Techno-Sky is a Belarusian IT developer and manufacturer of interactive equipment: electronic queues, self-service kiosks, and more. Among the founders of the company is a former engineer of “Horizon” Yuri Savchuk. He told Pro Business about how it all began, how the company finds decision makers for high-quality sales, and where it plans to move on, despite the crisis and sanctions.
“I saw that there is a demand for interactive panels, and I realized that this needs to be done”
– I graduated from the Brest Polytechnic College and BSUIR, in my work I have the only place of work for hire – 10 years at the Gorizont plant. He started as an instrument adjuster, participated in the assembly of televisions, and ended up as the head of a technical bureau, managing all the technologists. I had experience of interaction with large foreign customers, launched such brands as Toshiba, Sharp, Panasonic, Daewoo. Sometimes we received non-serial orders, which no one cares about in large-scale production. I saw that there is a demand for interactive panels, and at some stage I realized that this needs to be done.
Started his own business in 2018. We have four founders: we are all old acquaintances, each is strong in his own direction. I am in charge of marketing, the second owner is in charge of sales, the third is in foreign economic activity and accounting and legal issues, the fourth is in charge of procurement and technology, and is now responsible for production.
Where did we start? We thought about what we want to do, looked at the average check, the margin of the product and how often our products can be sold. Then we developed a list of possible options for our products. And since everyone knows what information kiosks look like, we decided to bet on design.
Attracted a familiar designer, drew renderings and visualizations. Then they made one typical unit of information rack (the body was ordered from private contractors). Some of the screens were bought in Belarus, some were ordered from China. Initially, we had a small production room – about 20 “squares”, we assembled the rack ourselves, four of us.
It took us about 3 weeks to create the first product sample. Further, by “cold calling” we sold the counter to a state company – the diplomatic service bought it for its employees in order to relieve the pain “it is necessary to change papers and vacation schedules” (the director had a fixed idea “put everything in the information kiosk”). At the same time, they developed the software themselves.
Then they made 2 more, then 3 pieces … When we had developed about 40 or 50 models with different designs, we came to the conclusion that they needed to be “cut off”. By that time, we had already moved to a larger room – 40 “squares” for the office and the same amount for production. We grew by an average of 1 client per month, they themselves called and offered our products. At the same time, we launched a website and contextual advertising.
“We have our own assembly and welding to control the quality”
Now we produce about 15 items of equipment, the average check is 12-15 thousand Belarusian rubles. Top 3 of our products are electronic queue, interactive checkpoint, multiboard 65 inches. Usually in the order of 1-2 units of production. The largest order to date is 20 self-service checkouts for a large retail store.
Previously, it could take 2-3 weeks to place an order. But now we have our own assembly and welding to control the quality, and if everything is in stock, we make the order in 5 working days. We rely on serial equipment: if something does not fit into the template, we can even abandon the project – after all, it needs to be developed, quality maintained, and it may not work the first time.
The transaction cycle from application to sale is about 3 months. Someone comes with a request “urgently needed” and they pay tomorrow, and it happens that the request has been received, but the client plans to install it only in a few months. Most of all, we are interested in large “states” who indicated in the procurement plan that they need such equipment. The margin of this business is 20-35%, the high season is the last quarter of the year.When we started, we had fewer competitors, but recently everything is pretty tough, we are “at war” with two Belarusian companies. We have tried to reach an agreement with them, but so far they have not agreed. Chinese companies also make similar products, but their products are not very suitable for our realities, especially for government procurement, where there are clear requirements.
“Context advertising works best for promotion”
We spend 1% of our revenue on promotion: we have opened a separate bank account for this and transfer money there once a week.
1. The most working way is contextual advertising at the request of “multiboard” (this is a touch monoblock with a diagonal of 65-86 inches), “electronic queue” and “infokiosk”, 40% of customers come from here. But the difficulty is that many people are looking for an “infokiosk” in the context of “where to withdraw money”, and not how to order it.
2. Cold calling — We call customers and offer serial solutions. Now we have 4 sales assistants in the state, and in total there are 23 employees in the company. This channel gives 20-25% of customers.
