Learn about the resilience of MK:translations, a dynamic Ukrainian company specializing in translation and localization in 84 languages and is B2B segment oriented, which not only survived the war, but expanded its presence in the EU, and provided foreign language solutions for the Ukrainian refugees abroad. Read our Interview with Yuliia Ventskovska, the company’s CEO & Co-Founder.
We talked to Yuliia about how the team managed not only to withstand the blows of the war but grow and establish headquarters in Europe.
Yuliia, could you share your experience? Was it an easy decision to continue working during the war? What motivated you?
The matter of work suspension was not even discussed. I understood we had to carry on, to help our staff and their families in such a crucial time. Moreover, the country needed taxes to withstand. So, this is what we decided to do — keep providing jobs, paying taxes, volunteering, and supporting the Ukrainian Army. In such a way, we would bring the victory closer.
Despite difficulties, the team continued accepting orders and helping Ukrainian and foreign companies to enter new markets without a break.
We were back to work on the fifth day since the beginning of the full-scale war.
Did you manage to save the team?
At the beginning of 2022, our team consisted of 17 full-staff employees and 100+ experts engaged in our projects. Part of the team worked offline in the Kyiv office, while others provided our services remotely from different parts of Ukraine.
After the war began, we had to say goodbye to some of our colleagues who could not work or who moved abroad to start a new life. However, the majority of our team stayed and was ready to adapt to the new circumstances, challenges, and work conditions.
Our translators experienced the same. We closed all the projects relating to russia, and tried to understand which translators we could rely on. I remember with gratitude the words of encouragement we received from our foreign translators. Some of them even refused their fees in favor of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and volunteer organizations!
There were really no problems for you to re-organize the work, weren’t there?
There were, of course. However, we recall only pleasant things.
In the first month, we could work only 2—4 hours a day. We had to renew our internal business processes. It was difficult indeed, to re-organize the teamwork, staff being located in different parts of the country: some colleagues were in a safer place, while the others — under terrible continuous, constant alarms forcing them to leave the workplace and hide in a bomb shelter. We tried to support each other in every way we could at that time. I had to re-evaluate the amount and complexity of tasks and set sober deadlines so that the team might work in a realistic setting and not feel guilty for not completing anything on time. The human factor, the care for my team, was the key for me.
Soon we were strong enough to launch social projects, besides our regular work. I’m proud of that.
You mentioned “social projects” — could you tell more about them, please?
After recovering from the first shock of the war, we brainstormed to understand how we could help Ukrainians, considering our resources, translation experience, and awareness of foreign markets.
More than 5 million Ukrainian people, mostly women and children, had left their homes to find shelter in foreign countries, with little knowledge of foreign language. It didn’t take long for us to understand our higher calling at that time — help Ukrainians communicate abroad. Following the call, we developed the following two projects for the displaced Ukrainians: U-Guide and USearch.
U-Guide was a free phrasebook in 14 popular languages for adults and young Ukrainians who were forced to leave their country because of the war. More than 30 thousand users downloaded it in just several months after its launch.
USearch was a Telegram channel and chatbot for job searching all over Europe and remotely in Ukraine, where you could filter the vacancies by niches and countries. The number of users of this product exceeded 14 thousand.
Did the client base structure change under new conditions?
We were able to keep the existing “Western” clients. Moreover, we gradually increased their number.
At the same time, our base of Ukrainian customers had been changed to a certain extent because some companies had changed their specialization, while others simply collapsed because of the war. Thus, our local client base had been almost 50% updated.
What about the services?
Order capacity for such services as official document translation had slightly increased at that time due to the forced displacement and the coming enrollment campaign. But that was not our main focus.
The most popular services were, as they are now, the localization of websites, games, and mobile apps. Today we continue to see high demand from gamedev and blockchain niches.
At the same time, we keep cooperating with our regular customers in the specialized fields of translation: legal, technical, financial, etc.
Besides, the demand for multilingual copywriting is also increasing in our case, namely writing articles, presentations, landing pages, and posts for social networks in foreign languages.
How is the team's work organized now?
In Kyiv, Ukraine, part of our team works in an office setting, while 80% of our staff work remotely.
We need the office not only for our own convenience. Some clients prefer real-life meetings prior to entrusting their projects to a new contractor. Moreover, we have to keep official documents for 30 years in accordance with the legislation.
The office space we use is equipped with power generators, and it has a permanent Internet connection and even a bomb shelter!
As to the technology, we record the working hours and presence of remote colleagues in Hurma HRM system. We are always in touch in Microsoft Teams and Telegram chats. Therefore, we can immediately substitute any translator in the case of a power outage or a threat of missile attacks they might be dealing with.
Tell us about your new European division: why Estonia?
It was not a spontaneous idea; it took two years to make this decision.
Finally, attending the Tallinn Digital Summit in October 2022, gave us the confidence that it was time to take this direction.
The Estonian market has a lot of advantages: a high level of digitalization, a great number of IT companies, a developed startup culture, a connection with markets of the Scandinavian countries, a convenient taxation system, and company registration via the E-residency program. Moreover, it is easier and more effective to communicate with foreign customers and translators through the European division.
Some experts might admit it would be more efficient to start with Poland, the Czech Republic, or Romania, repeating the experience of many other Ukrainian businesses. However, we decided to choose not the easiest but the most effective way. Considering the benefits I mentioned earlier, we chose Estonia as our EU headquarters.
How can you make European clients interested in you? Why should they choose your company?
I could answer — we are the best! But business likes specifics. So, I will say this: we follow the win-win strategy in our work, which means we treat the client’s result at the same level as our own result. If they win, we win as well.
We are strictly against dumping because we know what price we pay for the qualitative result we deliver.
Besides, we stick to the word: we do not refuse projects halfway through, do not exceed the agreed budget, and do not break deadlines.
Our company is a reliable partner in translations and localization, and our clients’ feedback and their repeated orders confirm this. We have almost no clients with a single order. Even if they order the translation for private purposes for the first time, they return with other queries or recommend us to their friends or colleagues.
Do you already understand where to go next?
The aim of the coming years is to develop our own brand in the Western Europe market and gain more clients.
Localization services are in higher demand among the companies which are already operating in or are going to enter the international market. It would be unwise to miss such an opportunity.
We also have ambitious goals to create an industry association that will represent the Ukrainian translation business in the international market. As Estonians say: “Kes hiljaks jääb, see ilma jääb”, which means ”The latecomers loose”. But this is not about us, for sure, as we are not going to slow down.
Interested to learn more about MK:Translations?
→ Visit their Website here.
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