Report on the Russian-British Business Forum
London. 29th November 2017
The 3rd Russian-British Business Forum, hosted by the Trade Delegation of Russia in the UK took place at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Centre in London. The slogan of the forum was ‘Synergy for Growth’, which was a great title for the event, which was seeking to bring political and commercial representatives from the two countries togethewr for mutual benefit.
The Forum sought to be the catalyst to encourage new companies to consider Russia as a destination of choice. At the same time, it also looked at the experience of small Russian companies entering the UK market, including any impact that Brexit may have on their thinking.
Following the opening of the Forum, introductory speeches by the Russian Ambassador (Alexander Yakovenko), Deputy Minister of Economic Development (Oleg Fomichev), the President of Tatarstan (Rustam Minnikhanov) and finally the Trade Representative of the Russian federation in UK (Boris Abramov) followed.
The speeches were focused on trade and the mutual benefits that could accrue. There was some mention of the political issues relating to the current poor relationship between the two countries, but Brexit was seen as an opportunity for both countries to focus on the business side of mutual relations. At the same time, it was highlighted that despite the sanctions in place against Russia, trade between UK and Russia had increased in 2017 for the first time in a number of years.
Plenary Session 1
This session was notable by the presence of three UK Members of Parliament, who see the importance of a strong commercial relationship between the countries. They understood that they were vilified inside the House of Commons, but nevertheless they saw it as vital to try and improve things using Brexit as a tool to do that. The three MPs were Thomas Break. Liberal Democrats, Daniel Kawczynski. Conservative, David Davies. Conservative
In addition, we had a presentation from the Ministry of Economic Development looking at forecasts of Russian macroeconomic growth, seeking to demonstrate the stability of the economy and its ability to support investment. Svetlana Chupsheva, The Russian Director General for Strategic Initiatives gave an interesting presentation on the overall efforts the Russian government is making to make it easier for foreign business to operate successfully in Russia. Roger Munnings from Russo-British Chamber of Commerce emphasized the opportunities for British companies to invest in Russia, despite the poor political climate.
Boris Titov, Presidential Ombudsman for Business, discussed his vision for the socio-economic development of Russia up to 2025. He was very bullish, and represents one of 3 directions set out for consideration over the next few months by the Russian government. At the same time, he also confirmed his attention to participate as a candidate in the forthcoming Russian presidential elections.
Konstantin Mikhailenko gave a very interesting talk on international electronic commerce and how to use data and forecasting to improve the chances of winning tenders. The Russian market has built up detailed information globally of tenders, competitors and pricing.
Perspectives from the Financial Sector.
This was a very interesting discussion from representatives both in UK and also Russia. There was quite a lot of discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of digital currencies in particular Bitcoin.
Experiences of Businesses
This panel session was led by Caroline Hepker from Bloomberg, and of particular interest were the experiences of Russian companies doing business both in UK and also other countries. One company; Atlas Biomed, has just launched outside Russia and has already experienced significant growth for its specialist medical testing equipment. One new company, which stood out, was Dod Pizza, which has been established only recently; its USP is not pizzas but the software it has developed to allow very efficient franchising. A real stand out and the software has been developed and built in Russia. Caroline Hepker was interested to get panel viewpoints on how Brexit may impact their businesses. The majority of the Russian businesses felt the impact would be limited as they were not using UK as a hub for European Development. A successful business in oralcare products, namely Splat, which has built a large business in Russia and building in Europe discussed the issues relating to competing with huge conglomerates; it became clear that it is able to move fast to avoid being squashed and also adapt quickly.
Business in the Russian Regions
There were some quality discussions from the panelists here each focusing the audience of the merits of their own regions, be it Tatarstan, Kaliningrad or Moscow. It was interesting that the Moscow representative recognized the issues relating to finding the correct person to speak to in their large organization and identified himself as the troubleshooter for foregoing companies interested in investing in Moscow.
This was an interesting day out of the office which, whilst there was no signing of deals, was a bringing together of people in UK and Russia with a sense of purpose to develop and build successful commercial relationships despite ongoing political undercurrents. Well done to the Russian Trade Delegation in UK.
Colin’s website: www.iefgro.ru/en
Colin Ward © RussiaKnowledge