We talked to Alexey Shapran on how PioGroup innovates digital breakthroughs and he had the following to say about it.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alexey Shapran: During this uncertain time, we are doing good, trying to stay positive and don’t panic. But at the same time, we keep focused and not relaxed. We try to strengthen our immunity — this is the key point for us. Also, I would really recommend this practice to all people all over the globe.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded PioGroup.
Alexey Shapran: I have a developer’s background in the past and spent almost 10 years working in various roles — from freelance developer to team lead role working for international companies. It was a great learning experience, and it gave me a decent idea of business and tech processes. As a result of a deep understanding of the IT industry, I founded my own company, and we started with a couple of long-term projects. For now, PioGroup LTD is a Software Development company focused on edtech solutions, founded in 2010 in Ukraine and incorporated a few years ago in the UK with the main development center in Ukraine and Sales Representatives in Canada & Norway. We have totally over 40 IT Professionals delivering tech solutions and services to a number of customers worldwide.
How does PioGroup innovate?
Alexey Shapran: The core values of our team were always knowledge sharing, people & self-improvement. That is how we came up with our goal — to innovate digital education. Thus, a few years ago, the edtech industry became our primary focus where we distribute educational products and build custom solutions for institutions, schools as well as SMEs, and enterprises.
We invest systematically into our employees’ development by preparing personal development plans, inviting professional speakers, involving external contractors for a team consultancy, and setting up workshops — all of these help us keep the team motivated. Also, we aim to improve and develop the innovative skills and thinking of all employees.
Fostering digital education, we provide the B2B segment with custom development of Learning Management Systems (LMS), educational apps, SaaS products based on Cloud solutions, and complex HR & Employee Training custom software solutions. Also, we implement AI solutions for educational processes such as test assessment, data mining for resource allocation, and automation of test generation and test scoring.
Therefore, we aim to help B2B customers to manage their employee training programs, manage school lessons and activities, implement gamification for the effective learning process, provide individual coaches/trainers with their personal, educational workspace for their followers and students.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alexey Shapran: In spring 2020, we had difficult times due to a global lockdown. The number of clients decreased by about 40% due to the fact that those businesses focused on the offline market, for example, sport, booking, retail, and entertainment segments.
It was a tough time for many business owners who were forced urgently to penetrate the digital market and enhance their online presence. As our main focus is education and technology, we helped those businesses — we provide them with our Learning Management System (LMS) for free, gave advice on how to use the platform, make the most of it, and how to optimize online processes.
On the other hand, people in our network tried to help each other and other businesses; for instance, landlords cut significantly office rental payments. Other businesses considered discounts on their services.
The situation had changed by summer when business partially returned to a normal life, aside from that, we focused more on the e-learning industry and kept this direction.
For us, it was a good time for making essential business optimization decisions: we optimized operational costs, we learned how to manage the remote team, we rethought our strategic plans, and focused more on the chosen niche.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Alexey Shapran: That’s always complicated when we have to make decisions about people, and unfortunately, we had to downsize. Some of our team members went on the ‘bench,’ and we couldn’t keep them not loaded for a long period.
Besides, Remote & Office work came to the next level. I believe we’ll keep the choice for people to choose whether to work from home or in the office.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Alexey Shapran: A session with the psychotherapists brings good results. It helps to have a clear mind; thus, it helps to see any situation from a different angle and make the right decisions accordingly. Everyone needs to relieve stress — my choice is an active sport such as motocross and snowboarding. These activities help me to maintain my stamina and recharge the battery. “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life” — I agree with this Confucius quote. It is necessary to prioritize those things I put effort into.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alexey Shapran: We’ve seen recently that customers need more individualized solutions rather than a ready-made set of functions in any software product. Custom solutions give clients exactly what they want and meet their business needs.
We plan not only to stay in the game but rather scale up the business. No doubts we never forget about continuous optimization processes as well as smart and talented people who stay with us no matter what.
Your final thoughts?
Alexey Shapran: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop” one more Confucius quote that I admire. I believe that the key point is not to stop, not panic, stay calm, make balanced decisions, and continue to develop leadership skills — all these will lead to good results and pay you off.