“Earthquake made me come back”, Artur Ghandilyan, Gyumri local TV founder

Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia used to be a major industrial center in former Soviet Union. Different areas of light industry, especially textile, were producing goods for all over the Union. After the collapse of USSR and the devastating earthquake of 1988 Gyumri lost its role of the industrial hub. The earthquake made thousands of people leave the city, meanwhile it kept some devoted ones to live and make their city alive again. One great example of these devoted citizens is Artur Ghandilyan, Gyumri “Tsayg” TV founder. Artur is now involved in the development of Creative Economy in Shirak region and is a cofounder/director at Digital Pomegranate LLC, design entrepreneurship network located in Gyumri Technopark.

iTechnology.am: Tell us your story on founding first commercial media in Armenia. How you made your decision to be back to the devastated city?

Artur Ghandilyan: It was 1990, just two years after the earthquake. I just graduated from the university. The city was in a devastated situation, no electricity, no houses, no jobs. But I was back to my hometown. I did not want to leave my father here alone, so I had to move with my wife and continue living in Gyumri. Earthquake made thousands of people leave the city, but at the same time it kept some people. I can state that I was back because of earthquake. Who would rebuild our city instead of us? Nobody.

iTechnology.am: How was the idea born to create a commercial TV station and what was it like having own TV station right after the independence of Armenia form the Soviet Union?
Artur Ghandilyan:
The absence of electricity was keeping us in an information blockade. We did not know what was going on in the world and people had not faith and hope for the future. I decided to create something which will bring light in everyone’s house, something which will show what is the beautiful and the kind. We wanted to give people a piece of hope. We wanted them to believe that the situation is going to be changed and the city will recover and rebuild itself. And the idea of TV channel was born to distract people from their everyday problems. We spent 2 years to get a licence to open the commercial channel. First there was no bill for giving the licence and no law about TV channels and generally on private organizations. So all together it took us two years to overcome all those problems. The important thing is that first commercial channels were opened in the regions of Armenia, not in the capital city. This comes to approve the entrepreneurial soul of people living in the regions.

iTechnology.am: What resources did you have at the beginning and how did you manage to bring the technical means to the city?
Artur Ghandilyan:
We were working 10-12 hours a day.  First we only had a small room with a single editing panel and months later one single camera. We have chosen the name for the channel. It was called “Tsayg”, which means “till morning”. This was because electricity was switched on at nights 3-4 pm, so people were watching TV till morning. From the very first day of its realization Tsayg TV was accepted and loved by  Shirak region population. We have become expected guests to everyone’s house. And it was our premiere goal. 

iTechnology.am: How do you see the role of media in the technology industry development in Gyumri? How technologies can benefit from media resources?
Artur Ghandilyan:
I would say that media itself benefited from technology development. Let’s speak about some basics. What is today’s media? It is basically TV shows, programs, movies, adds, entertaining clips, etc. It is all videos, animations and projects like that which  we use for today’s shows. And we benefit from technologies and design skilled people who make all those materials. Media would be impossible without creative technologies. 

iTechnology.am: You have been involved in the development of Gyumri for over 20 years. What do you see as the city’s greatest strength? Greatest opportunity?
Artur Ghandilyan:
Gyumri is a city of talented people. Our citizens always approved theirs artistic skills in every field of art, that is why Gyumri is announced CIS cultural capital for 2013. People who live in Gyumri want to create every day, every hour of their life. Creativity and artistic nature are the main points which make Gyumri a unique place all over Armenia. And Gyumri should use that trait to market itself all over the world. This is what brings toursists, businessmen and artists to Gyumri. Here I should also talk about the technology field development in Gyumri. As you know Gyumri Technopark building will be complete at the beginnng of 2014. Our government came to the conclusion that technology industry is one more field for which Gyumri has a huge potential. So we need to start find the ways of combining Gyumri creativity to technologies and start getting involved in the creative economy, which  is becoming very common all over the world.

iTechnology.am: As the co-founder and director of Digital Pomegranate, can you please explain what is a design entrepreneurship network, how it works and how is it different then most start-ups in Armenia?
Artur Ghandilyan:
Digital Pomegranate has one major goal: to create tech enabled jobs in Gyumri, Armenia. To achieve this goal we have developed our own strategy. First we are becoming a bridge to link creative people in Armenia to the world’s small and medium businesses. Our network members become private entrepreneurs and implement the project which we send to them. Choosing this path we are sure we contribute to the entrepreneurship development in Gyumri. People do not become employees and they do not receive a stable salary. They earn as much as they work, they get free training, marketing and project management by our company and benefit from our network of customers. We give people a chance to create their own teams, become entrepreneurs and launch their own businesses in Gyumri.

iTechnology.am: Thanks Mr. Ghandilyan, for the great talk and the great initiatives directed to develop our city Gyumri.