The founder and owner of AKMA talks about his entrepreneurial experience, the difficulties overcome, the success achieved, the plans for the future and his partnership with Forel.
A good reputation is one of the most important qualities of an entrepreneur. It is thanks to its good reputation that AKMA is the only Russian company that, established immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, has grown and developed while maintaining the same structure and ownership.
Facing and overcoming difficulties
Alexey Kinder sums up his entrepreneurial philosophy, with the still but smiling gaze of those who have faced great difficulties, have overcome them and have treasured the experience. We are in St. Petersburg, and we have just visited the headquarters of AKMA, the company founded by Kinder, owner and manager, in 1991. 30,000 m² of production area employing a thousand workers and divided into 10 warehouses, where over 50,000 m² of double glazing and 50,000 m² of other types of glass panes (tempered, laminated, etc.) are processed every month. An impressive structure which deals with all types of processing: grinding, drilling, milling, chamfering, coating removal, all types of screen and digital printing, flat and curved tempering, lamination and production of residential, commercial and facade double glazing.
Founding the company; becoming a strategic partner for Saint-Gobain
“At the end of the 1980s, I was a manager in a state-owned automation company. I dealt, in particular, with the glass and ceramic sectors,” recalls Kinder. “Together with a partner, I decided to found a private company for glass processing. I wanted to establish a quality-oriented business, with profits reinvested in employees and in the growth of the company itself. Due to this strategy, I soon found myself the sole owner of AKMA, but it also led us to become Saint Gobain’s strategic partner for the Russian market in 1995. A close and satisfactory collaboration until 1998, when the Russian state went bankrupt.”
The consequences are well known: an unprecedented economic collapse, the devaluation of the Ruble and a difficult recession period. At that juncture, unique in the history of Russia, companies could legally refuse to pay for pending supplies. A policy that caused huge losses to all international groups active in the Russian area. AKMA, although, paid off all its debts within a month.
“Back then, it required an immense effort, but this move proved successful in the long run, since it greatly strengthened the reputation of AKMA,” continues Kinder “Saint Gobain itself officially declared that we were a serious and reliable company to do business with, and they continued their collaboration with AKMA. From then onwards, all the other partners acknowledged our professionalism. Over the years we have entered into over 300 leasing contracts, which we always fulfilled. To the point that, when we urgently needed a machine, we were able to order it in advance, even before receiving the financing. In hindsight, we can say that it was during the crisis when we most powerfully demonstrated our value. Today we are among the first glass processing companies in Russia: our distribution network mainly embraces the national market, but also Finland, Sweden, CIS countries (former USSR), Germany, the Netherlands, Canada and the United States … with the future goal of bringing exports up to at least 30 per cent of our turnover.”
AKMA’s production covers a wide range of functions: double glazing for residential, commercial and facade use (a sector in which the company wants to specialize further in the future), for the transport sector (ships, trains – AKMA has just received an order from RJDE to supply the windows of 300 trains) and glass for interiors, safety and artistic installations. In its portfolio there are also some special projects of the highest level, such as the Irina Viner Gymnastics centre, the Afimall shopping centre, the buildings of Huamin Park (Moscow), which show the indisputable talent of AKMA in the architectural glass sector.
“Excellent technology – from a supplier capable of listening”
“Today we have two Forel vertical glass processing lines, we have already ordered a third one and we assessing other machines,” concludes Kinder “After installing the first line, we immediately noticed a superior processing quality and an increase in productivity. Forel machines determined a clear upgrade for our business: they allow us a higher productivity and at the same time an excellent processing quality. In addition, in Forel, we found a different brand compared to all other manufacturers: in addition to offering cutting-edge technology, Forel is a supplier which is capable of listening. For a group like AKMA this is fundamental, not only to manage today’s needs but, above all, to plan our future together. And looking to the future I foresee an increasingly demanding market: we must be able to offer increasingly higher quality and to invest in qualifying personnel and in the technologies to be used. These are the challenges that AKMA will face in the future, with the firm intention of winning.”
(The photos of this article were taken before the Covid-19 emergency)