Alexei Kuzovkin is director general of Infosoft, a member of the security technology working group at the Russian Association of Cryptoindustry and Blockchain (RACIB) and the former chairman of the board of Armada group. In this interview, Alexei talks about his company Infosoft and the current state of the high-tech industry in Russia. Q: Alexei, you have worked in innovation and high technology for a long time. Tell us about the current state of this market in Russia. Alexei Kuzovkin:
I would say it is rather mature and dynamic even though there are plenty of unresolved issues with domestic production of electronic components, and many other problems. The government's digital initiatives have significantly boosted the development of this market in the past few years and, judging from latest polls, increased the demand for talent. Vedomosti recently interviewed several dozen companies and reported that the overwhelming majority of them increased their IT staff budget in 2019 and plan to do the same in 2020.
Yes, the shortage of talent is a problem. Professional training is an expensive process and companies need qualified workers here and now. Cultivating an expert requires strategic investment and only big businesses consider the possibility of getting directly involved. On the one hand, this makes sense; on the other, major businesses are clearly not making enough effort.
But overall, it would be appropriate to describe the Russian IT market as developed, mature and, most importantly, active. Q: Are many large Russian companies pursuing digitalization and implementing modern technology? Alexei Kuzovkin:
I can't imagine a single major Russian company these days that would not be interested in digitalization or modern technology. If you come across a dinosaur stuck in the past and still using typewriters for the entire document flow, please let me know and we will try to help. Q: How is digital transformation different from computerization and automation? Alexei Kuzovkin:
Generally speaking, the difference is fundamental. Computerization and automation mean using new technology to support and optimize business while digital transformation means a complete overhaul of all business processes driven by technological changes. Do you see? A business can be simply using new technology or it can be transformed from top to bottom under the influence of this technology in order to maintain a competitive edge.
Literally everything is revisited, from strategy and business models to product development and marketing. Even relationships between employees and managers change: if your workers are online during their working hours and perform their duties, why would their physical location matter? They can work from anywhere: Moscow, Belgorod, St. Petersburg or Crete.
In other words, it is not the form of doing business that is changing but its essence, and it is changing radically. Q: Which innovative projects did you help implement and manage? Alexei Kuzovkin:
There were quite a few, and every project was unique and had a different level of complexity. I was involved in the majority of large-scale IT projects at Armada, simply because of my job. There were many projects related to both the private and government sectors. Naturally, the innovation of yesterday becomes obsolete today.
For me personally, it has always been more important to be able to move forward rather than rest on my laurels. Q: You are the directo general of Infosoft. What kind of software does your company develop? Alexei Kuzovkin:
First of all, these are solutions related to Big Data, blockchain and the security of the Internet of Things, a rather problematic area. Originally, a substantial part of our developments was solely our internal tools which we used to provide IT services to our clients. But over the five years, some of these solutions have reached a level of maturity, which makes it possible to release them as stand-alone products. The demand for such solutions in the market is high so we don't expect any problems with sales. Q: Tell us about your plans for 2020. Alexei Kuzovkin:
The major plan is to continue developing our business in the areas we are covering right now – and be ready for change. I have no doubt that a lot will be changing – and constantly. Q: Let's steer away from business a little. Tell us about yourself. How did you start your career and get into the IT industry? Alexei Kuzovkin:
It was a natural course of events. When I was a student, I got a job as a programmer with RosBiznesConsulting. Then I graduated from a technical university. Essentially, I always knew that this industry is closer to me than any other and I am glad that I made the right choices in my career. Even though today I am more of a manager than an engineer but I would not have achieved anything without that foundation. Q: How would you describe your achievements in IT? What main changes have happened to you? What would be your advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? Alexei Kuzovkin:
Always be prepared, like pioneers. For change, failure, success, for defeat turning out to be a victory and vice versa. Always keep your radars on. I am speaking from my own experience and I have been through fire and water and had a bucket of ice thrown on my head. Q: In your work, have you ever had to forgo your principles? Alexei Kuzovkin:
This is a very sensitive question, of course. I have had to and still have to be flexible because it is business and business is primarily about relationships with people. Stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise won't work here, even if you personally are not very fond of some people.
Sometimes you have to sacrifice something for the sake of the overall success. But you must know for sure what you are giving up and why. Naturally, there is a certain boundary you shouldn't cross. I hope that I'm past this risk. Q: Do you ever wish you could give up everything and start something completely new? Alexei Kuzovkin:
No, I don't, because every new day brings something completely new, especially in our industry, which is its huge advantage. If you mean giving away my suits and ties to charity and going to Tibet, then no, I don't see any reason to do that. Q: How do you usually spend your free time away from work? Alexei Kuzovkin:
Free time away from work is a relative term. A time free from one type of work can be taken up by some other. But when I need a break and want to recuperate, diving and alpine skiing are my go-to activities. They give me the balanced combination of adrenalin and relaxation. I also try to spend more time with my family. Quality time with my kids gives me a positive boost and energy for many days ahead. Q: Are you involved in charity? Alexei Kuzovkin:
Today we can say that charity is a form of social responsibility. I think there are no people left in this country who have never been involved in any charity whatsoever. So yes, I have been and am still involved in charity and intend to continue as long as I can. I don't see it any other way.https://www.kommersant.ru/doc/4310562