Serikbai Bisekeyev has become the first Kazakhstan businessman to win the Ernst & Young Company’s prestigious “Entrepreneur of the Year” award. Bisekeyev who is based in St. Petersburg, founded and runs the Arman (Dream) Company.
The most famous in the world independent international award “Entrepreneur of the Year”, by the way, also called a business “Oscar”, was handed to Serikbai Bisekeyev by experts of Ernst & Young – one of the largest professional service firms in the world and one of the “Big Four” accounting firms (along with Deloitte, KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).
Today Serikbai Bisekeyev is the founder and owner of a company with highly symbolic name “Arman” (translated as “dream” from Kazakh), involved in the manufacture of equipment in the field of system integration. First the company “Arman” only supplied similar equipment from Germany. Just in a few years, already in 2005, the partnership evolved from the supplier of innovations to their producer with the access to foreign markets. But it was later…
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A certificate with honors at school and achievements in sports in the oblast center Kustanai, opened broad opportunities for the young man: to be admitted to any university of the republic without entrance exams. But he did not want to go with the stream and left for Leningrad to study in the Polytechnic Institute named after M.Kalinin, which was famous then throughout the Soviet Union. He dreamed of becoming a design engineer in mechanical industry. “I wanted to invent a Soviet Mercedes,” – he said. But time made corrections in his plans.
There was a difficult period of the 90’s with empty shelves, food coupons, the worst in the CIS criminal situation and not the best attitude to newcomers…. Business shrewdness and restless temper did not allow him to “sit still”, and forced to permanently look for new niches to apply his talents. He worked in the student construction teams, and then was engaged in commerce and sport activity.
After the graduation he established a brokerage company together with his friends and also with his partner, as a provider of cell phone services, he participated in the development of GSM cellular communications in the CIS, and a little later opened a unique network of shops which sold cell phones.
– We always financed our business with our own money, unlike other competitors who took loans and at that period were ahead of us in development. But crisis in 1998 changed everything. Despite the fact that we were making good progress, I decided to continue my study as I was distinctly aware of my lack of business knowledge – says Serikbai Bisekeyev.
In 1999 after training course at the Stockholm Business School he decided to create his own project.
– Why did you turn your attention to commercial communications and what prompted you to establish your own production?
– I had a major resource – knowledge of how to build a company in accordance with international practice. I knew that any business based on the principle of “buy/sell” can not be innovative, but I wanted to create innovative technologies. Yes, we had a prospering company at that time, in addition to mobile communications, we sold mini-ATS and equipment for mass market, but nobody was seriously engaged in industrial solutions then. This niche was free and I decided to take it.
As it has been already mentioned, in its early years the company only sold imported equipment of dispatcher services to industrial enterprises, as most of them invested in production technologies and continued to use the Soviet analogue connection. At the same time, oil and gas companies had large investment budgets to modernize facilities and Serikbai Bisekeyev, anticipating a good market conjuncture, decided to focus on them. Time has proved correctness of this strategy.
For 5 years of distributing the international brands of industrial communications, the firm “Arman” became a supplier of the largest companies in the country and gained sound experience. Then Bisekeyev, as he himself said, “dared to a mad step” – to organize production of the Russian digital dispatch communications under the brand “Armtel.” He gathered a team of the best programmers from around the world, contractors to make mainframes and manufacturers of communication boards.
– We did not employ the staff for all stages of production, in contrast to our competitors, and thereby we expanded the field of maneuvers with manufacturers, and concentrated on the quality of products – says Bisekeyev. All this took effect, and the reputation and brand image of our company began to grow, as well as the number of our customers.
Over the years of its activity, the company of our compatriot rose from the supplier of German communication equipment to the manufacturer and world leader in the industry of technologies and system integration. At present “Arman” company employs 230 specialists who implement turn-key projects. Working on modern standards they created their own product and solutions that are in demand around the world. And Serikbai Bisekeev does not intend to rest on his laurels.
Recently, during the national TV teleconference, RK President Nursultan Nazarbayev has tasked the government with finding entrepreneurs to promote Kazakhstan’s innovations at international level, emphasizing that the task for the republic is to form a critical mass of innovators and to introduce the latest technologies and expand production, while the state will support domestic producers.
– I was happy to know that Kazakhstan won the bid to host EXPO 2017, and doubly happy about its theme – “Energy of the Future.” Kazakhstan has the best conditions in the world for the development of alternative energy. So we decided to participate in this program and to build a wind farm in Kazakhstan, – says our countryman. In addition we take an active part in the creation of productions in Kazakhstan.
For instance we established near Almaty city the production of energy units with new generators that are cooled by air. Usually the generators used around the world are cooled by oil. And as known the cost of the contract for annual maintenance and service of oil generators is equal in monetary terms to the price of the generator itself. We offer the state to move to the concept of “cost of ownership”, which includes the capital costs, expenditures on fuel and consumables, and service of personnel during its operation. In this case the state will not have to conclude contracts for expensive servicing. Moreover, it will receive an effective solution and save public money.
You work in different countries, what do you make of the economic situation in our republic and where it is easier to do business: in neighboring states or in Kazakhstan?
– Kazakhstan invites knowledgeable consultants, and they help to choose the right trend, but the laws are somewhat behind. Kazakh President is making in this direction effective steps to increase Kazakh content, create skilled jobs, which is not observed in Russia. And I am impressed by this. Also effective control is necessary over the execution of his initiatives and orders.
– What would you wish to the younger generation of Kazakhstan?
– Kazakhstan has a plenty of possibilities. I am sure that hard-working, dedicated people will always have the opportunity for self- fulfillment. We need to learn, to gain knowledge, to strive for becoming professionals.
We need to realize that everything depends on us and we can influence all the processes around us. Nobody will build the future for us.