How did you come to be involved in the pro-audio/visual installation sector?
I trained as an engineer and, by the early part of 1974, I was starting to propose the idea of developing and manufacturing professional audio equipment for sound systems to a company based here in Belgrade. This idea was accepted and I went on to establish a small development group – the predecessor of the company we run today.
We became Lola Audio in 1984. I am managing director and, as of 2006, owner of Lola Audio, which is an independent private company. I also remain active as an AV systems design engineer.
How well-developed was pro-AV in the former Yugoslavia at the time the company was founded?
As a result of very specific political circumstances and interests at that time, the former Yugoslavia had strong industrial developments in a variety of fields. For example, broadcast was very highly developed; local radio stations became more and more popular, providing some good sales opportunities for our professional audio equipment. But AV/multimedia systems as we think of them today were really in their infancy during the 1980s and didn’t have much presence in our country at that point.
To what extent is the company still powered by its manufacturing interests, or has systems integration become more important?
Our main business is professional AV systems integration, but we still undertake some production of special equipment, consoles, rack cabinets and accessories for our projects, including our own modular AC power distribution units for AV systems. Our approach to manufacturing is informed by our general company view that it is not possible to purchase everything for serious integration projects ‘off the shelf’. Accordingly, we look to use our industrial tradition and knowledge as a real advantage in our business. This kind of approach separates us completely from newcomers in the integration field, some of whom, I feel, look at the sector as ‘plenty of trading and logistics with a quick bit of installation’.
If you had to select a few important ‘turning points’ in the development of Lola Audio, what would they be?
Three significant moments spring to mind immediately. Firstly, our decision to reconfigure the company in favour of systems integration during the 1990s. This change was necessary for our survival because we practically had to stop production of professional audio equipment for a while after the demise of the former Yugoslavia and the loss of a shared market. Secondly, our move into video technology as well as audio, later on in the 1990s. Finally, our pioneering of media control systems in Serbia through a long-term relationship with Crestron.
Moving right up to date, what are the most important installation project types for Lola Audio at present?
The largest single share of our work comes from AV systems installations in large public and state institutions, universities and private company facilities. In addition, we have some great references in residential AV projects and industrial control rooms. Our activity in these areas could definitely increase in future if the economy improves as expected.
The company has increasingly developed an interest in the broader spectrum of AV systems. What is your latest development in this area?
Indeed – taking a wider interest in AV, and not just audio, was an important moment in our evolution as a company. Most recently, we have developed a strong expertise in HD systems design and realisation, including complex solutions involving HD/HCDP signal distribution and long-distance transmission. We also undertook our first D-Cinema project a few years back and expect to be doing more in the future.
Lola Audio has diversified into many different areas. Are there any other market segments that you intend to explore?
It is possible that we could expand more into the high-end residential AV systems and ‘smart home’ market. We already have some good references in this area, so it’s one to watch in the future.
As often tends to be the case in countries undergoing periods of economic transition, there are some people with large amounts of money at their disposal who are able to invest in luxurious residential installations. They want the very best in home technology and we are ready to provide the best possible answer to their needs!
We also see more potential in the development of private and public sector digital signage networks. This area of technology is still at a fairly early stage in Serbia, but modernisation of facilities such as sports complexes with AV systems and digital signage networks is expected with the improvement of the domestic economy. But even in difficult circumstances, there is potential for growth here as our country loves sports and is prepared to invest in facilities to support its sporting heroes.
Finally, what does the future hold for you? Any unrealised ambitions?
I am a classic ‘workaholic’ so I would like to carry on doing this for as long as I can! But there are a couple of specific ambitions that I would like to achieve. The first is to participate in the realisation of the AV systems installation at St. Sava in Belgrade. This is one of the largest Orthodox cathedrals in the world and I have already worked on the system design at this historic site. Secondly, I would like to identify and encourage more young engineers who have an interest in AV technology so that they can join us and continue our work in the future. This is an exciting, dynamic industry, and I would like to convey that to a new generation of engineers.
Zoran Kecojevic was speaking to David Davies.