GALAxy Member Company Spotlight: GAMAX
By: GALA - GAMAX Kft.
31 December 1969
This quarter, GALAxy turns its spotlight on Dr. Péter Surján of GAMAX, one of GALA's long-time member companies. Read his profile to see how he got involved in localization and how his company has adapted over the years.
Business Name: GAMAX
Owner(s) / President Name: The company has six Hungarian private owners. Our CEO is Dr. Géza Homonnay. Our localization manager is Dr. Péter Surján
Date Established: 1990
Location: 1114 Budapest, Bartók Béla út 15/D, Hungary
Phone number: +36 1 372 06 92
E-mail: [email protected]
Business Hours: 9:00-17:00
Number of employees (and breakdown by position)
We have more than 1400 employees; most of them work in the manpower business (temporary employment and staffing). The core of the company consists of 80 people, 20 of whom work in administration. We have 8 people for hardware and software distribution and 40 software developers and system engineers. Unfortunately the number of people in the localization department has diminished in the last year; we have now 4 project managers, 4 translators, 2 engineers and 1 DTP person. Fortunately we managed to find a place in the company for most of the people we can not employ in the localization department – and if the need for them returns, we can call them back to take part in localization projects.
Description of company products/services
The main business areas of the company are manpower leasing, software localization, technical and medical translation, software development, software and hardware distribution and IT-consulting.
How did your business get started?
The company was started for manpower leasing in the IT field, mainly for managing the owners’ work in different countries in Europe. In the communist era it was not possible to found a private company, and in the early 90s almost nobody knew how it would go or how long it would last. We wanted simply to organize our work with the help of a company. We started the localization business in 1993, when Microsoft was looking for a company who could localize their products into Hungarian. They were looking for a translation company, but those companies did now know too much about computers, software, etc. We did a test translation and were selected. At that time I had just finished a software development project, so I started to manage the localization projects. There was a lot to learn, but we became a Microsoft Strategic Partner for a short while, which taught us a lot.
What is your educational and career background?
I studied electrical engineering at the Technical University in Budapest, but I have never worked as an electrical engineer. I worked as a software developer and systems engineer for different companies in Hungary. At the time we founded Gamax, I was working for Siemens in Frankfurt on software for the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. After coming home to Hungary, I managed some software development projects until we started localization activity in the company in 1993. Since then I have been managing the localization department at Gamax. Interestingly, my last software development project was done in FoxPro, and the very first localization project was FoxPro too.
How much research did you do before starting your business?
There was no research. Before 1990 it was not possible to start a private business in Hungary. There was no faculty at the universities where you could have learnt it. Everybody was a self made man in the business at that time. Starting the company was done by one of the owners of Gamax, and he is still managing the company. Starting localization was also quite simple back then. After completing a test translation we got lots of projects. Localization was new in Hungary, nobody knew too much about that; we simply wanted to complete the projects as well as we could. We had very enthusiastic people, we learnt a lot from the Microsoft trainings and projects, we met people at those trainings and talked a lot, but that all came after our start.
When were you the most discouraged?
There have been some moments in the last 16 years when I had to think over whether I wanted to go on with localization activity in Gamax, or if I should go back to my original profession, or even start something new. The first time was at early stage, when most of our projects were coming from a big software development company. We have received the draft of the next year's contract with many projects forecasted, but in two weeks a short message arrived that they did not want to work with us anymore – without any explanation. It was not easy to continue having lost about 60% of our revenue. Some years later we also lost a big client (about 35% of our revenue), one of the big MLVs, but it was a slower process, as we knew they had opened an office in the country. Other discouraging things were that some of our clients went bankrupt. The first one was a big US company. The other two were both GALA members, and the sum was much higher. One of them caused a quite big loss for the localization activity some years ago, as it was a big ML project, almost 10% of our yearly revenue. And I am always discouraged when I see to what extent quality is unimportant for even some big multinational companies.
What company or individual do you admire?
I have always admired people who are successful businesswomen or businessmen, but do not forget: there are lot of things in life that are more important than business. And I am happy to know many people of a similar mind in the localization business – people who are interesting both inside and outside of their work.
What makes your business stand out from competitors?
I know lots of companies and most of them are really very good in the business, so it is hard to say anything that could not be found in any other company. For me it is important that we are reliable, e.g. we have never taken any project when we knew we could not complete it on schedule or accepted any rate we knew was too little for a quality job – even if we had to reject big or interesting projects we would have been happy to work on. I think we have a strong background in the fields of most projects we take on. On one hand we were and are an IT company with many IT professionals who could and can help us in more complicated projects. And we cooperate with a medical publishing house on medical projects, so we can consult doctors from different fields; and in many cases we also use doctors for translation work. And what could be more important – experience: the majority of our people have been working with us for more than 10 years.
Who is your target client/customer base?
We work mainly for MLVs, for some big ones but small ones as well. Very rarely we also have end customers from Hungary.
What kind of career opportunities does your company offer?
We are only a small localization company, so we cannot offer the same opportunities as the big ones. But there are also advantages. First of all, our employees have the opportunity to learn a lot. We do not have translators who translate the same topic for years. We have clients from different fields and everybody has to know all of them. And this means not only different topics, but also different tools and for some translators also different languages. Most of the translators can do engineering work, too. So I think life is not boring at Gamax. Being a small department, everybody knows each other. I think and I hope people are happy to work in our company. We have only two people in the localization department who started to work for us in this century! And I think people who have left us for different reasons have learnt a lot at Gamax; some of them are now working for big multinational companies all over the world, e.g. two of our former engineers have been working for Microsoft for more than 8 years in Dublin and in Redmond, other ones are or were working for big MLVs in Ireland, England, France and Spain and the US.
What trends are you seeing now in the world of localization, and how is your company responding?
I think the main trend has been consistent for many years: localizing more for less money in shorter time. But while the stress was more on shorter time some years ago, now it is mainly on less money. And this depression on rates will mean quality problems. I do not want to say that clients do not want quality. We have had conversations with companies saying, “Yes, we know, the quality is not good enough. Can you do it better? And for the same money?” But it is impossible. In other words, we have not yet found translators who can provide quality translation for us for less than a certain threshold. And if they exist somewhere, it would probably cost a lot of money to find them! You cannot simply advertise: “We are looking for quality translators who are willing to work for peanuts”.
Besides this you have to live with very hectic schedules. Life was not that hectic some years ago – at least for us, a tier 3 or 4 language.
And how we respond: First of all, cutting costs – as much as we can. We have also had to reduce the number of in house people and use more freelancers. And sometimes we are not able to use those freelancers who are really good but more expensive than the average. Unfortunately we had to stop working for some companies (even after many years cooperation) that wanted to cut rates to a level we couldn't live with. Naturally we are always looking for new clients with whom we can agree on acceptable conditions.
Are there any recent successful projects that you would like to spotlight?
We recently completed a very successful engineering flash project, where the input was single language and not ready for globalization, and from that we managed to create an excellent working multi-language project (including Chinese). The developer company could not solve the problems so we had to rewrite some parts of the software and test it. We are working on another project now, which is localization of an operating system where we have to use and accommodate some poorly translated parts of the software without any glossary and style guide, and the biggest success will be if we manage to have the client correct the bad style, mistranslations and grammatical errors.