Cloudy, with a chance of success

Cloud-based telecommunications applications have experienced a boom in recent years – just like providers such as Zadarma. CMO Dmitry Tokar and CTO Vitalii Chupryna, who manage the company, which now operates in 160 countries, want to continue to implement the strategy of "minimum costs for the best possible service".

Many companies are currently working from home, because of Covid-19, business trips are rare, meetings are held online. Within a short period of time, processes that were considered impossible to digitize were quickly transferred to the Internet – the crisis acted as a catalyst for digitization. The situation is somewhat different at Zadarma, a provider of cloud-based telecommunications applications: Since its foundation in 2006, the Bulgarian company has been designed to operate from various locations around the world.

New projects are implemented via digital meetings, calls and chats and about once every two years all 89 employees and their families meet in a resort for a "Company Retreat". The Corona crisis did not change the way the company works – almost. This is because Vitalii Chupryna (right), co-founder and Chief Technical Officer (CTO) at Zadarma, is stuck in Spain due to the pandemic with Dmitry Tokar (left), co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer (CMO), when we "meet" them via video interview for this article. "The idea to start the company came from Dmitry," says Chupryna. 14 years later, a two-man company has grown into a cloud-based telecommunications provider used in over 160 countries with 1.6 million registered customers and annual revenues of over 15 million € (2019).

Dmitry Tokar
... holds an MBA in Marketing from the Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics, Vitalii Chupryna studied System Analysis and Management at the Classic Private University in Ukraine. In 2006, the two founded the cloud-based telecommunications provider Zadarma and have since managed the business of the company, which has twelve subsidiaries in six countries and customers in over 160 countries.

It all started in 2006 when Chupryna and Tokar worked together for a service provider. It was Chupryna's first job alongside his Masters degree in System Analysis and Management from Classic Private University in Ukraine; Tokar earned an MBA in Marketing Management from Kyiv National University of Trade and Economics and also studied part-time. It was Tokar's idea that led the duo to found Zadarma, which means "free" in English – in essence, exactly what Zadarma is all about. This is because the company offers cloud-based telecommunications solutions. That means the virtual number assigned by Zadarma allows an entrepreneur to be reached anywhere in the world, but the caller always dials the same landline number. The advantage: no matter where the company moves to, the telephone number remains the same. Even in case of business trips to other countries, the telephone rates of the home country remain active. Companies pay up to 36 € per month for Zadarma's numbers, depending on their size or plan, but Zadarma's other key services – PBX and ZCRM – are free.

Dmitry Tokar, CMO Zadarma

There is no growth without change.

PBX is a cloud-based solution for the complete telephone system of an office or company – no additional equipment is needed. So-called IP telephony not only meets the requirements of globally active entrepreneurs, because they can organize their company from anywhere in the world and connect all their employees in one network with customers and partners, but also plays an important role, especially in times of the Corona virus.  As early as 2012, Deutsche Telekom published an article in which "the cloud" is seen as a must-have for the telecommunications industry. In 2017, the consulting firm Frost & Sullivan also found in a market survey that 90 percent of the managers of global telecommunications providers surveyed saw integrated cloud-based platforms as a way of speeding up time to market. 63% also believe that this approach can reduce dependence on scarce resources. IBM, too, cites several of the cloud's opportunities for Communications Service Providers (CSPs), including cost reduction (managing high capacity and usage without sacrificing quality), the ability to quickly adapt and update offerings to the market, simplicity of service for the end user, and the computing power and capacity of the cloud to deliver personalized customer experiences and high levels of connectivity.

But Zadarma has more to offer than the cloud-based PBX solution: in 2019 the ZCRM system, a tool for systematically building customer relationships, was introduced. All processes related to this can be automated and integrated into the existing PBX system – regardless of the size of the company and the number of employees. This is an aspect that plays a particularly important role in the development of tools for Zadarma. "We implement projects in such a way that we can help as many customers as possible," says Chupryna. Just recently Zadarma launched another tool: video telephony. "We decided to develop a tool for video conferencing because our customers need such a tool more and more, especially in times of crisis," says Tokar. The advantage over other applications for video telephony that are already established on the market is that Zadarma offers it in a compact service package with all the other tools.

Another project, Voice Analytics, is currently still being implemented and should be marketable in a few months. Each individual tool is developed at Zadarma after careful analysis of the markets and customer feedback. The biggest challenge? The different time zones in which the employees are located, as Chupryna says. But even here, the two founders use cloud-based tools and organize their teams virtually. And that seems to work well so far, because the portfolio is constantly being expanded and the company is growing. "Our main concern is to constantly expand and change. Because there is no growth without change," Tokar explains the strategy.

Currently more than 140,000 telephone numbers are active, PBX has over 35,000 users and six months after the launch of CRM, several thousand companies are already using this application. In addition, millions more are switching with their existing data to the system. The goal of Zadarma? "We want to create a benefit for every company," says Tokar. And Chupryna adds: "We want to grow and be known in every country."

An ambitious goal, but one that seems quite realistic. Even the current crisis does not seem to be able to stand in the way of this plan. Although some customers – for example those from the tourism or hospitality industries – are currently not generating sales, Zadarma's business is booming in other areas. This is mainly because people are currently working from home more than usual. And so the company is showing growth rates of 25% even in the crisis. "We are trying to diversify our portfolio in order to minimize our risk," says Chupryna about how they are dealing with the crisis.

This includes offering a discount of up to 50% to customers whose business model is particularly affected by Covid-19 so that they can continue to use the services. "We expect life to return to some degree of normalcy by the end of 2020 or by 2021, and we expect income streams then to increase again significantly," Chupryna continues.  The idea of resorting to government support never occurred to the two. Rather, they accept responsibility to help boost the economy through their actions. "We have done well and we have never taken out a loan. That's good for us now," says Tokar and laughs. "We don't sit back and enjoy the shutdown, we work hard - and above all we help our customers."

Text: Andrea Gläsemann


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