ArmInfo. Being a successful practicing physician in the US, Vahan Shakaryan founded the company Technologia and Science Dynamics in the American Santa Barbara in 1998, and in 2013 in Yerevan. Today, the company's products include mobile phones and tablets, investigative-scientific, solar, telecommunications, educational technologies, laboratories and products. A wider consumer knows such products of the company's activities, such as Armphone, Armphonik and EcoPad. From the first day of his stay in Armenia, Vahan Shakaryan made it clear that he is not interested in politics. "I am a native of Yerevan, and I really miss our capital. For me, Armenia is very important, the future of the country, the Armenian youth is important. It's painful to watch them emigrate. If I'm sure that they will find a better life there, I would not be so concerned. However, in reality, everything is too complicated, "Vahan Shakaryan said in an interview with ArmInfo.
Mr. Shakaryan, recently the Executive Director of the Development Fund of Armenia (ARF) Armen Avak Avakyan said at the press conference summing up the results of the annual activity, the largest investment project was the attraction of 10 million euros from the Italian multinational company IDS, which together with the Armenian company Technology and Science Dynamics (TSD) will create a new IT laboratory in Armenia. What does this cooperation mean?
The Italian IDS is a fairly large company that develops special-purpose technological solutions. We are now developing large-scale programs, because cooperation is not designed for six months and not for a year. On the basis of TSD, a research laboratory will be established in the direction of high-technology production of forenziki in Armenia. In order to discuss the details only for the last two months, the Italians have visited Armenia 3 times. The first products of joint work will be visible as early as next year.
The Government of the Republic of Armenia and the company of Technology and Science Dynamics on February 24 this year signed a memorandum of understanding "On the stimulation of the information technologies, information, promotion of innovative and telecommunication sectors", the purpose of which is to raise the investment rating of the Armenian IT industry. According to the document, representatives of the ICT sector will be opened in the embassies of 15 countries. What has been done in this direction?
Under the government's decision, instructions were given to the ministries of foreign affairs, economic development and investment, the Ministry of Transport to help TSD in organizational matters. We took the financial part, but there are certain moments that should be decided by the governmental organizations. For example, if we decide to send a representative to any European country, then he should be given a certain status, he can not go to work on a tourist visa. This issue is in the competence of the Foreign Ministry. The Foreign Ministry should provide our employee with a status, a place to work in the country of his business trip. Today there are no places in the diplomatic representations, they themselves complain that they are cramped. The question was addressed to the government. We are not told "no", but at the same time, nothing is being done. As a result, the company has representatives in 10 countries, but they are not from Armenia, but are our compatriots in these countries. Thus, the representatives of TSD solve the problems of the recognition of the IT sphere of Armenia abroad, which complicates the work many times. What is the solution to the problem? While we do it ourselves, how many can.
In addition, I do not think that the demonstration of the IT potential of Armenia is part of the duties of the Ambassador or Consul. A person who represents the ICT sphere should understand the sphere, be a professional in his field. It's one thing to promote the brand of clothing, but it's quite another technology. Organizing a conference is not so easy - it's very expensive, and requires careful preparation. One person still can not cope with this. To promote the IT potential of the country's company there are various platforms - conferences, trade shows, where you can participate. It is here that the support of the state and the Development Fund of Armenia is required, which should invest money, choose companies for participation. For example, the forthcoming International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) - International Consumer Electronics Exhibition will be held in Las Vegas in January 2018 - participation in the show will require huge financial investments, and one Armenian company will not be able to take part in it.
In early December, TSD announced the launch of Armphonik sales for children and the elderly. What is the concept of the product?
The new product Armphonik is designed for those who have difficulties with dialing numbers. In addition, giving a 5-year-old child who goes to kindergarten in the hands of a smartphone with Internet connection, has no reason. Armphonik can not be connected to the Internet, however, you can place photos of four close people on the screen, for example, parents and grandparents, so that a child can simply dial the desired phone number and contact relatives with a simple click on a digit. At the same time, the phone is equipped with an additional "emergency" button located on the back panel, when pressed, the phone will automatically call all four numbers, and if all of them suddenly turn out to be unavailable, redirects the call to the emergency telephone number of the Emergency Ministry of Armenia. The product does not have foreign analogues. In this regard, it can be called unique. Armphonik at this stage is planned to be implemented in the Armenian market, samples for the US, Mexico, and the Russian Federation have already been sent.
In which countries are TSD products presented, and in what direction is your eyes looking now?
It would seem that the main market for Armenian products is Russian. However, no matter how paradoxical it may sound, it is easier for an Armenian ICT company to enter the American and European markets than to the Russian one. In short, Russia recognizes 3 out of 4 certificates issued by Armenia. Membership in the EEMP for us did not solve this problem. Because of this one certificate, we have already corresponded for a year. There are certain difficulties connected with the fact that our company operates in the Free Economic Zone in Armenia. It turns out that we are physically in the RA, but legally we are not an Armenian company, therefore, we do not have the right to engage in retail trade in Armenia. The implementation of our products is handled by another local company that buys TSD products and resells. All this - additional troubles and taxes.