3. Participation in public procurement – about 20% of clients.
4. Email newsletters – 5% of clients.
5. Participation in exhibitions – 1% of clients. Last year, they spent 40 thousand BYN on participation in the exhibition, and only 1 sale took place.
6. Repeat orders – we have not yet “felt the bottom” for this channel, we have identified these customers in a separate funnel. They do not spend advertising, take and call. There are also those to whom we sold about 5 times.
7. Interior designers for organizations. About 10 people work with us: they mainly include our serial products in their renderings for corporate customers – electronic queues, interactive checkpoints. These are one-time orders, from case to case.
“For successful sales, the main thing is to reach the decision maker”
Our main task is to reach the decision maker (decision maker) or the PWR (decision influencer). This greatly affects the success of sales. And in different niches the situation is slightly different.
Construction industry is our main focus. In a construction company, the decision maker is the director. As a rule, chaos is going on here – the director is “in the soap” and does everything at once, in a hard multitasking mode. There are employees who are assigned certain tasks, for example, economists – “to find a contractor for the production of an electronic queue or an interactive checkpoint.” In this area, we see the most promising customer and great potential demand, so we made a special system of discounts and project registration for them.
The medicine. An inexperienced salesperson may look for a marketing department in medicine, but most often there is not one in a state-owned medical company. The decision maker here is the head physician, and the decision maker is the system administrator who looks after computers and influences public procurement.
in executive committees The decision maker is the head, and the decision maker is the manager of affairs.
Resource distribution organizations — regional gas companies, Belorusneft. There, the system administrators act as decision makers and advise the director, the decision maker. Even if the company has a staff of 1,000 people, all the same, on procurement issues, everyone goes to the general manager. For us, these are the most profitable customers.
Education (kindergartens, children’s schools, universities) and conference organizers. We sell them the most units. The most demanded in this area is an interactive pulpit for a conference room, it stands in front of the teacher and displays information on the display. We developed it 2 years ago and even completed an order in a wooden case for universities, when the audience should be in the same color scheme. LPR here is a director or rector, LVPR is a system administrator.
Big factories. There are about 100 of them in Belarus, a little more than 10 were ordered from us. There may already be a marketing department there. It happens that our decision maker is a commercial director who coordinates everything without the participation of the general director. Most often, they are interested in interactive checkpoints and information stands.
You need to understand that most often there will be no initiative from the system administrator, it is punishable. Sometimes, in the role of the LWPR, especially in large companies, the purchasing department is connected. But more often, anyway, everything is coordinated by the “chief”.
Plans: to export and focus on software
In addition to Belarus, we have clients in the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, Armenia and Azerbaijan. In Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation, we made a paid page on the local marketplace and posted our products there, in the Russian Federation we had our own website.
But there are few orders there, since promotion abroad requires costs, but so far it does not pay off. Didn’t find the point where to hit. Ideally, it’s better to find one niche and be the experts there, otherwise it doesn’t pay off. But the same electronic queue requires installation. Ideally, this should be a program that does not require personal presence.
In Europe, we had niche testing, but now we have stopped it. However, we already see that everything is much more expensive there than here. For example, an Italian touch table costs 19,000 euros, while we could make it for $4,000. But not always everything is decided by the price.
In the last six months, we have had problem with components – ordered touch screens from China, but banks did not accept payments. We sent the amount from one bank to another, paid in yuan, and each time the bank refused and charged commissions.We spent a couple of thousand dollars until the customer received the money: it worked out only the 5th time.
Logistics also deteriorated — not a single air delivery flies. If earlier the delivery of one component cost $ 300, now it has grown to $ 1800. The terms have doubled – up to 4 weeks. Therefore, we try to make and order everything that is possible in Belarus – boards, cases.
We want to focus more on software than on physical products in the future. We have a desire to make a platform that will unite our customers, since we already have 500+ customers all the time. There should be payment, the ability to add products of our companies. The development of such a platform will cost from $ 100,000 (most likely more!) and will take from six months. We plan to attract third-party investments for this project. While the idea is still raw, we analyze it and test hypotheses.