Ulf Schneider, Russia Consulting Group : “France et Allemagne sont les pays les plus actifs en Russie”

Témoignage d’Ulf Schneider. Interviewé par Yuliya KOSTYLEVA.

Pour se développer en Russie, les entreprises étrangères ont souvent besoin de conseil et d’accompagnement. Aujourd’hui, nous partageons avec vous le témoignage et les conseils d’Ulf Schneider, manager associé de Russia Consulting.

Nous avons discuté en anglais la situation actuelle, la réaction des investisseurs européens et les nouvelles opportunités en Russie.

Yuliya Kostyleva: Hello Mr. Schneider and  thank you for participating in our project. As far as we know, you help European companies to start their business in Russia. Which countries are the most active? Are there many companies from France?

Ulf Schneider: France and Germany are the most active сountries in Russia and their businesses are well visible, Ulf Schneiderparticularly in the automotive and retail industries. There are almost 500 French companies registered in Russia, either as Representative Office, Branch or Subsidiary. Another 7000 French companies export their goods or services to Russia from France. Auchan has a big presence in Moscow and other major cities.  Both Renault and PSA have production in Russia.  Alstom started production in Russia some years ago through a joint venture.

YK: Everyone is worried about the financial situation in Russia today. What has changed for your clients? How have they reacted?

US: Almost all foreign investors in Russia have  felt the impact of the crisis on their businesses. Again, France and Germany tend to react to the crisis in quite a similar way; they take measures to cut costs. However, almost no one is considering  exiting the Russian market.

YK: So, what advice would you give in such a situation? To apply the “wait and see” strategy or to attack the market during this time of crisis?

US: This depends very much on the type of business. While the 2009 crisis was tough, everybody understood that it would end after one, two or three years. Now, we do not have any perspective of how long it will last as it is very much politically driven.  However, for most industry sectors there is good reason to assume that after the end of the crisis there will, once more, be good business opportunities.  Foreign investors, that generally consider production set-up in Russia, may use the crisis time to start their venture. Whilst localization usually takes longer than in other countries, during times of crisis one finds that all institutions and government agents tend to take more time to assist with such production set-ups. So, in some cases this is the right time to “attack” the market.

YK: Do your clients still believe any of the stereotypes about doing business in Russia? According to you, what cultural differences are the most remarkable?

US: Some stereotypes are, in fact, true, and some are not.  It is definitely a mistake to assume that you can only do business via non-compliant, non-transparent methods.  To believe that Russians like a stricter hierarchy is correct, however simply delegating is not enough.

YK: What kind of personnel is required the most in Russia by foreign companies? What should one know about the Russian  labour market?

US: Russians appreciate Western employers since the management style is different to in Russian firms, and they can learn and implement foreign languages. Foreign investors are seeking more candidates with long term career plans, which is not so easy to find.  The current crisis is a good chance to attract good personnel, as many employers have started to lay off staff.

YK: What is the situation with the expats in Russia? Are they leaving Russia amid the crisis?

US: Yes, many foreign investors have started to reduce the number of expats in their firms in order to cut cost.

YK: As an expert, what industries do you see as the most promising for foreign entrepreneurs today?

US: The Agricultural and IT-industries are considered to be benefitting from, or at least be resistant to, the current crisis.  We see that localization, i.e. production set-up in Russia, is still attractive for many investors because they expect better times and higher sales in the future, and because they foresee protectionism and a need for local production.

YK: What would you advise as a first step towards starting to work with Russia? What are the most important points to remember?

US: Hands-on planning, taking all factors into account and structuring the investment to be intelligible and transparent. All this is key for success, whatever industry it relates to.

Ulf Schnaider, Managing partner

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