Ajax Systems perseveres in the face of war

May 24, 2022
Ukraine-based security manufacturer continues to experience exponential growth even amid Russian aggression

When Russia invaded Ukraine back in February, it not only created the greatest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II, but it also upended the operations of numerous businesses in the country. While the war was predicted far in advance of the actual invasion, the burden of shifting personnel and other resources to another region of the nation or even into neighboring countries was substantial for organizations, leading to yet additional challenges for a global supply chains already decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the businesses directly impacted by the invasion was Kyiv-based Ajax Systems, one of the largest manufacturers of residential and light commercial security products in Europe. The company, which was founded in 2011 and has more than 2,000 employees, has grown in the span of a decade from a small, local manufacturer of analog security systems to a global supplier of digital security technology whose products are now sold in over 120 countries.

According to Valentine Hrytsenko, Chief Marketing Officer for Ajax Systems, the company began to focus on global security markets around 2014 – the same year Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula – and decided to develop a brand-new product line from scratch.

“Our CEO (Aleksandr Konotopskyi) defined key differentiators for the product – that it should have a huge operating range, be wireless, have a sexy design, and it should be very fast with regards to the software. It should be not an analog security system, but a product for the era of the Internet of Things,” he explains. “In 2016, we showed our first products from the current product line, and we started our global expansion.”

Adapting to War

However, the company’s exponential growth has been marred recently by the Russian invasion, which has forced the company to quickly pivot to get their workers and equipment out of harm’s way.

But, according to Hrytsenko, they certainly weren’t caught unaware by the act of Russian aggression.

“The war didn’t start on the 24th of February; it has been a part of our permanent life since 2014,” he says. “Since that time, we developed our products with an approach where we could launch a new manufacturing facility very fast.”

As part of the process in taking a more global approach to security, Hrytsenko says they realized that having strong intellectual property in the form of their software could make them much more agile and give them the ability to manufacture their products from anywhere and not just within Ukrainian borders.

“For example, we don’t invest in buildings, but we invest a lot in software. So, we have positioned ourselves as a software company and not a standard manufacturer of hardware. That’s why we were quite ready to launch new production facilities from scratch in a very short period of time,” he adds. “From the 24th of February, we spent one month to launch everything from scratch in another, safer region in Ukraine.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle, according to Hrytsenko, was just the logistics of getting everything and everyone moved to a new facility.

“It was like 170 trucks from Kyiv to a new facility. And some of our warehouses were near some not so safe areas with fighting going on, so it was quite heroic for our colleagues to take all of these goods and equipment and move it at that period of time,” he says. “Also, it took a lot of effort to relocate so many people to safer regions in such a very short period of time. It was like 800 people over the course of two weeks that had to be relocated.”

Aside from shifting their primary operations out of the capital city of Kyiv, Ajax also had to close one of its R&D offices in Kharkiv, a city that was heavily damaged as a result of Russian shelling. For now, Hrytsenko says 100% of the company’s products are still being produced in Ukraine, however; the company has plans to open a new plant in Turkey later this year.

“It won’t be the last one because we are global player,” he says. “And we will open more facilities because we can’t put all our eggs in one nest and have only one facility.”         

In fact, later this summer, Hrytsenko says the company plans to make its debut in North America within the Canada and the U.S. and has already begun to sign its very first distributors in the market.    

In addition to trying to return to some semblance of business as usual, Ajax Systems has also played a role in helping protect their fellow Ukrainian citizens throughout the conflict with the recent launch of the Air Alert app for Android and iOS devices. The app provides warnings of airstrikes, chemical attacks, technological catastrophes, as well as other types of civil defense alerts.

“We developed it with some help from our Minister of Digital Transformation,” Hrytsenko explains. “Now this app has seven million downloads in Ukraine and it’s like the official channel for informing our people regarding air alerts all over the country.”

Returning to Kyiv

With Russia refocusing most of its current efforts in the war in eastern Ukraine in the Donbas region, Hrytsenko says they are already discussing plans to reopen their facility in Kyiv.

“A lot of people moved back to Kyiv after the Russian army left that region, so they are going back to their homes because it is quite hard to find and build your life from scratch in some other region when you have a home and everything there,” he adds. “In June, we will open our office and R&D center for those who are ready to work from Kyiv. In Kyiv, life is now getting better.”

Joel Griffin is the Editor of SecurityInfoWatch.com and a veteran security journalist. You can reach him at [email protected].