About the company...
Satellite LTD was incorporated on October 22, 1992, although its employees actually began working in the field of satellite and cable television at the end of 1990. It was at that time that several people, mostly graduates of the Radio Engineering Department of the Moscow Power Engineering Institute scattered around various government institutions, decided at one of their get-togethers of old friends to set up their own business. But no one wanted to be engaged just in any common trading. Higher education and an engineering vocation had their effect. Right at that opportune time a niche was created that could satisfy both the material and engineering ambitions of the nascent company’s partners – satellite television was growing by leaps and bounds.
Previous experience of teamwork in student construction brigades was a great help, you might even say crucial. Without this commitment, mutual assistance, and the ability to find a way out of any situations that developed in the student brigade, it’s unlikely that anything serious would have come of it.
The first year before the company’s official formation, people worked without a break from their regular jobs. They gained hands on experience and skills for dealing with customers and identifying people’s abilities and interests. A fixed circle of clients gradually formed, who were pleased to deal with highly educated professionals. In other words, they were laying the groundwork for entering the market with their own company. Remembering those times, the lines of a well-known song come to mind – how young we were, how truly we loved, how we believed in ourselves…
And so many strange things happened!
Installation of a 6.5-meter antenna at the residence of the ambassador of Saudi Arabia…In the timeworn tradition of construction crews, we grabbed a cement mixer outside for the antenna footing, and our future director dug a small waist-deep hole and kneaded the concrete with his feet, because of course we didn’t have a construction vibrator. When the antenna was finally aimed at Arabsat towards morning, the signal turned out to be so weak we realized there was no escaping jihad. Then the old training kicked in. Quickly sizing up the situation, we decided we had to cut some trees! On the grounds of the ambassador’s residence were tall, beautiful spruce trees, which partially obstructed antenna coverage. Under the puzzled stares of the security guards, one man armed with a saw and axe climbed a tree and sawed off branches, while a second kept an eye on the signal level. One sawed-off branch corresponded to half a decibel of added power. At sunrise, the signal reached the required level. After this installation, all of the embassy’s staff, as well as embassies of other Arab countries, became our customers.
And then there were the Yugoslavs… There’s a house near Akademicheskaya Metro station that is so hung with satellite antennas it looks more like the army headquarters of a small country. In the early 1990s, it was mainly occupied by Yugoslav businessmen. This brings to mind New Year’s Eve 1992, when three of our teams set up antennas there almost like an assembly line. People were going to visit one another and they insisted they absolutely had to have antennas put up today… The Yugoslavs were some of our favorite customers.
The epic of the installation of a three-meter, all-metal antenna at the Israeli Embassy in 1992 is still remembered. Back then we were still working for a company called Teleset – that was a short-lived period. The work was related to the extreme security regime in place at the embassy and with certain organizational difficulties, such as having to order a crane and halting traffic on Bolshaya Ordynka. And besides, which was the biggest secret, the antenna was damaged in the first place! It had been manufactured at some munitions factory near Nizhny Novgorod and specially delivered for this installation, but somewhere along the way it got bumped a bit. Everything had been agreed and reagreed, and there was no way the job could be cancelled. We knew right away it wouldn’t work. And of course, that’s exactly what happened. We decided to say that a tree was interfering, and while they were cutting it down, no problem, we’d bring in a new antenna. The Israelis did their best – in two days they’d cut down all (!) the trees on the embassy’s property (huge old lindens – we still regret it…). Naturally, the signal couldn’t have been better. There was a huge outcry. We only learned later how the affair ended, because by then we’d already left Teleset…
By the fall of 1992, we were already well established and were self-sufficient enough to open our own business. Unfortunately, not everyone we started with stayed to work in our company. Some switched to something else. But the skeleton remained. From October 1992 to the present day we’ve been known as Satellite, although as a result of amendments to the laws, the company’s official name has undergone several minor changes. But the word Satellite always remained and we’re still known by this name on the market. The initial name – Satellite LTD – formed our company’s logo, which has remained unchanged, although today it’s simply a trademark.
At the very start of our independent activity, we decided our main line of work would be designing and supplying equipment and installing community television networks. This was a very prescient decision, since at the time nearly all companies were occupied with individual satellite systems and paid far less attention to community networks. So for two or three years we had no serious competition. But of course, customers were different then. The times were such that everyone wanted everything now, and no one went in for long-term spending. Our main projects were elite housing and office buildings, which were springing up like mushrooms, and government buildings. Then the crisis of 1993 played into our hands, so to speak. The rebuilt White House was our first major project.
