AK-Service Ltd heads west from Helsinki

AK-Service Ltd, Russia’s market leader of onboard service products, wants to make its products travel further. This year the company will open an office in Helsinki, which will serve as a stepping stone into the European market.

Currently AK-Service is the biggest manufacturer and supplier of travel amenity kits and accessories in Russia and the CIS-countries. Its products are used by leading transportation companies in Russia and the CIS, including Aeroflot, Air Astana, and Russian Railways.

“We thought we were prepared and ready to offer something new and interesting to European clients,” says Alexander Ferents, the CEO of AK-Service Ltd.

The company is also looking to recruit a head of office and two to four sales and account managers for the Helsinki office. In other functions the plan is to rely on outsourcing.

“We won’t need too many people due to Finland’s developed outsourcing sector. We are not going to become an overstaffed company efficiency is our greatest priority,” Ferents points out.

Last spring AK-Service was one of the finalists of the Finlanding competition. Finlanding is a business competition for Russian high-tech companies that are interested in entering the European market through Finland.

“Helsinki has a great level of transportation access and proximity to Russia,” Ferents explains.

AK-Service registered in Finland as Sky Life Ltd in January. According to Ferents, the reason for using two different names is that the European entity must create its own image and build its own reputation.

Ferents estimates that the value of the investment this year is 200 000 euros in organisation and management costs. Potential customers are the same in every country: ferries, cruise lines, air carriers, and hotels.

Finnish design gets visibility

The goal is to establish the company in the European market, first in the Nordic countries and then further. The aim is simple: “Becoming a big market participant and obtaining a range of new European clients.”

The headquarters of the company, as well as are production facilities and the design studio, are located in St. Petersburg. The majority of the products is produced directly by AK-Service, although the company has partners in China and Europe.

About 50 of the 180 staff members in Russia work in management and administration, and the rest in production. No one from Russia will relocate to Finland. Interaction will be performed via communication tools and regular business trips.

The company wants to recruit exclusively Finns to take care of its Helsinki office.

“We expect the employees to demonstrate those very qualities the Nordic countries are known across the globe for: consistency, persistence, and attention to detail.”
AK-Service isn’t going to hire for example designers as permanent staff members. Instead it hopes to collaborate with Finnish design studios.

When products are consumed and used whilst travelling, designers need to bear in mind not only style, but also things like usability, convenience, and storage space. The fact that the majority of the business goes through tender procedures brings about an additional challenge.

“Hence it’s necessary to comprehend what the client wants and offer the best possible product cost-efficiently. That’s easier said than done.”

Text: Anne Salomäki


Article published in cooperation with Good News from Finland.