Gregory Darling Founder and Chairman and Andrew Peters Managing Director
Last year was a big year for AST, after celebrating 30 years in business.
Back in 1992, and the world was a very different place. This was the time of CD Walkmans, the first IBM Thinkpad laptops and the very first digital mobile phones! Satellite communications were relatively new, unknown and challenging to use. But Gregory Darling, our founder, identified an opportunity.
Gregory's late father, George, owned Great Yarmouth-based Gardline Group, a company specialising in marine geographical surveys. This is where Gregory started his career, eventually becoming group chairman. His early experience with the family business exposed him to some of the maritime industry's challenges.
Gregory was exploring what else was happening in the marketplace. He saw that satellite technology was starting to make its way up to the top of the agenda. It was already being used by some of the vessels Gardline owned – Gregory saw an opportunity to deliver global satellite services and solutions into the land and maritime sectors.
Although the maritime market might seem relatively forward in its use of satellite technology, it was a conservative business 30 years ago. The primary driver for satellite communications was simply to ensure the shore-based operating staff knew the location of their vessels.
When we started, AST was primarily a partner for satellite companies such as Inmarsat and Iridium. We developed the technical expertise to implement their systems for distributors. That has continued over the years, and we remain a trusted intermediary for these firms.
AST has branched in many directions over the years. The key to Gregory's vision and understanding is that no matter how far away anything is, you will always be able to communicate. That's why communication services have always been the platform at the core of our business.
The business made strategic acquisitions in markets beyond its maritime roots. For example, Applied Telematics, a specialist provider of advanced satellite telematics and remote monitoring solutions for fixed and mobile assets in the disaster recovery, maritime and land sectors.
We’re starting to become a more software-led, managed services business. That means if you were a maritime or land-based business and wanted to manage your geographically dispersed assets more effectively, we could do almost anything!
We have long recognised the importance of investment in developing our own software to monitor customers' assets once installed. This allows us to offer our clients various software solutions, including engine management, fuel monitoring and environmental services. And in addition to telemetry, we recognise that our customers also want other added-value data-based services. So we are developing a single integrated platform to enhance their operations and help with improved efficiency, leading to cost savings in such areas as crew welfare and energy usage.
This focused time with existing and new customers helps us ensure that we respond to their requirements and aspirations rather than making assumptions on their behalf. This will help us open up significant opportunities in the land and maritime markets. Such conversations are essential to our future.
At some point, we anticipate that many businesses will likely look to bring their whole hardware and airtime package to us. Consolidating their supply chain will allow them to work with just one provider for a full service, saving the cost and time implications of managing separate relationships. Our software capability means we will be ready for them.
I joined the company in November 2021. I was delighted to join a team of more than 180 employees worldwide, generating annual revenues above £60 million. Our offices in Norwich, Continental Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, Indonesia, Ecuador and the USA are staffed by a remarkable group of individuals I am proud to call my colleagues.
Our company structure gives each of our teams a clear identity. AST Asia Pacific, AST Americas, AST EMEA and AST Global Emerging Business are each supported by the company-wide functions of sales, marketing, HR, operations, software services and technology.
Sally Thacker – winner of DevelopHer Apprenticeship Award
We were founded with a start-up mentality, but 30 years is a long time in business. We have matured as we have become an established business.
The common thread is that we continue to believe in getting people to feel empowered by their actions and responsibility. You can only do that by giving them a platform and allowing them to input into the future before setting the course. We're committed to having an open and inclusive company culture. Our collectively agreed common business goals are the same for everyone in our business, from apprentices fresh out of education to senior executives with many decades of experience in the industry.
Our new structure and company objectives were agreed upon in 2022 and will help guide us into whatever the next 30 years have in store.
AST has the foundations laid already to be even more successful. We continue to recruit talented people to support our growth strategy in many areas of our business, including software technology, customer support and sales. We want to take this business to the next level - but for now, I hope you'll join me in raising a toast to everything AST has achieved in 30 groundbreaking years.
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