Lars Magnus Ericsson opened his new factory in St. Petersburg in 1900 and decided at more or less the same time to buy Thore Cedergren’s manufacturing company, shortly after Cedergren had won the telephone concessions in Moscow and Warsaw (through SAT’s subsidiary company Svensk-Dansk-Ryska Telefon AB). This pooled the resources of the two leading Swedish telephone companies so that together they could conquer the enormous Russian market.
Russia was a large and complex country, but the people at Ericsson were used to trying circumstances and realized that success would not be cheap. Erik Oskar Sandberg and Erik Adolf Englund were two of the people leading the work on site. Both can be described as typical Ericsson cowboys. Sandberg directed operations at Ericsson’s St. Petersburg factory while Englund built the networks, not only in Moscow but also setting himself up as a telephone entrepreneur in other Russian cities.
In 1888, at the age of 17, Sandberg had been recruited to work in the office for Lars Magnus Ericsson. Lars Magnus soon recognized his capabilities and in 1898 sent him on his first major foreign assignment, to open a sales office in London, where he was extremely successful.
When it was time to open the newly built factory on Sampsonievskij Prospekt in St. Petersburg, it was obviously extremely important to find the right person to run it. The job went to Sandberg, who was given a great deal of freedom in this assignment. After a few grueling years, the factory began to make a profit in 1903 and eventually proved to be an excellent investment. Sales rose from SEK 500,000 in 1901 to SEK 2.3 million in 1905.
EXCHANGE FOR THE TSAR
Above all, Sandberg had a talent for marketing. When Tsar Nicholas II spent some time in residence in Moscow in 1903, Sandberg had a specially built exchange installed in his palace at the Kremlin, connected to 20 or so telephones in the building. The system worked perfectly, and the tsar expressed his satisfaction through gifts of gold and jewelry to the management of the company and the staff working there. The company was later able to supply the tsar with exclusive telephones of the new “Dachshund” type decorated with gold and ebony.
In 1905 Ericsson created a Russian corporation for operations there. Sandberg became its managing director and extended and modernized the St. Petersburg factory. The largest customers were the Russian telephone agency, several government authorities, the railway administration and private companies. When the First World War broke out in August 1914, it also received orders from the military.
Erik Adolf Englund was hired as a network engineer by Stockholms Allmänna Telefonaktiebolag (SAT) in 1900, at the age of 21, and was sent the following year to Moscow to take charge of the concession granted to Cedergren in the city. Englund operated as subcontractor with his own company, and was gradually able to extend his business to cities such as Kiev, Nizhny-Novgorod, Kharkov (Ukraine) and Archangel.
Englund was enterprising, inventive and courageous. Several events during the 1905 uprising added to his fame. The telephone exchange in Moscow was described for a long time as “literally a fortress under siege”. There was a great deal of damage, and Englund was obliged, for instance, to dismiss a Russian engineer who turned out to be responsible for some of it. One day he left with five unarmed soldiers to carry out repairs on the interurban telephone cables outside the Krestovsky city gate.
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn