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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Web-Design Firm Lands Top Clients

Pavel Cherkashin's first client was the world's most valuable corporation, Microsoft.

In late 1997, Microsoft's Russian representative offices were coping with massive inflows of information that had to be gathered, processed and put up on a web site befitting a computer technology giant.

Cherkashin, who graduated from the geography department of Moscow State University in 1995, and other young Internet enthusiasts had just formed a new web development group, Actis Systems, and they presented a solution to Microsoft.

"A lot of people ask me about this, and what's more they ask me in this tone of voice, like, 'I'll never believe you can just go to Microsoft, introduce yourself and offer your services,'" Cherkashin, now president of Actis Systems, said in an interview. "Even though that's about how it happened."

Since then, Canon, BMW, Phillips and a handful of other multinationals have taken their Russian business to Cherkashin. Recently, Actis ( has also built a series of sites for Vimpelcom's Beeline cellular network and built a corporate portal, including security system, for Khanty-Mansiisk Oil Co. as the oil and gas firm set out on an investment search.

Cherkashin's company announced revenues of $1.2 million in 1999 and has expanded into the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Ukraine, as well as maintaining a representative office in Novosibirsk. The company claims a 30 percent market share, though web-design guru Artemy Lebedev, Actis' main competitor, said in an interview it could be more, around 40 percent.

Microsoft remains Cherkashin's client. This year, Actis built a new Russian language site for Windows 2000 and is developing business-to-business e-commerce facilities, said Pavel Yershov, Internet marketing director for the Russian representative offices of Microsoft.

"When we started working with Actis, it was a young company with big plans for the future but a small market share," Yershov said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "Now it is a very serious company that is becoming more like a systems integrator that can implement complicated systems such as business-to-business."

Anton Nikitin, an e-business consultant and general director of the Result agency, credits Cherkashin's firm with creating Russia's first "industrial" web site production line.

"Until not long ago, almost all Internet companies worked one way or another as groups of enthusiasts," Nikitin said. "Actis has built a conveyor belt."

A point of pride for Cherkashin is that the production line does not end when the site has been designed and put up on the Internet. Instead, Actis continues to host the sites and Actis technicians update the sites depending on public response and company needs.

Cherkashin, who now runs the business side of Actis, says it needs several million dollars in investment to carry out a diversification strategy that includes development of a subsidiary, AdWatch, that Cherkashin is positioning as Russia's analog to Internet advertising agency DoubleClick, which compiles user data and profiles.

"The Internet isn't one market. It has several levels," he said. "Our task is to find a unique niche on every level."

And he says he is in a position to do it his way.

"This isn't a process where we are selected. This is a process where we select a dependable long-term partner," he said.

"I think any successful business is built on three factors: the first one is people, or a person, a live force, heart and soul. The second is money and the third is an idea," Cherkashin said. "Money is only an extra supporting resource. It isn't the defining factor, and access to money is easier for an entrepreneur to attain than anything else," he said. "It may be difficult to find examples in other areas of business. But in the Internet, that's the way it is."