Tatyana Symonenko

Right after graduating from National University of Science and Technology MISiS, Tatyana joined the telecom industry working for both telecom operators and equipment manufacturers. Soon it became apparent that the experience she had gained and open-minded attitude she had cultivated made it possible to bring to market cost-effective and efficient solutions, even during a crisis. A team of the most qualified developers in the industry together with a team of leading engineers have recently presented several products for Russia telecom industry players helping them to reduce costs and increase profit.

We don't like to be called a system integrator. A telecom design company is a much better name.

The system integrator term has been overused over the last decade. It often means to buy low, sell high and get a 300% profit margin. We don’t like that. That’s why we position ourselves as a design company, even though technically we are also a system integrator.

For how long have you been in the industry?

We started on December 21st, 2015. It was almost Christmas holidays. This probably determined our name, as mandarin oranges symbolise Christmas and New Year’s Day celebrations. This is such a mix of West European and Russian traditions.

Why is that? What does your name mean?

For us, the mandarin orange is a symbol of integrity that at the same time consists of numerous segments. We believe that we are also a composition of technological solutions, fractions. We combine them into a beautiful festive pack and serve it to our customer.

How can you briefly describe your business model?

The main idea behind our business that we do not strive just to earn much money immediately. We are quite satisfied to regularly get our 15% profit margin from every project. This model is well effective in the US and Europe, but it’s rarely applied in Russia where everyone used to chase the maximum profit possible. Initially, we were mocked, but now we practically prove that our approach is viable and our business model can be used in Russia.

How do you recruit your personnel?

Despite the fact that the current situation in our market can be definitely characterised as a crisis, we believe that this is not even a good opportunity, but a lucky chance for us. Our initial concept suggests that our staff is not inflated and projects receive target funding. Our allocation of funds are highly targeted, so we can sustain hard times when large companies have to downsize their staff.

We believe that we had, have and will have an opportunity to hire people with unbiased attitude who previously dealt with completely different tasks.

Besides, each of our employees has previous experience with a system integrator.

Are you going to enter the global market?

We are tempted with the idea of global market presence. And yes, we would like to enter the developed markets, at least the European ones, as we think that there are no adequate system integrators there affordable for mid-sized customers. In contrast to the US, where it’s a popular and profitable business.

How intense is the competition in your industry?

It should be noted that we do not even try to compete with large players, globally operated integrators. We rather practice self-development, build up our reputation. However, we are sure that we will sooner or later become well-known.

What projects implemented by your competitors in the Russian IT market in recent years you think are worth to be mentioned?

We admire everything related to the Safe City project. The way it is implemented in every region of the RF, and we also like the concept and overall approach to tackle its tasks. Its nationwide scale is well noticeable. A project of such scale is what we dream of. And dreams and desires being formulated and described correctly usually come true. We closely watch this project and can say that, though it sometimes misses deadlines, this is a kind of task that observing it being implemented provides us distance learning. Instances of performing a system integrator’s role successfully and efficiently by our competitors is our subject of monitoring for the near future.

Generally, I would like to note that more attention has been paid to information security, as well as to processing and storing of personal information in all Russian IT domains. This creates huge opportunities for us and our rivals in terms of designing and developing new products.

Finally, there is much expectation among market players over the adopted telemedicine regulating law. This law, apart of its great social importance for the country, in which one cannot always see a doctor timely, opens wide technology horizons for creating and implementing new ways of helping people regardless of their location.

The last thing I’d like to note is certainly the development of the blockchain technology. This concerns not even cryptocurrencies, but possibilities the technology provides to accomplish routine tasks, for example to automate processes or justify a choice of a contracting party, since the blockchain technology makes its references easily accessible.

What are your key advantages?

We are highly mobile in all senses of this term. For example, if there is a delivery problem at the launch stage, that is to say some parts need to be physically delivered to the site, we quickly fix it, as we believe that any matter can be settled.

Nothing is impossible.

There has been recently a situation where an engineer made a phone call to our project manager at noon to inform him that a half of equipment supplied to the customer either not function or malfunction. We arranged a delivery of two 20 kg servers which were successfully transported by air to Ufa. The engineer set them up and the man who delivered the equipment left for Moscow at 6 a.m. and came to the office by the beginning of the working day to supervise and coordinate actions of all employees involved in the launch.

A similar situation arose with another project where it was needed to make an urgent flight to Israel to pick up «the right» equipment, as the devices delivered earlier to Moscow turned out to have interfaces of another type, while the project deadline approached. So our employee made a flight, picked up the equipment and went through two customs. The project was finished on time — this is very important for us.