As for the European market, there are no problems here. However, we can not say that we are happy with the sales. Branding - the process of forming a certain brand image requires a long period.
Mr. Shakaryan, we know that the accessories for phones and not only are mainly made in China - this is the scourge of our time. How ambitious is the prospect that an Armenian producer will be able to provide the entire production chain in Armenia - from components to collection of goods?
Our products are assembled in Armenia, the components are made in China, as well as with other, even the largest manufacturers. It is not necessary to say that in the foreseeable future the Armenian producer will reach the level that the entire production chain will be implemented in Armenia. Even the US did not get to that. No matter how much we try, all the same, at a price it will cost more than in China, the scale and resources are not proportionate.
Mr. Shakaryan, how do you think the Armenian company of the ICT sector, in particular TSD, will in the foreseeable future take its worthy place in the global IT market.
I think so, but with the appropriate support from the state. Again, everything is extremely complicated. The Armenian market is small in volume, but until recently local producers were given the privilege: when holding state tenders, even if the local company's price offer exceeded 30% of the declared price of the company from the outside, the advantage was given to the Armenian company. Today we lost this privilege, because after the adjustment of the EAEA, the country's economic authorities are not allowed to give privileges to local businesses. Maybe the norm is reasonable for Russia or Kazakhstan, but for Armenia, if it wants to develop the local economy, the support of the domestic producer is mandatory. We can not turn around, if local telecom operators do not want to sell cell phones of the domestic manufacturer, because they buy identical in parameters, but cheap from China. Be it the preferences that were enshrined in the legislation of the country, which somehow motivated them, they would also go to a partial purchase of gadgets of domestic production.
Advertising, PR, marketing, these are millions and millions of dollars. We do as much as we can in the same EU countries or in the USA. However, we do not have a goal to spend hundreds of millions to sell ArmPhone in the States, because it is equivalent to suicide. The buyers of our products in the same States are representatives of the Armenian Diaspora and people of medium and lower middle income.
In order to massively sell their phones in the US and France, etc., TSD should produce a minimum of 100-150 thousand pieces. If the production of one phone costs the company $ 100, you can calculate how much you need to invest in order to ensure such a scale and then send it all around the world, spend hundreds of millions more dollars on advertising and hope that this volume will be realized within a reasonable time, because these technology changes every six months. That is, if within 6 months the company does not sell 150-200 thousand pieces, we will actually be at a loss. Realizing all this, we chose the niche that was considered competitive. Let's say that the company "X" appeals to us, ordering a white phone, where the logo of the company is set as the background image of the initial screen, and that the music of the favorite artist plays when calling from the office. Here we are ready to fully cover the needs of the client.
According to different polls, more than 70% of employers are dissatisfied with the professional training of their staff and their education, pointing out that this is also the main obstacle to the development of business. How much do you agree with this statement?
For three years I've been repeating - the task of TSD, it's not only the promotion of ArmTabs and ArmPhone. Were our hopes fulfilled? I will say that this is not what we expected from the beginning. And today we do not expect that we will become rich and the whole world will be flooded with our products. This is excluded, simply because we alone will not promote the promotion of Armenian products on foreign markets. Our original goal is to train forensic specialists in Armenia, since this is a large world market. We have very good young people in Armenia, but it takes time to train these personnel.
We can not say that there are shortages of personnel in Armenia - there are personnel, but we are not preparing them. If we hope that young people, graduates of the Polytechnic University, the American or any other higher education institution of the ICT sector, will do the work required by the employer in 4 years, these are tales of a white bull. Each IT company has its own specificity, so TSD takes students to the production practice from the second to third year, chooses the most promising ones, gives part-time jobs so that they are ready to do the work that we need at the time of graduation.
Mr. Shakaryan, if we try to sum up, how do you see "light at the end of the tunnel"?
There are two options - to fight for changes in legislation - it's long, tedious and useless, or to reconsider your strategy.
Once again, we have a very large IT potential in Armenia, which is not used in full force. It is necessary to work more in an organized manner in terms of promoting the ICT sphere - it is a proper PR of Armenia, its capabilities in science and IT, and not a single private company. The state should participate financially in the organization of PR programs. I am not a supporter of the government giving money to private entrepreneurs for the development of private business. It will be justifiable if the government of the country invests in the PR of some industry. Today I do not see such work. Our neighboring states do not disdain this and spend huge amounts of money. We very much hope for the Diaspora - it should also participate actively, but we should not sit idly by.
Summarizing, I will say that we do not have enough PR in Armenia as a whole. If we are doing PR of Armenia, there is already promotion of certain sectors - IT, tourism, textiles, will not run with obstacles, but a light jog on short distances.