Interview with Michel Davoudian, Apaga Technologies, Gyumri, Armenia

iTechnology.am:  You have a successful career in the telecommunications industry in France. What made you decide come to Armenia and start a new company?

 Michel Davoudian: In fact initially I came to Armenia in 1994. At that time, my company offered some “real time” computers (HP1000) and I came to install those in the National Academy of Science  and Yerevan State University. I discovered Armenia having a very difficult time and I went on with various actions, especially in Guymri with Sister Arousiag with the orphans and abandoned children.

iTechnology.am: Apaga Technologies is one of the first Internet providers in the Shirak region and now also an agent of Orange, the French telecom. What were the main reasons why you selected Gyumri and the region as an area of focus?

Michel Davoudian: I came more often to Armenia to follow various projects we had with the “Fondation Alliance Arménienne” and realized that everybody was interested in Yerevan, and nothing happened in the regions.They were left aside. So as I had contacts in Gyumri and I realized that there were people with very good capabilities especially in our field, I decided after few years to start a company in Gyumri on purpose. Also all operators were fighting in Yerevan and none of them were interested in going to the regions. I like to “think different”. So Gyumri and moreover the surroundings villages are my target. I also settled in Lori region, starting from the most remote place, Tashir (and surrounding villages).
iTechnology.am: You work mostly with villages, trying to engage them in the new world of technology. What are your impressions and how are your initiatives progressing?

Michel Davoudian: The point is not to bring a connection, but to train the youth in these villages. They have shown very good capabilities and our results are quite interesting : some of these young people are working from their village instead of leaving, other could find jobs in different cities. I found them very much concerned in learning and their results are very good. Some are presently working from here for foreign companies. For instance in the Orange shops that I have, many of the employees are from villages and the HR director of Orange was amazed during the interviews to see how they were speaking English or how they could use computers. Nearly every year one of our employees win the trophies in Orange and I am very proud of it. This year there will be a new step as I will start with our foundation an online training center that will address many villages. The program will be extended and the courses given will be more various (languages, techno, journalism etc…). We will also start online training for computer programming and for instance in collaboration with Digital Pomegranate to prepare progrmmers in the “Livecode” environment. This will directly give them a job as there is a big need in this field.

iTechnology.am: Many Armenian and non-Armenian businesses are hesitant to invest in Armenia. What advice could you give such businesses based on your own experience?

Michel Davoudian: Do your work 100% according the law, never participate in any way in the local corruption and follow your business personaly. A good accountant and legal adviser are absolutely compulsory as the laws are in a perpetual change and many time a bit difficult to understand the application of these laws.

iTechnology.am: You are a prominent member of the French-Armenian community, which is a very active in Armenia. Many of our readers are looking for investors, distributors, business partners and even mentors who will help and guide them. Any suggestions on how to engage the French-Armenian community with the increasingly vibrant startup scene in Armenia?

Michel Davoudian: Since its start in 1991, the G2iA (Groupement International Interprofessionel Arménien) is acting in this field and today has a representative office in Yerevan (CARI EUROPA). This place is recommended for the French companies who want to do business here. G2iA has always organized trainings and business matching as well as supervising some grants given by French organizations. It is very recommendable organization. It also works on the reverse side, and G2iA helps Armenian companies to have links in France.