Strong TECHIIA: How High-Tech Business Can Be Responsible To The Same Extent

TECHIIA is a holding in which companies develop software, produce and distribute merchandise, organize esports tournaments, create media, and build infrastructure facilities.

The Managing Partners of the holding, Oleg Krot, and Yura Lazebnikov, told the TOP-100 magazine how high-tech business can be also responsible.

What are the criteria for a sustainable business that your company meets? How do TECHIIA's mission and values relate to them?

Yura Lazebnikov: We distinguish seven principles of sustainable development. Respect and support for human rights; reduction of economic, environmental, and social risks; efficient use of resources and environmental protection; increase in profitability; development of business territories; open interaction with stakeholders and providing them with sustainable benefits.

In the center of our activity is a person, its comfort and development, the right to live in a technological and at the same time ecological and safe world. Hence the mission: we strive to get the maximum economic and social effect from the synergy in the holding and at the same time take care of our employees and those who live in the territories where the holding's businesses operate.

We carry the mission and principles to employees and stakeholders around the world through values. Vision, partnerships, enthusiasm, openness to new things, multiculturalism, and limitless.

Is it fair to say that social responsibility is part of the DNA of modern business by default?

Yura Lazebnikov: Social responsibility, like any other, does not work by itself. You need to wrap your head around it, define your position in the world and society. It's nice to see how Ukrainian business has been coming to this in recent years. The focus is shifting from profit to something more, business has begun to shape society, the environment around itself, and even the country. This influence has changed a lot compared to the standards of the 90s and 2000s.

The situation created by the COVID-19 has become a challenge and a litmus for businesses throughout the world. Their existence tomorrow depends on every action they take today. From small businesses to huge holdings, everyone is now taking an exam to ensure that their actions meet society's expectations. We’ll see what will happen at the end of the day.

What CSR projects have become significant for your company?

Oleg Krot: There are a lot of doctors in my family. Since childhood, I have witnessed my loved ones fight for human lives. I did not become a doctor, but as a businessman, I can save dozens of lives by helping the health care system, specific hospitals, and doctors. This is how the implementation of CSR projects of the TECHIIA holding began with the healthcare sector.

All CSR projects are important to us, they are simply aimed at different stakeholders. Some contribute to the comfort, loyalty, and development of our employees. For example, we switched to work from home faster than the official state quarantine was introduced. We take care of the balance of work and personal life, allow children and pets to be brought to the office, sort waste, and recycle it. We provide employees and their families with health insurance, we provide corporate discounts to sports clubs.

Other CSR projects are aimed at external stakeholders. We equipped the surgery at the children's hospital in Kropyvnytskyi with the most modern equipment, and in a year a local neurosurgeon saved over 30 children's lives there. We also pay for rehabilitation in the pool for 20 children who have overcome terrible diseases and are learning to walk again.

In March, the WePlay! Esports hosted a worldwide charity marathon, the WeSave! Charity Play. We created a prize pool of $120,000 and added $68,000 more in donations from tournament viewers. All the money was donated to international charitable foundations that work directly with WHO and raise funds to create a vaccine against coronavirus. We also bought three artificial lung ventilation devices for hospitals in Kropyvnytskyi, Khmelnytskyi, and Kyiv. All these projects are very important, I cannot single out the more significant for us.

How do you understand the expression "Culture eats strategy for breakfast"? How do CSR projects help to strengthen the corporate culture?

Oleg Krot: TECHIIA holding unites more than ten businesses, each with its own short-term and long-term strategy. There are several options for getting out of quarantine, it all depends on the state of the world and Ukraine in the post-coronavirus era. But these are all just pieces of paper. They become a reality thanks to our employees. It is TECHIIA employees, bearers of corporate culture, who move our business and help maintain growth even during the quarantine.

