Zoran Kanti-Paul and his wife Sari own TekMiL. Photo: TekMil

Together with his wife, Zoran Kanti-Paul has built a very successful language and culture training company in just eight years. TekMiL had a turnover of two million euros in 2012 and is firmly set on conquering the rest of the world.

Speaking to Australian Zoran Kanti-Paul is like speaking to a friendly volcano-slash-hurricane. The owner and chairman of language and cultural training company TekMiL is spewing forth the contents of his mind and heart – ideas and ambitions – at that impressive speed that characterises happy entrepreneurs.

“At TekMiL we want to raise the bar for how language and cultural training is done in Finland, and we want to be the biggest provider here,” says 46-year-old Kanti-Paul, who arrived in Finland in 2000. “We also want to change the way employees are treated and how they look at their employer. And we want to expand our operations to the rest of the world. To me, there are no limits – I don’t allow it.”

Customer service changes the game

In eight years Kanti-Paul and his Finnish wife Sari have transformed TekMiL from a two-person operation run out of their home in Tampere into being the second biggest language and cultural training provider in Finland, hot on the heels of market leader AAC.

“When we started TekMiL in 2005 the industry was static with no competition,” Kanti-Paul recalls. “Our secret is really no secret: it’s customer service. We don’t say ‘buy our product’; we convince companies to give us a chance to prove ourselves. And in 99 per cent of the cases, they move their business to us afterwards. Simply because we have a superior product with a better service.”

The TekMiL customer service includes such aspects as individually tailored programmes, attracting a client list that includes national players like Nokian Tyres and Metso Corporation.

Language and cultural training company
Founded in 2005
Owned and run by Zoran and Sari Kanti-Paul
Headquarters in Tampere, office in Helsinki
Operations in 20 cities
Lessons in 17 languages
Employs 135 people from a total of
18 nationalities
Clients include Metso Corporation,
Nokian Tyres and Patria

Zoran Kanti-Paul
Trained by GM Motors, Australia
Owned one of Australia’s first
IT-companies, web design
Came to Finland in 2000
Taught IT at Tampere University of
Applied Science (TAMK)

From two to 135 employees

The TekMiL customer service also includes highly qualified and well looked after language trainers numbering 135 people in a mix of steady positions, freelancers and short-term contractors. TekMiL offers its services in 17 different languages and can be found in 20 different cities around the country.

“We consider our trainers family. It might sound cheesy, but they are out there at the front as TekMiL’s ambassadors and if they are happy with us, they give more. We pay our trainers better than the industry average and we try very hard to show our appreciation. For instance to forward that feedback email where a client says, ‘Jimmy was fantastic’.

The rest of the world

Kanti-Paul makes no secret of his ambitions for TekMiL. The company has been testing the waters at neighbouring Estonia and Russia and now has the sight set for the rest of the world.

“In five years I expect us to be market leader in Finland and expand our business further into Europe. In ten years I see us taking the language and culture training ‘home’ to Australia, into the Pacific and eventually Asia.”

The owner and chairman of TekMiL admits to sometimes having his head in the clouds and pays his respect to his wife, who makes sure operations also stay grounded. He is sure the combination is unique and vital to the company’s success.

What foreigners contribute

Being a happy and successful entrepreneur himself, Kanti-Paul believes more confidence would create more start-ups.

“Ask a Finn, if he or she speaks English and they say no. That’s an attitude problem. This country must encourage the kids and youth to try – and maybe fail – and then try again. Otherwise they’ll never invent anything,” he says and uses himself as an example.

“Look at me. I don’t speak Finnish very well, but that doesn’t stop me from building and running a million euro company here. I believe foreigners bring something to the table in terms of confidence and risk-willingness. And I hope Finland will acknowledge and use that for the benefit of all.”

Karen Witt Olsen