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Ralph Yirikian (Armenian: Ռալֆ Յիրիկյան) is the General Manager of VivaCell-MTS, a 2005 startup which in the past 9 years has become Armenia's leading mobile operator and one of the top taxpayers. Led by Yirikian, VivaCell-MTS has become popular not only as the mobile operator with the largest market share, and as the innovations leader (being the first and only operator to have launched 4G/LTE) but also as a corporate entity directing unprecedented huge funds for supporting programs aimed at improving situation in the vital spheres of social life of Armenia. The role of Ralph Yirikian in Armenia is notable in that he was the first Armenian CEO to introduce and promote the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as an essential part of corporate behavior. Under the leadership of Yirikian, VivaCell-MTS has become Armenia’s leading Company in terms of the scope of activities in the framework of CSR and the volume of financial allocations.
Ralph Yirikian’s case is a success story for attracting young people from the Diaspora to live, work and invest in Armenia. Yirikian is known for projects implemented by VivaCell-MTS in a broad range of spheres and the contribution those activities had in the country’s economic development.
Early life and education
Ralph Cesar Yirikian is a descendant of a family from Adana, the Cilicia. He was born on November 16, 1967, in Beirut, Lebanon. Ralph Yirikian graduated from the American University of Beirut with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics in 1991. In 1992 he received a second Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the AUB.
From 1991 to 1992 Yirikian worked at AUB’s Jafet Library as an assistant in the Archiving and Documentation Department, and later as a computer operator at the Lebanese George Matta Establishment. In 1993, he worked as an executive secretary of Al Maha Group Holdings in Qatar, and as an Assistant management consultant at Nasser, Ghattas and Co, in Cyprus.
From 1994 to 1996 Yirikian was the Head of the Administration and Personnel Department at Al Maha Group Holdings. From 1997-1999 he was the head of the Administration and Customer Service Department at Nasser, Ghattas and Co., in Cyprus. Between 1999 and 2001 Yirikian was the head of the Administrative Unit at LibanCell Company in the Lebanon. From February 2002 till July 2004 he was the General Manager of Karabakh Telecom.
General Manager at VivaCell-MTS
Ralph Yirikian is VivaCell-MTS General Manager since November 2004. In a short period of time VivaCell-MTS grew into an exemplary enterprise with over 60% of market share, 1400 employees and one of the largest taxpayers of Armenia today. The 3G network was launched by VivaCell-MTS on April 17, 2009. On the 20th of December, 2010, VivaCell-MTS launched the first and still the only 4G/LTE network in Armenia.
VivaCell grew quickly and, in 2007, the company’s only shareholder, Fattouch Group, agreed to sell 80% of its shares to Mobile TeleSystems OJSC (MTS), the largest mobile operator in the Commonwealth of Independent States and Russian Federation. As of today, VivaCell-MTS (K-Telecom CJSC) shareholders are 80% MTS Russian MTS Group (Mobile TeleSystems OSJC) and 20% - Lebanese Fattouche Group.
Helping the society is part of the mission of VivaCell-MTS. VivaCell-MTS has chosen to become the pioneer of the corporate sector in promoting the concept of Corporate Responsibility and calling other corporate entities and private businesses to institutionalize the concept and make it an integral part of their activity. In doing this, VivaCell-MTS has adopted the slogan “VivaCell-MTS is leading by example”. The Company makes considerable investments into the implementation of innovative projects in the spheres of healthcare, culture, science, children, environmental protection, education, and rural infrastructure.
New culture of management
In the early days of VivaCell-MTS’ operation, Yirikian not only had to overcome the technical challenges of building a radio network, installing base stations in remote areas throughout the mountainous country, recruiting specialists, but he also had to battle with the remnants of Armenian business culture from the Soviet era. Yirikian explains that he urged his employees to take responsibility and make their own decisions. The new culture of management developed at VivaCell-MTS in the course of its activity gave birth to a lecture course called “Business with a Mission”, where the experience of 9 years of successful operation was summarized. The lecture was first delivered to university students who were hosted at VivaCell-MTS under the umbrella of Open Days at VivaCell-MTS program. Later on, as a visiting lecturer, Ralph Yirikian was invited to numerous higher educational institutions to speak on the “Business with a Mission.”
Ralph Yirikian has been a featured speaker at a number of academic, business and technology institutions and forums and has received many honors and awards. He was recognized as the “Man of the Year” by various organizations like Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry and “Person of the year” award from the London Board of Trustees of the Tekeyan Cultural Union. He has received many other Honorary Doctoral and Professorial Degrees from higher educational and research institutions. Among his many honors and distinctions, Mr. Yirikian has received Movses Khorenatsi Medal and Order of Honor from the President of the Republic of Armenia, Mesrop Mashtots Order and Anania Shirakatsi Medal from the President of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, “Presidency Shield of the Republic of Lebanon” order awarded by the President of the Republic of Lebanon, Grigor Lusavorich Decoration of Honor from the Catholicos of all Armenians, and Marshal Zhukov Decoration of Honor from the President of the Russian Federation, Memorable Medal of the RA Prime Minister for consistent approach to solving the problems of the disabled, Governmental medal of the Russian Federation after Valeri Bryusov, Medal of Honor of the National Assembly of RA, Vazgen Sargsyan Medal, Garegin Njdeh Decoration of Honor and Admiral Isakov Medal from the RA Ministry of Defense, Gold Medal of the Ministry of Culture of RA for contribution to the cultural life in Armenia, Golden Medal of the RA Ministry of Education and Science, Golden Medal of the RA Ministry of Environmental Protection, Golden Medal of the RA Ministry of Agriculture “For the Development of Agriculture”, Pogos Nubar Medal from the RA Ministry of Diaspora for outstanding contribution in the strengthening of ties between the Motherland and the Diaspora, Medal of the RA Minister of Transport and Communication, for remarkable contribution in the sphere of the Ministry of Transport and Communication, Mantashyants Diamond Decoration of Honor on behalf of the RA Ministry of Culture and Golden Apricot Film Festival, and many others.
Ralph Yirikian is married and has one daughter and one son.
- Manookian, Lisa (21 May 2010). "VivaCell-MTS General Manager Ralph Yirikian Visits Philadelphia- Armenian Community". Armenian Mirror-Spectator. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- "VivaCell-MTS General Manager Ralph Yirikian recognized benefactor of year". PanARMENIAN.Net. 24 March 2011. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- "VivaCell CEO Ralph Yirikian to Speak at AUA on Entrepreneurship and Innovation". American University of Armenia. 26 February 2013. Retrieved 4 July 2013.
- Բախչինյան, Ֆելիքս "Ռալֆ Յիրիկյան" Երևան, Գասպրինտ, 2008
- Exceptional, July–December 2010, Ernst and Young, Signaling Change, How Ralph Yirikian of VivaCell-MTS is transforming Armenia’s telecoms sector, p. 5-9
- Բախչինյան, Ֆելիքս "Ռալֆ Յիրիկյան" Երևան, Գասպրինտ, 2008