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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Master of the TelecomsBusiness

Courtesy Of Mastertel
Less than five years after Vitaly Yezopov founded his telecommunications company at the age of 26, it has flourished to become one of the top 10 communication services providers in Moscow.

His spacious boardroom at Mastertel's headquarters in northeastern Moscow is a symbol of sorts for a company overindulged with medals and accolades, with rows of framed certificates hanging meticulously on its walls.

But Yezopov said he was badly in need of something else: a master's degree in business administration.

"To people of my generation, an MBA is the ultimate," Yezopov said. "You're like a fish in the water when you have it because it kind of cements your knowledge."

Russia's short marriage with market economics notwithstanding, Yezopov said holding an MBA made a person a member of an exclusive club and "widens the scope of social interaction."

When Mastertel opened in 2002, it was the best of times for the telecommunications industry. With the economy on a seemingly endless roll, the newly established Mastertel was primed to capitalize on its enviable position as one of the first telecoms companies that offered "turn-key" solutions in the market.

Yezopov said his goal was nothing short of propelling Mastertel to the No. 1 spot among thousands of competing telecoms operators.

"The market was cluttered but seemed to lack a definite direction or philosophy," he said. "That's when we decided to provide a different customer experience, bundled as an integrated solution."

He said this meant building telecommunications facilities from start to finish, from laying cables as soon as construction work starts on a big project, to providing telephone lines, high speed Internet access and after-service support, so the client would have no need to subcontract communication jobs to other providers.

Yezopov, 31, said his first brush with business came early in the turbulent 1990s, "when Boris Yeltsin, with a stroke of the pen, allowed Russians to sell whatever is sellable."

In his final school year, Yezopov started a small business selling software at the Orekhovo market but said he was soon squeezed out of the business by the emerging powerful criminal gangs.

After earning a degree in information technology at Moscow's Stankin State Technological University, he spent two years working as senior engineer at telecoms company Inkom, before moving over to Ukraine-based T3 Telecom.


COURTESY OF MASTERTEL
Mastertel founder Vitaly Yezopov juggles long working hours with his MBA studies.
Yezopov joined Startelecom in 2000 as director in charge of business development, where he led the successful transformation of the business into a holding company.

With an extensive background in telecommunications and a reputation for innovative technological concepts, Yezopov said the only way he could provide client-oriented services was "to set up a company that could transform his vision into reality."

In 2002, along with three friends, Yezopov decided to "take the plunge," and Mastertel was born.

"I've gained so much experience working in different capacities, but the more I know, the more I feel the urge to ground my knowledge further through an MBA program."

Although Yezopov would not readily admit it, one of the shining beacons of Mastertel is his MBA-wielding partner, Mastertel's commercial director, Yevgeny Sandomirsky.

Sandomirsky bagged an MBA degree from California State University, Hayward, in 2002 but in 2005, Yezopov was content to enroll in the budding International University, which started offering MBA courses in 2001.

Though Moscow's highly congested telecoms market is characterized by cut-throat competition, Yezopov's peers said he had a business-friendly attitude toward competition.

"Vitaly is a shrewd businessman and innovator who impresses with his restless search for new solutions. He enjoys what he does and radiates that pleasure around," said Mikhail Kozhevnikov, the general director of rival Otkrytiye Technologii, or Open Technologies, who has known Yezopov for four years.

Yezopov still juggles long working hours with his studies, despite palpable evidence of success. His credo, "business is pleasure," is parlayed into corporate governance.

"I overlook some indulgences, some minor mistakes and mishaps committed by my workers because making them nervous is the best way to ruin productivity," he said.

The father of three young sons, 18-month-old Ilya, 3-year-old Nikita and 6-year-old Andrei, Yezopov said he adjusted his tight schedule to spend more time with them.

"The only people that can steal time away from me are members of my family. I'm truly proud of them."