Switzerland's monthly economics magazine "Bilanz" has named the Kudelski company near Lausanne as the "most dynamic" company in the country.
Renowned for its professional tape recorders, Kudelski is now making a name for itself in digital pay television systems.
In 1951 the founder of the company, Stefan Kudelski, came out with the first portable recorder - the Nagra I - for the radio and audio business. Before that, he had developed a tape machine to control the machining of tools.
"The interesting thing is that the machine industry wasn't ready at this time to have such a new concept," says 40-year-old André Kudelski, son of the founder and since 1991 chief executive officer.
Radio journalists and film sound crews made the Nagra family of tape machines popular the world over, despite what would now be considered a hefty weight to carry around. They were reliable tools.
"They achieved success because simply they are typical Swiss products. They were well designed, well produced and manufactured with professionalism. They were portable devices which really addressed the needs of journalists," says Kudelski.
While André was doing his studies in Lausanne, he became involved in a project with decoders. Legend has it that he gained much experience by trying to crack them and that is why the company is now so successful...because the decoders it makes are extremely difficult to break.
In 1989, Canal adopted Kudelski's access control system for pay television and since then the company has not looked back.
The first million analog decoders were sold by 1991, the year in which the company decided to concentrate its activities on pay television systems.
A new division of the company, NagraVision arrived on the North American market with a digital system in 1995, with a breakthrough in Europe two years later.
Asked about how success has been achieved, Kudelski says he thinks the key point is to try to understand the real needs of the customers.
"Not only to look at current needs but also to look at what makes sense for the future...to try to imagine what will be the added value they can create in the future and to respond to it," he says.
by Rob Brookes
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