus, wanted to expand and dominate into adjacent spaces. After conquering conferences and job fairs, when we thought “What’s next?”, we saw so many other blue oceans like online graduation fairs, open days, summits, and onboarding events. The question wasn’t what more we can do, rather it was which one to do first.
Similarly, we saw intense and fierce competition emerging from all directions and that motivated us to step up our game every time and innovate/build faster.
AFS: From creating innovation to bringing it to the enterprise encompasses quite a bit of weight and responsibility. What are the challenges you have come across in vFairs?
Aatir: Since the product was evolving at a rapid clip, the biggest challenge was to keep the internal team aligned on the state of the enterprise product.
We were pushing out enhancements on a daily basis, but these changes needed to be conveyed to and had to be understood by sales, marketing, support, project management, finance, and legal. Disseminating that information internally in time was a massive challenge and we countered it by leveraging company-wide collaboration rituals.
Moreover, when you are navigating the enterprise space, a solution isn’t enough. You need to create layers of security, privacy, performance, and stability to win customer trust. Therefore, we had to focus on how to create scalable processes to ensure that as we were delivering product increments.
AFS: As vFairs have recently launched a mobile app, what UAT techniques have you adopted to test your app? What tools are you using at vFairs to conduct effective user acceptance testing?
Aatir: We have a quality assurance team that tests our mobile app across the device universe through a mix of simulators and running test cases on physical devices. We also have a beta phase where the apps are installed across our employee base for internal trials before we move onto a limited beta where only a few customers are given access. Once it passes our stability criteria, we roll it out to the app stores for a global release. We have plans to employ test automation frameworks around this to speed this up and strengthen confidence.
AFS: What strategies will you suggest to us with which we can market and scale our product Appforshare.io?
Aatir: My suggestion would be to develop a lot of content (blogs and videos) to educate the market about why distributing apps over the air can be beneficial. Participate in Discord servers, Reddit threads, Quora, and other communities where developers can be made aware of the facility that you have. Mark out your competitors like InstallOnAir, inspect where they are attracting audiences, and even perhaps put down advertising spend to compete on high-potential keywords. I’d highly advise running a social media account that posts infographics on the various uses of OTA.
AFS: One lesson that you have learned from this pandemic, and want to share with us?
Aatir: One lesson is that you need to treat the family as “work” too. A mistake that was commonly made was that we blurred the lines between office and home and the former seemed to take the lion’s share of our time. Just like how we block off calendar times for important meetings, we should try to do the same for our time with parents, spouses, and kids. The pandemic taught me that everything requires a balance.
Bonus: When the lockdowns happened, pollution dropped to an all-time low and air quality levels skyrocketed. It just shows how unkind we have been to our planet and that massive reforms are needed to restore some normalcy. Reduce your carbon footprint by walking and biking to places.
AFS: Although different viewpoints can result in conflicts at work, what one thing inspires you to maintain the positive virtues among your team?
Aatir: “Listen more than you talk.”
Everyone is unique and has a different perspective. Just because they are different doesn’t mean they are wrong. It’s imperative to understand opinions and accept/embrace the spectrum of thoughts and philosophies. The debate can also be healthy if it’s done within the realms of decency. It allows you to clear your doubts, call out assumptions and really dig deep into a topic, strategy, or decision.
But everything starts with keeping an open mind and actively listening to what the other person has to say.
AFS: Tell us about your last travel destination? What have you enjoyed the most there?
Aatir: My last destination was Toronto. I loved how the city’s foliage turned into a rustic, soothing yellow/orange in the Autumn season. God’s Green Earth is a blessing and a breathtaking spectacle and sometimes you have to stop, pause and notice your surroundings to appreciate it. And, of course, going to Niagara Falls was memorable and awe-inspiring.
Thank you so much, Aatir, for taking out time. We appreciate all the advice and information you have shared with us. Looking forward to doing more such conversations.
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