Foreign Policy: Bhaskar Chakravorti | Ukraine’s tech outsourcing sector, one of Europe’s largest, has adapted nimbly to the war.
With Russian bombs raining down on his citizens, on March 14, 2022, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said:
“As long as the state is at war, as long as the people are defending themselves, the economy must be preserved and restored. As much as possible in the current difficult conditions.
Life must appear on the streets of the cities. Where security allows. Where people can provide it. Pharmacies, trade, any business that can work. For the country to live. For the restoration of Ukraine to already begin. And it depends on each of us, on each of us who is able to work.
Economic suppression of Ukraine is one of the tasks of the war against us. And we have to fight back from that as well. Save our economy. Save our people.
Therefore, the government has received a clear instruction–to return small and medium-sized businesses. Remove any obstacles. Reduce taxes as much as possible, remove all difficulties, absolutely all. So that the system does not press, so that people know that they can work the way they can. Where they can.”
Subsequently, the Ukrainian government cut taxes on small and medium businesses to a single simple scheme: 2% of sales–and, interestingly, it is voluntary: if a business cannot pay, they will be excused. In addition, excise duty on all imported goods has been cut to zero.
With industries that deal with physical products being severely affected by the infrastructure challenges, there are high hopes for the third largest sector, tech and IT, to keep going despite the devastation being caused in the country by the Russian invasion. As a call to action, for those who wish to send tech work to Ukraine: Several sites have emerged to help companies find such Ukrainian tech talent, including UA Talents, Ease Work, Hire for Ukraine, EmployUkraine, and Imagine Ukraine.
The industry’s resilience shows in the numbers as well, which are remarkable, to say the least: The volume of IT exports has increased by 28 percent in 2022 so far over the same time in the previous year, according to the IT Ukraine Association, and for the first quarter of 2022, the industry brought in a record $2 billion in export earnings. Seventy-seven percent of Ukrainian tech companies have brought in new clients during the war.
Ukrainian tech has shown resilience due to the following reasons:
In light of all this, we are speaking to many IT and tech companies in Ukraine, as well as their clients, over the course of the summer.
The conversation will be shared in the form of short video episodes. The initial episodes are below. Please check back as new episodes will be added over time.,
March 23, 2022
Bhaskar Chakravorti speaks with Sergiy Fitsak and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk of Softjourn, a global technology services provider with offices in California, Ukraine, and Poland. They discuss the changes in the tech industry with the Russian invasion, shedding light on how employees are being supported, what contingency plans are in place with backup technology support, and how the government is supporting them through this crisis.
March 23, 2022
Bhaskar Chakravorti speaks with Sergiy Fitsak and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk of Softjourn, a global technology services provider with offices in California, Ukraine, and Poland. They discuss how the tech industry, also called the IT Army, is battling the crisis on the economic end, especially with tech-driven relief processes, and how the world can help them put up a stronger front.
April 06, 2022
In conversation with Sergiy Fitsak and Lyubomyr Nykyforuk of Softjourn, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Chair, Digital Planet raises critical questions about how the Ukrainian government is supporting the tech industry through tax reforms amidst war, the digital public infrastructure and what it will mean to resurrect the digital economy in a post-war Ukraine. Sergiy and Lyubomyr share their experiences in continuing to work from Ukraine, staying connected with loved ones who have fled across the border, and leveraging digital tools to keep their business operations up and running. They see themselves as an “IT army”; tech professionals in Ukraine are participating in a cyber war as well. They are also taking steps to prevent the risks of Russian cyber counter attacks.
April 12, 2022
In this latest episode of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine, Bhaskar Chakravorti talks with Kateryna (Kate) Ryzha, a Project Manager, and the head of PMO at Softjourn. They discuss the contingency measures that Softjourn had in place to ensure its workers were safe, while still continuing ongoing projects without too many disruptions. Kate also talks about the resiliency of Ukrainians during the trying situation—IT workers continue working to contribute to the Ukrainian economy, in fact, many of them have also begun helping government institutes move their services into the cloud. Kate herself worked as a volunteer in Western Ukraine, trying to secure resources for those who need it. She concludes on a positive note, wishing the war to end soon, and hopes that their experience working in difficult situations together will make them stronger.
