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Interview with Nikolay Pozhidaev, Sitronics Group President, for the Technologies for Business TV program

Technologies for Business with Nikolay Pozhidaev, Sitronics Group President

Gunel Mamedova: Today we will talk about the IT market in general and current trends. To start our interview, please tell our viewers about your company.

Nikolay Pozhidaev: Sitronics Group has been on the IT market for a rather long time and started its growth by providing smart city solutions. Today our company comprises a number of disciplines. We continue developing the smart cities products. We are a very active player in the video surveillance and video analytics markets, and we also provide numerous integrated solutions.

We offer digital city solutions, including the ones related to urban infrastructure, and we do a lot of research for a number of industries. The best-known among our products are in transport logistics, particularly marine logistics.

The company is a leading developer of autonomous ship navigation systems, both onboard and onshore. Most recently, we have entered the satellite systems market supporting our marine products. We are also doing research for a number of other industries, for example control systems for the oil and gas sector, and for power engineering. We work with unmanned aerial vehicles, and develop various “unassailable” solutions. We actively participate in the import substitution program. A major part of our solutions is designed to be produced in Russia. Therefore, our product range is fairly wide and suited for a large number of applications.

Gunel Mamedova: Nikolay, in 2021 you’ve updated the corporate strategy. What were those changes?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: It mainly concerned evolving into a vendor rather than an integrator. This means that now we are vigorously investing in development of proprietary solutions. This is probably the main change. The second change stems from our focus on certain industries. We are heading towards other possibilities and opportunities. Speaking of autonomous ship navigation, we are actually one of three or four companies in the world in the field, and are one of the leaders. We see an immense potential in this area. Russia has a significant untapped market. The Northern Sea Route is the top-priority national task, and we take an active part in solving it. We enjoy participating in projects like this one.

Gunel Mamedova: Would you say that digitalization of the marine sector is a new area?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: Yes, it is. We are setting sights on the control systems. I mean, today individual industries have their own systems and solutions for specific tasks. And we are setting sights on the control system that will encompass the entirety of processes and actions from the start of the process planning to the end product. At the same time, we are trying to remove human error as a factor.

Gunel Mamedova: So, you use predictive analytics?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: Predictive analytics too. Artificial intelligence is extremely important today. We are actively using these technologies in our products. In only eighteen months, we’ve increased our team ten-fold by merging with other teams along with new hires. A year and a half ago, Sitronics employed a little over one hundred people. Today our team is fifteen hundred plus. The most growth occurred in R&D teams, and we are investing in R&D heavily.

Gunel Mamedova: Let me ask you this. Do you ever supply your solutions to the international market? How is it different from the Russian one?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: You know, the markets are actually different because people’s attitude is different. Here is an example let’s say regarding the autonomous ship navigation system. In Russia, we mainly speak about the economic viability of this product, while the first thing our international customers are thinking of is safety. The explanation is simple — the statistics show that over ninety percent of all incidents at sea are due to human error. Our systems either assist in making decisions, or make decisions entirely based on the system’s knowledge and on the surrounding conditions. The first thing that draws worldwide attention is the huge improvement in navigation safety. I think, it is the main difference, though I would say that our country is increasingly paying attention to that issue, in particular, in such challenging navigation environments as the Northern Sea Route. There, safety is a priority.

Gunel Mamedova: Development of any company depends on its people, they are the foundation. Tell us how you managed to form such an efficient team?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: It was rather difficult on the today’s market because the market is overheated as regards to IT specialists. We feel pressure on all sides. When we open a new R&D office, we, first, research the region. Today, we are present in eleven regions of our country, and we have five R&D offices. When opening a new office, we really look at the Chinese presence in the region, because they are actively hunting for Russian IT specialists along with companies from other countries. This is the problem for the entire industry. However, we live with it and try to solve it.

Gunel Mamedova: You mean there is certain staff shortage? How do you solve it? Do you have in-house training programs?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: First of all, we started satisfying the demands of this market. We offer a modern work environment to our employees. They can work remotely, and we’ve upgraded all office spaces. Today all our offices are open co-working spaces, very attractive to the employees and with certain perks, so that people can feel and work very comfortably. Second, we are amending our entire motivation system.  We understand that IT people are often creative, and we should make them feel comfortable. Another focus is cooperation with various professional communities and universities. We’ve already started working on this and have our first agreement signed in Tyumen. Young people there are the first we’ve contacted, and, later, we’ll go to other districts of the country that have some interest for us.

Gunel Mamedova: Who is your ideal employee? Who will be welcome to join your team?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: We are interested in people who are professionals, and who are able to be creative despite of the enormous size of our tasks.  This means our projects sometimes change during the implementation process, and people need to be comfortable with that. The world around us is changing so rapidly now that this becomes the new normal.

Gunel Mamedova: And the most important thing? The enthusiasm shining in their eyes?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: It is the first and the foremost. Without the enthusiasm shining in their eyes a person can do some routine work but cannot be creative.

Gunel Mamedova: Nikolay, there is one more popular concept now, which is the work-life balance. What do you think about it, and do you follow it?

Nikolay Pozhidaev: I totally support it. Currently our company is undergoing transformation. A lot of companies in Russia, maybe even the majority, adhere to some established norms, rules and attitude towards work. Today we are trying to abandon these rules and traditions. We deliberately introduced the remote work option for some of our staff. People are more comfortable, more at ease, more efficient, so what are we making them come to our office for? We organized our co-working office on purpose — if you need a team meeting, we have everything – interactive communication spaces, coffee, tea — everything you need to communicate in person naturally and efficiently. The main task is to make our employees feel comfortable.

Gunel Mamedova: Nikolay, to wrap up our episode please tell us about your company’s future plans.

Nikolay Pozhidaev: We will continue to grow our research and development. We joined several projects that will be very demanding and time-consuming. One of the most interesting areas we are starting to actively develop is space exploration. We merged with a company that produced satellites. We are creating a number of services that will be based on satellite data.  Right now, we are building the surface infrastructure for satellite data receiving, and develop the satellite cluster itself. We think that space exploration by private companies is very promising; it has its own niche in the world’s market. In Russia, we are just starting, but we are absolutely sure that it is a very promising area of business development.

Gunel Mamedova: Nikolay, your objectives are very ambitious. Allow me to wish every success to you and your company!

Nikolay Pozhidaev: Thank you very much!

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