Ericssons successful establishment and exceptionally favorable development in pre-revolutionary Russia would never have been achieved without Erik Oskar Sandberg. He came to St. Petersburg in 1901, where he developed the Russian operations established in 1897 into a well-organized production unit that soon rivaled Swedish operations.
Erik Oskar Sandberg was born in was born a small town called Glanshammar in the province of Närke. In 1888, when he was 17, he was employed as an office worker by Lars Magnus Ericsson, who quickly realized that the young man had considerable potential. It did not take long before Sandberg had acquired in-depth knowledge of the company and all its operations.
E O Sandberg's primary assignment was to introduce Ericsson's products in international markets. He had excellent language skills in English and German, which was a real asset for the company at this time. Eventually, he also became fluent in Russian.
Great Britain was an early export market. Sandberg was sent to London in 1898 to open a sales office, a venture that was to succeed beyond expectations.
Sandberg returned to Sweden the following year, but was not destined to remain long in his home country. Operations in the Russian capital St. Petersburg were in dire need of a competent manager. A newly built five-story production plant in Sampsonievskij Propsekt on the Viborg side of the Nevas River was ready to take into operation.
Erik Oskar Sandberg was given virtually a free hand to conduct operations in St. Petersburg. Despite hard work and wisely implemented measures, however, it was difficult to achieve satisfactory profitability during the initial years. By 1903, the plant began to show a profit and soon proved to be extremely prosperous. Sales increased from SEK 500,000 in 1901 to SEK 2.3 million in 1905.
As a foresighted entrepreneur, Erik Oskar Sandberg took every opportunity to focus attention on the Ericsson company. When Czar Nicolas II made an official visit to Moscow, Ericsson supplied a special switch to the Kremlin, to which a number of telephones in the palace were connected. The Czar himself used telephones in the shape of a dachshund with ornamentation in gold and ivory.
The company operated as a branch of the Stockholm company until 1905, when it was converted into a Russian limited liability company with Erik Oskar Sandberg as president.
Under Sandberg's leadership, the plant in St. Petersburg was modernized and expanded. The major customers were the Russian Telecommunications Administration and the Russian Railways, as well as other public authorities. The outbreak of World War I in 1914 meant increased orders, primarily from the military. Despite the increasing scarcity of materials, production was maintained at full capacity.
When Erik Oskar Sandberg, his wife and their five children, including one newly born, were forced to leave Russia in conjunction with the events surrounding the Russian revolution in 1917, there were 3,500 employees at Ericsson's plant in St. Petersbrug. This was double the number at Ericsson's manufacturing plants in Stockholm.
The nationalization of all companies in Russia meant that managers at Ericsson's Russian plant were forced to leave their jobs and that the Russian state took over operations without providing any compensation whatsoever to the Swedish company. Years of negotiations with the Russian after the end of World War I could not change this situation.
From the early 1920s until his death on August 25, 1927, Erik Oskar Sandberg was sales manager for Ericsson's telephone plant in Stockholm. This meant that he was in contact with Ericsson's markets all over the world. After office hours, he often remained until late evening writing letters in various languages. His family did not see much of him.
At his death, Sandberg was just 54 years old. With 39 years of service within the company and his dedicated efforts during these years, he was without question one of the most important pioneers in the group surrounding Lars Magnus Ericsson.
Author: Thord Andersson & Kari Malmström