30 Years of Nexign: Anniversary Interview with Igor Gorkov
By Igor Gorkov, CEO at Nexign
All in all, you worked at Nexign, or, as it was then called, Peter-Service, for over 20 years. In other words, you've witnessed most of its thirty-year history with your own eyes. What do you think is the difference between Nexign "then" and "now"?
My entire professional life has been in some way associated with Nexign and this fact amazes me. Before Nexign, I worked at three to five places at once, and it was the first place I dedicated my whole professional life to. I've been in and out three times. It's also kind of funny in a way. It's a strange and amazing story.
Comparing Nexign "then" and "now," you have to keep in mind that each historical era places different demands on companies and people. Nexign has always matched the historical context of the era in question. For example, when we just started as a company in 1992, it was a time of rapid development, opportunities, but also chaos. At that time, for example, mobile communication (then it was the standard NMT-450) came to Russia. Nexign also developed very rapidly.
But how did these changes come about? What makes Nexign's journey unique?
We have been changing along with the market, and that, I am sure, is our main strength. As I said, I came to Nexign a total of three times, and each time it was a different company. Most importantly, in each case it was a great team that was in tune with the spirit of the times and was geared to achieve the best results under the given conditions. The difference between when I joined Nexign in my current capacity and Nexign now is enormous. But it's more of a credit to the world that had changed. I am certainly proud of the work done, but it is a reflection of the changes in the telecom and IT markets.
Just think: a company, which is 30 years old, the first company in Russia that created a billing system, remains a leader in the same segment and keeps doing the same thing. This does not mean that we have to do the same thing tomorrow, but this consistency is truly amazing to me. There aren't too many companies in Russia that were born in the nineties to survive to this day that are still doing the same thing while remaining leaders in their segment.
How do you see Nexign in 2042 when it will turn 50?
If the company makes it to 50, it will be very cool and ambitious. This is a very old age for a business. I don't think it is necessary to set a goal to continue doing the same thing as now, but I would like it to be as open and dynamic in 20 years, to be able to respond to the ever-changing world, to be able to adjust its business processes to the changes in the world, because only such companies can survive in this world.
I once started my first speech as a CEO with a parallel between business and dinosaurs. They, as we know, once reigned over the planet, yet they became extinct, unable to adapt to a changing world. For a business to live to 50, it needs just that - the ability to adapt and change with the times.
Then how ready is Nexign to change? You said that after those 30 years, even though it's changed, it's still doing what it did in 1992.
We may not be very responsive and we don't chase after every innovation but we're not reluctant to change when we see the need for a change. Nexign has always shown by its actions that it is willing to change. I think, as a company, we've been able to maintain a balance between the two extremes of facing something new. And the fact that we have been around for 30 years and retain our leadership shows that the balance in question does work. Personally, I would even like to shift it towards innovation, but the way we’re doing now it is also quite good. The results speak to this.
Speaking of breakthrough innovations, what are your expectations for the technological future?
The beginnings of what will become a trend or amaze us all in 10-15 years are already here. For example, Nosov wrote Know-Nothing in the Sun City sixty-odd years ago, but it describes televisions as thick as a painting and vacuum cleaners that drive themselves and clean up dust. The author didn't even try to make predictions, but he guessed everything with remarkable accuracy. And the American science fiction writer William Gibson once said that the future is already here but is distributed unevenly. Simply put, one must dream, never cease to wonder, and be sure to rejoice. In the late 1950s, when Nosov was writing, a robot vacuum cleaner was impossible, but it was possible to dream. Half a century later, that dream has come true. And I think we should take an example from Nosov.
The future is really here. Smart cities are beginning to emerge; thus, Saudi Arabia is building Neom, which is designed as a smart city. Space telecom operators started appearing, and blockchain technology is already at work in banks. Every innovation has a chance to define the future or become an integral part of it. The question is which technology will take off. It is unreasonable to guess, but the ability to change, to dream, to listen, to see, to take risks—it allows you to move and progress. It's important just to be able to move elsewhere in time if what you hoped for just doesn't work out.
So, do you make any predictions, at least for yourself?
Making forecasts is a thankless job, and it’s very good. If we could predict the future with a high degree of probability, the world would be a very boring place and there would be no reason for exploits, development, dreams, or joy. But the future is uncertain, which is wonderful, and we don't even know how uncertain it is. This means that any dream that has the potential to bring joy to our world can become a reality.
Can we say that digital transformation is also such a form of dream come true? If so, what kind of process is it? Zhvanetsky wrote in "The Odessa Steamboat" that renovation cannot be finished, it can only stop. Is it the same with digital transformation?
Yes, although for a different reason. You can't end renovation, but you can approach the desired state asymptotically. When you're renovating, you always have an image of the final product before your mind’s eye, and each new iteration brings you closer to it. In case of digital transformation, there is no such a goal set in stone. It is forever-changing, and when we take the next step, it turns out that the world has already moved elsewhere, and your end product went along with it. In short, if you compare it to renovation, the effect is really the same, but the reasons are fundamentally different.
Is Nexign also undergoing a digital transformation?
Yes, but it doesn't have a final goal either. Five years ago, when digital transformation was just a buzzword, I tried to formulate for myself what digital transformation would mean for our company. And I thought at the time that it would be great to make a company without an office. At the time, it was impossible to imagine a company without a legal address. I imagined just a meeting room and a safe where the charter documents would be stored.
I tried to share this concept with my colleagues, but everyone began to say that it was utopia and that not having an office was downright impossible. But five years have passed, the world has changed dramatically, and the concept of a company without an office no longer seems so crazy. Estonia introduced e-residency first and other countries followed its suit. Digital transformation is actually happening right before our eyes. We can dream about what it will become tomorrow, but dreams will be at odds with reality at all times. That being said, dreams are necessary because as long as we dream, we can live and become better.
Thank you very much! Finally, what would you like to wish our company, clients, and partners on our anniversary?
I wish all companies to celebrate their 50th anniversary. It's a great benchmark for achieving the most ambitious goals.