Hayk Lorikyan works as Deputy CEO of Business Development at Galaxy Group of Companies. He studied at Stanford and Sheffield universities and managed the trade, marketing and development departments in several large companies in Armenia before joining Galaxy. Banks.am has talked with Hayk Lorikyan about the challenges of managing projects in Armenia, facilitating investment and finding top employees.
The extraordinary Lorikyans
“People often address me by my last name, although my first name is one of the shortest in the world.”
Hayk’s last name is actually quite rare, and he knows almost all other Lorikyans. Apart from the unusual last name, they share the love for art that awakens when they turn 41 years old.
“My father (Martiros Petros Lorikyan – Banks.am) was a scientist, a nuclear physicist, but he started painting when he was 41 years old. He wrote several literary works later as well. That sudden change of interests manifested itself in my brother’s life as well. Someone who has never been interested in holding the palette started painting at the age of 41 and hasn’t put down the brush ever since. I am turning 41 in four years, so I am waiting for my moment (laughs – Banks.am).”
Physics was the start
“Unfortunately, my choice of occupation was between fixing X-ray units in Armenia and moving abroad. I took the second option.”
After graduating school Hayk decided against following his father’s course. He wanted to try something new, bring a new profession to the family.
“Some people want to continue their parents’ work, but it was the opposite in our case.”
Hayk initially chose biomedical cybernetics and soon realized that the only prospect for him was to maintain X-ray units – that was the harsh reality in Armenia back then. Hayk got admitted to the University of Vienna, but he decided not to study there.
“Nevertheless, physics is still my primary interest. My hobby is astronomy.”
A lecture from NASA
“While I was abroad, I learned to review the meaning of education. I came to understand how, when and where I could apply tomorrow the knowledge I obtain today. In Armenia, education is a mandatory, imposed activity.”
Hayk never forgets the lecture “How to make decisions in uncertain situations” that he heard at Stanford University. It was conducted by NASA Head of the Mars Exploration Program, Dr. Firouz Naderi, an ethnic Iranian. According to Lorikyan, Dr. Naderi built all his lectures on examples from personal experience.
“The lecturer told us the following story: “We finally set the exact day for the launch of Mars Exploration Rover (MER). The project cost USD 1.5 billion. It was supposed to launch on Monday, so I went to my summer cottage for the weekend before. Unexpectedly, I got a message that we had to postpone everything, because the weather conditions on Mars were unfavorable. It meant that we had to delay the launch by three months.
I had just 30 minutes to make a decision. I looked at the sky and noticed it was a warm, sunny day, although the weather forecast two days earlier predicted rain. I realized we had to try, because if we couldn’t forecast the weather correctly on the Earth, could we really predict the weather on Mars? We tried, and it was a success.”
That story taught us that you need to set a specific timeframe for yourself to make a decision.”
NASA’s approach in Galaxy
“Dr. Naderi became the first example that led me to a discovery: many of Stanford’s professors had a second, completely different profession.”
They used the knowledge from different fields to teach new skills and solutions, develop new ideas. This approach became the cornerstone of the Innovation and Technology Park.
“We will combine different fields and ideas in this project. The secret to combination is to gather these different fields in one place, which will produce innovation.”
Working in Galaxy
“The biggest advantage of Galaxy is that you get to collaborate with people who share your way of thinking and your views.”
According to Hayk Lorikyan, people working for Galaxy are established, confident experts who look beyond their own self. He considers it the main factor of successful collaboration between different teams within the company and Galaxy’s ability to design and implement large projects: people understand each other and see what the other means.
“If we look closer at the companies involved in our group, we will see they were all created from scratch. In other words, everything from idea generation to management was done in these companies. It is rare not only in Armenia, but in the world in general too. If you work in Galaxy, you have the opportunity to create something from scratch, develop it and see that what you have built is stable and it is working. That is why you start thinking more constructively at Galaxy regardless of your intention and the desire to change something for the people grows.”
The secret of Galaxy’s success
“If you live, for instance, in Michigan, U.S., you are surrounded by people of various nationalities and religions, and you can simply travel to other states to broaden your mind, no need to leave the country. If you live in Armenia, you have to cross the boundaries and travel abroad to learn about the world.”
Hayk believes that it is difficult to gather in one team the people who crossed the boundaries. Galaxy managed to do it, which is why the group is so successful.
“You can often hear that people in Armenia don’t concentrate on one occupation, which makes it difficult to work with them. It might be difficult and even dangerous in case of a narrow area of expertise, but for business, it’s actually great.”
The biggest challenge for implementing projects in Armenia is the lack of human recourse.
“Every time we analyze an issue, we see that finding good experts in Armenia is a problem. The only solution is the education, which should receive substantial investment. The methods need to change, starting from schools and kindergartens.”
“To improve the investment climate, we need to improve the business environment. The two areas are interdependent.”
According to Lorikyan, in order to improve the investment climate the authorities need a clear vision of what they are doing, how many years it will take, and what the country will achieve in the end. A long-term, ambitious, unique vision is what can draw investors to Armenia.
Hayk believes the second key factor is predictability: your partner has to know what to expect from your country.
“We should have legislation for the investment policy, so that whoever takes the helm of the state has to uphold the commitments indicated in the legislation. That way the investors will know where they go and why.”
After years of negotiating with potential investors Hayk realized that for the majority of them Armenia is a tiny space, surrounded by mountains and tangled in problems. Only the second, deeper level of research shows them what the local entrepreneurs see.