April 22, 2022
This is the fifth episode of Digital Planet’s Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine series. Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at the Fletcher School talks to Andrew Maksakov, President, and Igor Guryanov, Chief Technology Officer, both of VIMAS Technologies, which is based out of Kyiv, Ukraine. Andrew and Igor talk about deciding to stay in Kyiv to keep the company going. In fact, Igor has even moved into the company premises, both to keep his family safe, but also to be able to control the computers and equipment in the aftermath of Russian missile attacks. Andrew and Igor also talk about the resilience of the Ukrainian tech industry and the IT workers, many of whom have already moved back to Kyiv after the Russian troops were ousted. Igor goes on to explain how remote work, as well as good infrastructure over the past two years, has tremendously helped the IT business, which they were able to leverage to ensure uninterrupted services to big customers like Amazon, the British Council, and several US-based Fortune 500 companies. They also emphasize the role played by the Ukrainian IT army, not only in helping citizens stay safe but in also supporting DDOS attacks and targeting Russian digital infrastructure. The IT army has also provided support for building military applications and translated and transcribed online resources to English, in order to get support from the English-speaking world. Andrew and Igor conclude by asking people to continue to do business with Ukrainian tech companies, for both financial and moral reasons.
April 25, 2022
In Episode 6 of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Chair, Digital Planet, interviews Kenneth Spiegel, the CEO of Languametrics, which is based in Tampa, Florida, and has partnered with Ukrainian software development company VIMAS Technologies. Spiegel explains how Russia’s war against Ukraine has adversely disrupted his company’s business relationships and R&D operations in Ukraine. They discuss how Languametrics and VIMAS Technologies are navigating their deliverables and projects across borders. Learn more from Kenneth about Ukraine’s impeccable talent, dedication, and fortitude that has helped business continuity even amidst a tragic war.
April 26, 2022
In Episode 7 of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Chair, Digital Planet is in conversation with Dr. Mads Kyed, Chairman of the Board, Nikama GmbH. As clients of Ukrainian software developers, Dr. Kyed elaborates on how digital infrastructure in Ukraine has supported business continuity with minimal disruption in Nikama’s software development processes–despite the difficult situation in Ukraine. At the same time, Dr. Kyed also highlights the risks associated with Russia’s invasion including the personal safety of developers in Ukraine, its own business interests, and the impact of war on digital infrastructure. Commending the work ethic and attitudes of the Ukrainian workforce, Dr. Kyed also shares his experience working with software developers in Ukraine who possess unparalleled talent in understanding client needs.
May 11, 2022
In the eighth episode of Digital Planet’s Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine series, Bhaksar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at the Fletcher School converses with Mykola Zhandarov, CEO, Leater Integration, based out of Kyiv in Ukraine. Leater Integration is an IT company which focuses on AV and security integration. Because of the nature of the work, which primarily involves buying different hardware and integrating them for customers, as well as due to the fact that most of their customers are in Ukraine itself, Leater’s business has been negatively impacted by the war. Despite this, Mykola also expresses hope that Ukraine will emerge victorious after the war, and the tech industry will play a critical role in rebuilding the country.
May 12, 2022
In the 9th episode of the Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine series, Bhaksar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at the Fletcher School interviews Yuriy Sivitsky founder and Board member of Intecracy Group, in this episode of Imagining a Digital Economy for All in Ukraine. Intecracy Group is based in Kyiv, Ukraine, and currently hosts a conglomeration of around 15 tech companies. The Intecracy Group was founded by mathematicians and software engineers to develop large-scale software projects on demand. They offer a wide range of services, covering a variety of technologies in countries around the world. Yuriy recounts how although the domestic market crashed immediately after the Russian invasion, their international business thrived. He also talks about the unwavering support received by them from international businesses, which parallels the international support from NGOs and other organizations for Ukraine during the war. Yuriy also discusses how events of the past, the company’s foresight, and government assistance has helped them keep their business going in spite of the ongoing conflict.
May 12, 2022
In the 10th episode in this series, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at The Fletcher School talks to Dave Lowenstein, CEO of IMS Management Services Corporation, based in Los Angeles, California. IMS is a client of Softjourn, a global tech company with an office in Ukraine, and a subject of previous interviews in this series. David talks about the excellent work done by Softjourn, and more broadly, about the resilience and quality of service provided by the rapidly growing tech sector in Ukraine.
June 29, 2022
In the 11th episode of this series, Bhaskar Chakravorti, Dean of Global Business at The Fletcher School converses with Andrew Maksakov, President, and Igor Guryanov, Chief Technology Officer, both of VIMAS Technologies, which is based out of Kyiv, Ukraine. They talk about how both Kyiv and Ukraine as a whole remain under attack, although the capital city is now more stable. They also discuss how their business, and the IT business generally, has remained stable, despite the personal psychological pressures facing them all. The best thing to do, they believe, is to support the government and the military by doing their jobs well.