Not long before that, we become acquainted with WISI. For quite some time, we had been looking closely at equipment that could be used in constructing television networks. At that time, there was only one company on our market involved in supplying imported cable television equipment. This company offered products of the firms Kathrein and Fracarro, and by the time we entered the market, it was well known for projects such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the International Trade Center, and the Metropol Hotel. Together with it, we installed a network in one office building constructed by the Yugoslavs (our shock work at their house had not been in vain!), but that’s as far as things went. The lack of competition was obvious, since relationships formed in a very peculiar way, just like in a food store in the years of stagnation – “there are many of you, but just one of me”. It was incredible how a company that was virtually a monopoly on the market, with exclusive rights from the manufacturers, could gradually lose all of its positions and make such an inglorious exit from a promising market. To make a long story short, our cooperation went nowhere, and we realized we had to become a direct equipment supplier. We considered several options, but all attempts at approaching manufacturers came to naught – lack of the necessary skills for dealing with foreigners, poor knowledge of the language, and caution on the part of foreign firms when dealing with Russian businessmen all had an effect. There were nothing more than standard greetings and best wishes for future success when they visited us, and when we visited them. Chance helped us. And the irrepressible energy of Aleksandr Shabalin, director of the Riga company Lat Sat, who later became our good partner and friend. He had already worked with WISI for some time – this business had started developing somewhat earlier in Latvia. Cooperation turned out to be very successful; turnovers increased, and in the spring of 1993, WISI decided to organize a technical seminar in Riga based at Lat Sat. The seminar was primarily meant for Baltic companies, but Shabalin, who planned to expand his business to Russia in future, made the farsighted decision to invite a number of Russian companies, of which, as has already been mentioned, we were the only ones actually concerned with cable television.
That was how we became acquainted with WISI… Although not right away. Just before this, there was another notable and very symbolic meeting – we made the acquaintance of our customs office. Yes, my friends, our business with WISI began with the confiscation of a rather large sum of undeclared currency from us at Sheremetyevo, which we were planning to take to the seminar to buy a desperately needed measuring device for settling up television networks. Well I ask you, who thought of Latvia as a foreign country in 1993? Who would have thought we’d have to fill out a customs declaration? In short, we appeared totally unconcerned, and our vigilant customs office, standing on guard for the country’s interests, gave us a harsh, but useful lesson. Today, this incident is treated almost humorously, but at the time, this money amounted to nearly half of our firm’s wealth. Our relations with customs haven’t faded since then, although they’ve become less outlandish. In all fairness, we should note that this business even helped us a lot in some ways. Much later, at a meeting in Germany with the head of WISI, Mr. Zin, we told him about this incident. He was very moved by the fact that despite such a major loss (who else would have known what it’s like to lose half your wealth), we didn’t give up the trip to the seminar and later succeeded in raising the company to one of the leading positions in Russia. In our opinion, since then he has shown simple human respect towards us, along with the purely business side of our relations.
Our meeting with WISI finally took place, and the first person we met was Heinrich Heibel, who at the time was Manager for Eastern Europe. There are people who immediately fill you with respect, who are easy to talk to about everything without your experiencing any discomfort. Heinrich was one of those people. Maybe it was because he had spent his childhood in the USSR and spoke fluent Russian without the slightest accent, and the so-called mentality we still had probably played its role as well. I suspect that if a “real” German had been in his place, our relationship would hardly have achieved such a level of trust. Their technical specialist, Bernd Pavlik, came to the seminar along with Heinrich, and we also came to full mutual understanding with him based on purely professional interest. Finally, we were able to satisfy our curiosity about cable television equipment, which had been building for three years, straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say.
After becoming acquainted with WISI, studying and probing their products, and exchanging business cards and mutual compliments, we returned to Moscow, and in the fullest sense of the word, began to form a cable television market based on WISI equipment. We wrote and sent a pile of letters to potential customers, in which we substantiated the necessity to build cable networks based on up-to-date equipment that would operate in the entire TV band, not just below 230 MHz, as was customary everywhere. A lot of talks were held and hundreds of faxes were sent. At the same time, we tried not to let WISI’s interest in us fade away by deluging them with questions about equipment and reports on our activities to promote their equipment. There weren’t any real results yet. The market still wasn’t ready. It wasn’t ready either for such prices or for long-range investments. It was 1993.
On the one hand, the breakthrough came suddenly; and on the other hand, naturally, it had to happen sometime! Reconstruction of the White House began. A thought that seemed absolutely absurd at first – what if we try to offer our services THERE? – suddenly became absolute reality. They just happened to be interested in our services THERE! And so exactly nine months (he-he…) after our acquaintance with WISI, the first contract to deliver their equipment was signed.
Almost fifteen years have passed since then, and time has shown that our chosen path was the right one. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that not so very long ago, Muscovites were happy to be able to watch all of six national television channels on their Rubins and Rekords, and brag about it to their relatives whose TVs only showed four…
We sincerely believe that television in our country will develop just as dynamically in future, and we will put all our efforts, knowledge, and experience into making this happen!
We apologize to our non-Russian suppliers for the lack of full multilingual support of this site, owing to the fact that most of our organization’s activity is on the Russian domestic market.