Elena Ovsyannikova

Elena Ovsyannikova

After receiving her NSW-nominated Business Innovation visa (subclass 188A) in October 2016, Elena and her family wasted no time in moving to Sydney and setting up her extremely innovative design and engineering business, Rootank.

Bringing Russian innovation to NSW

Elena began her tank manufacturing business in Russia 10 years ago with just three people. Since then, the business has grown to be the largest producer of ‘pillow tanks’ (collapsible tanks) in Russia, employing over 100 staff and obtaining 10 patents and 8 trademarks, with several more pending.

She has also hit the ground running with her business here in NSW, inventing and exporting 10 new technologies and technical projects for firefighting, water storage solutions, fertilizer storage solutions and portable water tanks since 2017.

Rootank focuses on the design and engineering aspect of Elena’s international tank manufacturing business. The business has obtained three trademarks, successfully registered one innovation patent and has another patent pending.

Among these new products is the mobile fire station module, for which Rootank successfully registered its innovation patent. Rootank has invented these mini firefighting stations specifically for combating bushfires in Australia. They can be strategically deployed in advance of a fire front and be airlifted to remote, inaccessible places that vehicles are unable to reach. Based on the shell of a 20-foot shipping container, the mobile fire stations are easily transported by existing road, rail or even air services as required, without the need for any special equipment. Their suitability and adaptability make them a unique solution to not only firefighting, but also for industrial sectors such as remote mining installations and large factory plants.

Where did the idea come from?

Not long after moving to Sydney, Elena was enjoying the sunshine on one of Sydney’s spectacular beaches one afternoon when she noticed bottles of vinegar were left on the beach to treat jellyfish and bluebottle stings. ‘When a bushfire breaks out, why not do the same thing, and have what’s needed to fight the fire already there?’ she thought. Elena took her idea to the fire department and companies that supply fire-fighting equipment. They were both very supportive, so Elena lodged her application for a patent, which was registered by IP Australia on 27 April 2019.

Elena wanted the name of her business in Australia to reflect that it is an Australian brand. After seeing similarities between the design of Rootank’s flexible tanks and the pouch of a kangaroo (both being soft, with a very similar shape), Elena thought she had found the perfect name: Rootank.

However, it wasn’t that easy. After registering the company, Elena tried to register Rootank as a trademark. ‘It was a new name and a new word, so we were sure that we could easily register it,’ says Elena. ‘But we were very surprised to discover that we could not because the word “Roo” had been registered worldwide by Disney Enterprises Inc. in California, USA!’

Elena was advised she would need to think of a new name, but she wasn’t giving up on Rootank just yet. After several months of communicating with Disney's lawyers, she received consent to register the trademark Rootank. It was then successfully registered by IP Australia.

Learning the Australian market

‘To understand leading business in Australia more, I participated in some seminars like Digital Bootcamp by Business Connect (NSW Government), where I got a lot of interesting ideas and information for better business development in Australia,’ Elena says. ‘I also met new Australian business partners who advised me how to improve my business here. The seminar helped to open mind for new horizons and ideas of how to make business more innovative and modern.’

‘Once we learned from our Australian colleagues that bushfires are a huge problem in Australia, we decided to invent new firefighting technologies and to suggest them to Australian market. Taking part in the Australian and New Zealand National Council for fire, emergency services and land management exhibition in Sydney, 2017, I had many meetings and got a lot of materials including Strategic directions for fire and emergency services in Australia and New Zealand by Australian Fire and Emergency Service Authorities Council. I also negotiated with companies such as Chubb and Fire Rescue Safety Australia, which are the leading Australian suppliers of firefighting equipment. It helped a lot in understanding of actual market needs for the technologies and equipment.’

‘In spring 2018, we were happy to find out that an Australian magazine was interested to publish an article about our fire station modules that we have invented.’ In January 2019, an article about Rootank was published in Gold Coast Chronicle.

‘To better understand Australian laws and market of intelligence property I took part in IP Summit 2019 on 4 April 2019. It was very helpful for promotion of our inventions in Australia.’

Why Sydney?

‘I have to say when I moved to Sydney, I felt like I had moved back home! The centre of Sydney is very similar to the centre of Moscow.’

‘We had been living in other countries through business visa programs for a number of years; however, we always felt like guests there. For us this was okay; however, when we had kids, we wanted a place that offered the opportunity for them to grow up integrated in society.’

‘When choosing, we were looking for an English-speaking country. We believed that Australia offered the best opportunity for our business, but also our kids as well. In Europe I think it is much more difficult to do something; all the industries are occupied. Australia is a growing country, which offers us many more opportunities.’

After receiving their visa in October 2016, the family settled in Sydney in time for the elder of their two sons to begin the new school year. Having registered her business and enrolled her son in a grammar school while still living in Malaysia, Elena found their place of residence and had begun to operate her business by February 2017.

New products and the future

Elena hasn’t finished coming up with innovative products just yet. She intends to expand her tank business here in Australia, seeing a lot of potential for growth. ‘Another new product of ours is portable water tanks invented specially for the Australian climate. We have made some improvements to the models of water tanks on the local market to make them much more convenient to use. We are also looking into the possibility of manufacturing small water tanks here in Australia.’

‘We have already manufactured and delivered tank samples to Australia with the highest UV protection and temperature resistance from our partners in Germany. In future, we are going to try to import half-finished tanks to Australia and equip them with local fittings.’