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Press about Auriga

Jul 11, 2001

Auriga delivers the power of global IT resources

New Hampshire Business Review,
Lisa Madden

It is far from breaking news that the U.S. has been experiencing a shortage of information technology workers. A recent survey of mid- and large-size companies by the Information Technology Association of America concluded that there are about 190,000 unfilled IT jobs in the U.S. today due to a shortage of qualified workers. In another study conducted by Coopers and Lybrand, nearly half the CEOs of America's fastest growing companies report that they had inadequate numbers of IT workers to staff their operations.

Between 1994 and 2005, more than a million new computer scientists and engineers, systems analysts and computer programmers will be required in the U.S. - an average of 95,000 per year. One difficulty is that the formal, four-year education system is producing a small proportion of the workers required.

And for these reasons, Amherst-based Auriga Inc., a global IT consultancy with a well-established software engineering operation in Moscow, Russia, has settled in the U.S. - responding to the shortage of IT specialists by offering the best talents they had in Russia.

Russian programmers are also taking on jobs without leaving home. According to Scott Livermore, engineering manager at Pilot Software, "The Russian programmers work just as well as their American counterparts, but the jobs cost up to 40 percent less. This is definitely the future."

Company founder and president, Aleksei Sukharev, Ph.D., founded Infort Company in 1990 in Moscow, which was later renamed Auriga Software Development Center. In 1993, Sukharev set up Auriga Inc. in New Mexico, which was then moved to New Hampshire in 1995.

Prior to moving into the private sector in the late '80s, Sukharev was professor of Operations Research and Numerical Analysis at Moscow State University. It was here where he established a business relationship with U.S. scientists.

Auriga delivers custom client-server, e-commerce and embedded solutions for companies in telecommunications, manufacturing and packaged software production industries. The company's key advantage is the unique technical expertise of their engineering team in Russia, which brings cost-effective solutions to their U.S. customers - along with the reliability and predictability of dealing with a U.S.-based company.

According to Sergei Riabov, business manager for Auriga, it was a logical collaboration. "Because we have a combination of offshore and on-site models." He explained that what happened was that during the critical stages of a project, the clients were asking the Russian engineers to come over. "We found a strong demand - that they wanted these people here on a permanent basis. So we decided to make our staffing offerings stronger, and that has been very successful."

The company's initial success was in providing U.S. companies with offshore development solutions from their Moscow, Russia-based Software Development Center that increased product ranges, decreased time to market and significantly lowered development costs. Today there are more than 45 people based out of the Amherst office, and Riabov said there will be more.

"We have very sophisticated engineering facilities because we have very close ties with Moscow University," he said. "There are more than 110 employees there, (in Moscow) that include the management, and very well experienced engineers."

In the Russia lab, engineers work with the clients on line. "Through Internet connectivity there is a 24 hours, 7-days-a-week mode because of the time difference," explained Riabov. "In the morning a client can e-mail specifications, and the next morning they can come in and get results. It's very good to have this opportunity to work this way, with a client benefitting from the (8 hour) time difference."

When a Russian engineer comes to the U.S., Riabov said that they come with the same level of confidence and understanding of technical issues as their U.S. counterparts. The obvious liability is communication, but he said that as their reputation has grown and their strong abilities have grown apparent, that has come to matter less.

"Most speak pretty good English, and they can communicate on the technical level," said Riabov. "Of course the cultural issues still exist, but after several years of being here, we have very positive references from our clients, and they are very happy with them."

"The majority of people who come here, stay here," he continued. "We provide the needed assistance, we have a transition period for them. Last year we had English as a Second Language classes, and teachers came to the office after work. We were growing faster in 2000 than now, but what is good about Auriga is that we didn't have layoffs. We had restructuring, changing our focus a little bit, our markets and targets, but we had no layoffs, we haven't lost a single engineer."

Auriga's IT software consultancy consists of three cornerstones: turnkey solutions, which provide clients with solutions to business specifications to the deployed application; software development services, where they provide technical solutions; and IT staffing.

"We are very flexible. If a client wants us to deliver entire solutions, we can do that. Or if they would prefer to manage process themselves then we can do software solutions. We also have several local companies who use our services as a staffing partner, and that, in a nutshell, is what we do," said Riabov.

But the core of Auriga's business is service. "And that is based on relationships," said Riabov. "And it took time in the past to build this. But now we have this specific territory and so now it is easier for us to continue to grow further. Because we have people who know us and who trust us."

He does point out that they would be glad to have more New Hampshire business, since right now the majority of their clients are over the border in Massachusetts.

In order to build a stronger presence in the Granite State, Riabov said that they are working on building strong relationships with business organizations like the High Tech Council and the Software Association of N.H. "And we plan to share our knowledge about how a company can benefit with cooperation with an offshore company, using resources in Russia - which allows them to dramatically reduce their costs, which is very legitimate in times of slowdown. We would like to go further aggressively in terms of marketing in the local community."

Riabov said that their success is due in part to the unique qualifications of their engineers. "We work with embedded solutions, developing components which will be embedded into hardware, as well as plug and play solutions, specific software that maintains the Windows system. These are very unique abilities and it is very hard to find the right people in this market. And the cost of consulting services is very costly (here) and we can remain competitive, because in spite of the huge costs, the expenses in Russia are much less. To land a lab, here in N.H., would be much more costly."

Riabov said that they can also be considered veterans - yet another unique feature. "Many companies in IT are starting to focus on offshore developing, and they are looking for support from government. But we were here, before they started to discuss this agenda."

Riabov has been with Auriga since 1998. Before that he worked as a software developer in the military industrial complex in Russia, and his last job was working for Sybase in Moscow. He said that he likes it here very much, and has received a very warm reception everywhere, at state organizations, schools, etc.

Auriga was named one of the 50 fastest growing companies in New England (wwwfast50.com) and one of the 100 fastest growing staffing companies (www.purplesquirrel.com/ps100/abut.shtml). The company's annual sales have doubled over the past year.

According to Riabov, the slowdown has been beneficial to the company. "The needs of our potential clients to outsource their solutions are getting stronger, and most companies are willing to decrease their IT costs. Our solution of offshore solutions is one of them."

"We are also able to find a lot of valuable people to strengthen our management staff. We have recently hired a sales manager, where half a year ago we couldn't imagine to find a person of that caliber to come aboard, so it is beneficial from many points of view. For sure it has some challenges, because we need to work harder, we need to approach more clients, but from the point of offering more value, it's easier."

Auriga's traditional approach to getting business has been word of mouth. "We did not have plans to expand very quickly because we are concerned about the quality of our services," explained Riabov. "So we wanted to concentrate more on serving our clients than in investing in marketing and sales. But now we are in the slowdown, and it has another flip side - our business has stabilized a bit, so it means the volume of projects has stabilized, and we can now place some of our resources into a business development area, and this is how we would like to gain new clients."

Auriga, Inc. is located at 1 Overlook Dr., Unit 2, Amherst, N.H. 603-673-2300.


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