CIVITTA acquired Armenia-based EV Consulting, representing the company’s 27th office, spread throughout 17 European countries. In order to find out more about the transaction and the future of the Armenian office, we had a chat with Manuk Hergnyan, Founder and Managing Partner of EV Consulting.
Manuk: EV Consulting was established 15 years ago, in 2006, as a management consulting, research and corporate finance company. Prior to EV Consulting, in 2004, we founded the Economy and Values Research Center, focused on the research of Armenia’s competitiveness, and becoming the partner institute of the World Economic Forum’s Competitiveness program. Due to our efforts, Armenia was included in the Global Competitiveness Report, based on which we developed our own flagship report — the National Competitiveness Report of Armenia, released every 2 years.
In EV Consulting, we are providing services in two streams: private and public sector advisory. We have been working with international organizations and private clients providing sector strategies & studies, strategy development, investment advisory (business plans, feasibility studies, company valuations, M&A), as well as market studies — having a dedicated field research team — along with performance improvement work (KPI systems, financial planning, compensation systems).
We became one of the leading management consulting companies in Armenia, serving both local and international clients, and a couple of years ago we established a representation office in Moscow.
Manuk: We plan to expand our operations in two major directions. First — providing services for the local clients in areas that require much narrower specialized knowledge, e.g. digital transformation, climate change impact assessments, urban services design. Second — to provide services to more international clients, particularly in Eastern European markets. Both directions will require extensive leverage of resources of CIVITTA. We view this merger as an enabler for implementing our plans.
We believe we also bring some important competencies that can be utilized in the CIVITTA network. One of them is our experience in fields related to start-ups and innovation — we are very active in the start-up ecosystem development, including investing in startups, offering mentoring and advisory support, and helping several public-private initiatives in conceptualizing their programs and business plans.
Apart from being the founder of EV consulting, I am also the co-founder and managing partner of Granatus Ventures — the first venture capital fund in Armenia, established back in 2013. So far, we have invested in 15 companies that raised, cumulatively, more than $120m, primarily from US and European venture capital firms.
Now, given that Armenia is on a rapid development track as regards to its startups and innovation ecosystem, we would like to turn this experience into more systematic practice. Furthermore, given this experience, we would like to leverage it and bring into CIVITTA — enabling it to benefit from our experience of investing and supporting startups in challenging environments.
Manuk: First and foremost, our goal was to create a company with a unique character. Growth was not the primary objective, but rather a consistent application of set of values to deliver such value to our clients that enabled them to move to their next level. Among those values are striving for perfectioning, a deep approach and innovative thinking.
The quality of work and the ability to apply creative and analytical thinking and set of values to solve complex business problems is an absolute priority for us, and we see it as the most rewarding aspect of what we do. It is not only beneficial for business, in terms of ensuring repeating clients, but generally striving for excellence is in our corporate DNA. That is what brings a special type of people to us — people who aspire to be excellent and constantly learn and improve. An interesting indication for that is the fact that all employees who reached the level of partner have been with the company since its foundation.
The willingness to constantly learn, particularly learn it fast, is the number one criteria for our recruiting. We provide opportunities for young graduates and constantly invest in their development, giving them the opportunity to learn very diverse skills and competencies. While the Armenian market is small and there are probably lesser attractive career opportunities compared to larger markets, the opportunity to work on interesting projects is a unique differentiating point that we offer to our employees.
Manuk: For example, we developed a concept for a quite complex project, engaging multiple stakeholders, at the end of which a series of cutting-edge labs have been established at the Polytechnic University of Armenia. Our client was the Armenian branch of National Instruments — a multinational engineering company that intended to contribute to establishing the labs in order to have more high-quality engineers for the industry. The concept required balancing interests, financial contributions and benefits across multiple stakeholders — the University, the client, affiliated industry players, the government, as well as the international funders. The labs have been fully operational for a few years now, and represent one of the excellence centers within the University itself, as well as a source for many talented engineers that went to work for the industry or spin-offs that became successful startups.
Another interesting project that is worth mentioning is a success story in the small, but rapidly growing pharmaceutical industry in Armenia. We supported the company to attract an equity investment from EBRD, one of the first of its kind. Afterwards, I was invited to join the board of the company to support its strategic development. The company grew significantly since then; it established cutting-edge production facilities and became the number one exporter of pharmaceutical products outside of Armenia. I stepped down from the board after the company bought out EBRD’s stake, but after some time we were called again to help establish a comprehensive performance management system linking it to the compensation system. We very much cherish such long-term relationships with clients since they are the manifestation of an important value we bring to them.
Manuk: For us, the primary motivation to join CIVITTA is to be able to work more on international projects, with a much more diverse set of clients, as well as moving into more diverse industries and developing new competence areas. This will help develop competencies and skills sets for our team, which will be provided with more career growth opportunities while working on interesting international projects.
Another key aspect is the ability to tap into the competence pool of CIVITTA as an international company and to leverage it for our internal projects in Armenia — thus, bringing that expertise into the country.
Manuk: We have been interacting with CIVITTA for a number of years now — and this initiative to join forces wasn’t a sporadic or quick decision. During these years, we explored each other and spotted many similarities in our approach to work and our values. When I participated in CIVITTA’s offsite event a couple of years back, I felt I was in a very familiar environment — young, well-educated professionals from multiple geographies, doing very similar work and with a similar approach to ours. Being able to provide real value for clients without the “hype” that sometimes is present in the consulting industry became the glue that eventually led to this transaction.