For the first time, we introduce our culture to the future employee at the interview stage. And even if that candidate is a golden boy, but does not share our values, then we are not in the same boat. CSR projects are part of our culture. For example, our charity tournament, only seven days passed from idea to implementation. We did a lot remotely, the guys made the impossible. Do you think they were motivated by money or a career opportunity? No, something else, namely the TECHIIA culture.

Is there a world leader inspiring your company, or does TECHIIA have its own corporate social responsibility strategy? What is its essence?

Yura Lazebnikov: Reality is the best inspirer for CSR projects. Thus, one of our companies, TECHIIA Construction, built a data center in Kropyvnytskyi. Even at the construction stage, we asked ourselves the question, how can we be useful for the city? We went to the local children's hospital, where we were introduced to a talented neurosurgeon. After the start of the ATO, he moved from Luhansk to Kropyvnytskyi to save children’s lives there. But he had to do it using tools from the times of the USSR. It took us almost two years to make his operating room no worse than a good Western clinic.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, we realized that we needed to organize a charity marathon. And we did what we do the best, we held an esports marathon and raised money to create a vaccine against coronavirus. It is best to seek inspiration in reality and your own skills.

What social responsibility projects exist within the company? How does this affect loyalty to the employer and staff efficiency?

Oleg Krot: In IT and technology companies, the main value is the team. We care about the comprehensive development, comfort, and balance of work/life of employees of all TECHIIA holding companies. All staff regularly receive 360-degree feedback (self-assessment, assessment by the manager, and colleagues) in order to understand what are the current results and what are the plans for the nearest period. This helps to update the area of employee responsibility, as well as expectations for career development. This is how the individual development plan is being created.

We also have a school of foreign languages, masterclasses, and workshops. Options for compensating study programs in Ukraine and abroad are in place. All this, together with the usual IT bonuses, gives the result, job satisfaction, and loyalty to the company. TECHIIA employees demonstrate high loyalty to the holding. In different companies, the eNPS (net loyalty) index ranges from 70 to 77 points (out of 80 possible), and this is the best answer to your question.

How important is the role of business in solving global problems such as a pandemic?

Yura Lazebnikov: How would states act without the help of business? How different would the case and death rate be? The question is rhetorical. The point is that the government is a very immobile structure. While they will make decisions and allocate money for ventilators, the business will provide half of the hospitals with the necessary equipment. And this is not just in Ukraine, to one degree or another, the whole world works this way. It's just that for us it is a ventilator, and for the USA, a vaccine or something else. This is neither good nor bad, this is reality. Yes, I wanted the role of business to be different, and the government could better fulfill its responsibilities. But it’s just the way it is for now. And the business, cannot stand aside, because assistance to the state is assistance to employees, clients, partners, and ourselves.

Why was the NGO Charitable Fund “TECHIIA Foundation” created, what are its tasks? What are its biggest projects? Were there fundraising projects and social initiatives in the list?

Oleg Krot: In 2019, the TECHIIA holding united about 10 different business directions, including an esports company, an IT product and IT service company, production and distribution of premium plush toys, a venture studio, a development company, and a number of other businesses. We have opened offices in Cyprus and Los Angeles (USA), representative offices in Hong Kong, and Singapore. Today TECHIIA is an international technology holding.

We created a holding for several reasons. The first is to increase business efficiency. The second is the desire and need to embody the principles of sustainable development. Our businesses have grown more than 10 times in 2.5 years and have gained international status. The number of employees and the influence on the business territories has increased.

For the sustainable development of cities and communities, we created the NGO Charitable Fund “TECHIIA Foundation”, that has four main directions such as health care, STEM education, direct social assistance, and digitalization of the business territories. In particular, with the support of the fund, in 2019 we provided modern equipment for surgery in the children's hospital of Kropyvnytskyi worth more than UAH 3.6 million, we are paying for the rehabilitation program for children in the swimming pool in Kyiv. And "after the coronavirus" we are planning to start a large-scale STEM education project.

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