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Q+A – Algirdas Sidiskis, Audiotonas

‘The boom-time couldn’t last’ The co-owner of Lithuanian AV integrator, distributor and manufacturer Audiotonas is unsurprised by the severity of the economic downturn

Established as an audio distributor and integrator in 1994, Lithuania-based Audiotonas has gone on to add both lighting and video to its AV services portfolio. Today, the company serves as a distributor for worldleading brands including Martin Audio, RCF, Clay Paky, Robert Juliat, NEC and Projecta, and continues to develop its integration interests. In addition, the company’s co-owners including Algirdas Sidiskis – are behind the AMC audio brand, which manufactures loudspeakers, amplifiers, music players, microphones, volume controls and more.

Speaking to IE as 2009 drew to a close, Sidiskis reflected on the 15-year-and-counting history of the Audiotonas organisation, and the current challenges affecting the Lithuanian installation business…

How did you become involved in the professional AV business?
I had a long career before I got involved with the professional AV business. After I graduated from university in 1977, I went to work for a floor fabrics company as a technical director, and stayed there for 13 years. Subsequent to that, I worked in the textile business for many years before I joined forces with three friends and formed Audiotonas in 1994.

From textiles to AV is quite a jump! How did that happen?
Well, I had always had an interest in audio and music because I was a guitar player and vocalist. That whole area of technology interested me greatly, therefore it seemed like a logical step to become involved in this industry. We started with audio, then added lighting and video, in that order. I don’t have a specific role or title at the company, but in general terms I focus on company development, new products and major contracts. A lot of my time is spent developing relationships.

What is happening in the Lithuanian installation business right now?
Before last year everything was great – there were many sales, projects and complicated installations going on. We were doing well across the Baltic region and we had established a very big business. But, as a result of the economic crisis, we have lost about 50% of our turnover in 2009. To be frank, though, I think that what we are experiencing now is not so much an economic problem, but a return to reality.

The previous period of rapid economic growth was destined to end?
That’s right. The boom-time couldn’t last. People were too optimistic and borrowed too much money from the banks. As one consequence, the building industry is pretty much at a standstill. A couple of arenas have been built, but there have been no major halls or supermarkets, for example. There was a long period where new supermarkets of 50,000 or 80,000sqm were being built on a regular basis, but that is simply not happening at the moment.

How has Audiotonas charted a course through this more difficult economic phase?
We had to lose about 10 staff from a total of 45 about a year ago, which was obviously very sad, but I can report that we continue to be in very good financial shape. We have been careful and have continued to work on some important installs such as the Lithuanian Exhibition and Convention Centre (LITEXPO). Also, while the install side has been affected, our sound component brand, AMC, has the same turnover and results as in 2008. It is proving to be a very popular choice for commercial installations; we are very happy with its success.

When do you think that the install business in general will begin to recover?
It is difficult to say, but I don’t think we will return to 2008 levels any time soon.
When the business does start to pick up, I think there will be more concert halls, theatres and boardrooms. I also expect there to be an increased interest in digital signage and PA/VA systems.

Finally, what does the future hold for Algirdas Sidiskis? Any unrealised career ambitions?
I like this job – it’s my hobby! – so I don’t think I will be going anywhere. My business partners and I still have a great passion for this industry, so we remain committed to it – through both good and bad times.

Algirdas Sidiskis was talking to David Davies.