Were there projects that you rejected being unable to get on with the task?

Yes, there were. However, they were not unfeasible for us but unacceptable due to reasons of ethics. For example, there was a project where we had to compete with our partner. We successfully accomplished several project with this partner. We hope to continue our co-operation. That is why we collectively take a decision to decline the project to retain a good relationship with the partner that, in this case, is more important than profit.

What is most important for you to stay afloat?

We apply the same principle as in sports or wildlife — you are alive till you keep on moving. This is a key rule. Thus, we try to act protectively — to gather and gift our «innovative mandarins». So far we have coped with the set tasks and set new trends — we are afloat, we are and will be alive. But should we decide to become a reseller, our business is over.

What do your customers need most often?

Our customers often need a good friend. We all need friends. Seriously, both our customers and partners need a company with profound technical expertise and not only in Russia but at the international level, so it can actually claim the right to be called a leader. It is necessary to visit customers and make presentations for them to explain (sometimes, as simply as possible) how it all works.

It’s often typical for Russia that the commercial and technical departments do not communicate at all. While in all other countries they always work in close collaboration. Oddly enough, it is technical departments in Russia that decide whether or not a product goes to the market. But this is a task of the marketing function that must also be validated by results of marketing studies. It is not typical for Russia to deeply analyse sales, customers' needs, etc. that has led to an obvious imbalance.

It’s a situation as if we were a psychologist seeing a couple which have never visited a psychologist. They have accumulated a lot of resentment to each other, but they do not know how to speak about their fears and pain. If end-customers are added, the situation becomes more complicated. It’s like talking to children — it’s necessary to explain how to understand them (end-customers), what they need, what is important, how to reach a mutual understanding. And what is the most important — how not to spoil a relationship with such communication.

How is your business connected with the development of tools based on customers' behaviour data?

Our business is partially based on collected customers' behaviour data. Many of our employees previously worked for companies offering solutions which is based not on communication networks and routers, but the results of customers' wants analysis and a striving to understand them.

Do your customers show any interest in solutions and innovations that your offer as add-ons to your main products?

Yes, they do, and we are very satisfied with that fact. They are particularly interested in cloud solutions and managed services. Visiting our customers today, we notice that they are no longer ready to pay for expensive equipment, as it’s risky. Meanwhile, buying a cloud service which can be abandoned at any time is a great option for a cautious customer.

Overall, both the public and private sectors demonstrate a more deliberate approach to expenditures. It’s obvious that easy money is running out, so cloud solutions are in demand and find their application.

The cloud solutions we developed in 2017 do save money for their users. For example, if the traffic used by a customer is very expensive, our Traffic Director and Traffic Director-M solutions make it possible to save up to 25−30% of its cost.

Cloud solutions can also decrease the cost of hiring highly paid IT experts or extending computation capacity if it is only required for some short-term projects. By the way, audit and basic consulting services which we are going to provide free of charge even to our small customers are among our future services. Meanwhile, everyone is welcomed to try our cloud solutions for a free trial period.

We are currently launching a new product which is a mix of our cloud services. It can be easily integrated with third party systems and makes it possible for our customers to provide services to end users with no significant additional cost for development and support To put it simply, the target audience of this product — operators, hosting providers and cloud service providers — will be able to add functionality in few clicks and provide (resell) new services to their customers.

How your business is changing due to development and wide application of cloud solutions?

As my fitness coach used to say: «This question could be a subject for my doctorate thesis.» Seriously, everyone sees a total shift to cloud solutions and services, but many people still do not understand what they really are.

We believe that very soon unsophisticated access devices priced at $ 100−200 will dominate the market, while all computations will be done in clouds.

Our solutions are already based on the cloud technology for over 50%, that is we ourselves are active users of such services and know them first hand. Our line of cloud solutions offers cloud and managed services to the end user.

While in the past we basically sold ready-made solutions of our partners and our own services, now we develop everything in-house. This is a new business for as that added the product management function. Not everything goes smoothly, but we do our best and hope that customers will appreciate our efforts.

What is your most promising product for 2018?

The most promising product for Russia, I guess, should generate an additional income for its users and shouldn’t require any cost for its implementation. Developing such a product was our priority in 2017 and still is for 2018. Besides, we observe some changes in our customer segments.

At the very beginning we mainly worked with operators and retain a leading position in this segment.

However, we get more and more corporate customers which set new standards and requirements. But such challenge only excites. We are ready!

Which of your projects was the most important for your company? And why?

We appreciate all our projects and customers. We simply like to help people and develop ourselves.