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Recently, the World Trade Center hosted the World Congress of Compatriots Living Abroad, which was attended by Russian President, Vladimir Putin. The main topics of discussion were the preservation of the Russian language and culture, as well as the protection of the rights and interests of members of the Russian diasporas in other countries in the context of geopolitical challenges. The press service of the World Trade Center talked to the Congress participants about the potential for the development of Russian business in foreign countries. Dmitri Lobkov, Head of the Parana State Association of Compatriots and Head of the Russian House in Parana (Brazil), Member of the World Coordination Council of Compatriots (Brazil), told Russian compatriots living abroad to help Russian entrepreneurs enter new markets.
What do you see now as the possibilities for the export development of Russian companies in Brazil, and what role can the “Russian Houses” abroad and coordinating councils of compatriots play in this?
- If you want to enter another market with your goods or services, it is much easier to enter the organizations of compatriots. By this you guarantee that you will work with people who understand both the Russian mentality and the mentality of another country, which is often very different, including in the manner of doing business. These people speak both Russian and the language of their country of residence. Therefore, it is logical not to reinvent the wheel, but to follow the proven path that all countries follow. For example, why are German goods are represented all over the world? Because German manufacturers, come to another country and go to their compatriots, who act as a link between the business of the country of residence and the business of their native country and promote both goods and services. This potential, unfortunately, is not used by our Russian businessmen.
On the other hand, many of our compatriot organizations, especially those whose activities are aimed at preserving language and culture, suffer from a lack of funding. I believe that sometimes it makes sense instead of buying champagne for $2,000 to send this money, for example, to Colombia for the development of the Russian language or school.
Suppose a Russian businessman decides to enter the Brazilian market with any idea, and he heard about the potential of working with his compatriots. Tell me, whom should he contact? Also there is the time frame, how much time can it take to figure out whether it is really possible to implement his idea?
- Let's not talk about theory, let's talk about certain practices and what we are doing. Three years ago we, at the Coordination Council, began to promote the idea of “Russian Houses” – centers that develop culture, language, and business. Our idea is that the diasporas of our compatriots abroad have economic influence and even, to some extent, political influence. This is our task, which we are working on in the World Coordination Council. Now, speaking of businessmen, there is a website of the World Coordination Council where you can find all the necessary contacts. We have an economic section in the World Coordination Council and in regional coordination councils. What is it for? Precisely, to establish these contacts. You have an interest in a product or service, so we sign a contract with you and we provide you with direct contact to the manufacturers or consumers of your products. If you need, we are ready to create a structure on site and provide it with legal and accounting support. For this, we have reliable specialists on our team, and we can even recommend the right staff to work in your company and we can find premises. We can monitor the activities of the representative office of the company. That is, we do not mediate; we directly assist in entering the market. Our “Russian House” in Paran, which I head, helped the company producing basalt building materials to enter the Brazilian market. We helped certify products, found distributors, and now they have already started trading. We help Russian confectioneries to enter Brazil and we help Brazilian companies that want to enter the Russian market. The biggest sector, the biggest business – it is finance. We have contacts with people who are engaged in finance.
The main idea is that our compatriots are useful to Russian business, for us, this is now a priority.
Why, if this mechanism works, does the business hardly know about it?
- This is a question of informing business. We are not alone, we are in close cooperation with the consulate and the trade mission. This is the guarantor of trust, and we continue to appeal to companies. Similar "Russian Houses" are now operating in Greece, Portugal, Panama, the United Arab Emirates, China, and Australia. In other, this is already a whole structure.
Tell me, is there great interest in Russian business in Brazil?
- It is important to understand here that any new market is a struggle, a trade war, if you will. You enter the market, you have to fight for it, and only one condition “cheaper for us” is not enough, this strategy no longer works. If you have any technological product, it’s good, but a number of questions arise: what is the need for it, is there any maintenance, technical support for this and spare parts, how much will it need to be repaired, who is the distributor, etc.
Brazil has been living for 500 years, often without Russian goods. It is not obvious that there is a clear demand for them. Brazil sells its agricultural products not directly, but through Dutch, German, and English companies. Are Brazilian businessmen ready to enter the Russian market? They are ready, and looking for partners in Russia. For example, there is the largest soybean producer in Brazil. They are ready to supply and process soybeans on Russian territory, but it’s hard for them to enter the market. Here they ask us whether we have any structures in Russia that are ready to organize this project together with them, namely, the supply of soybeans to the joint processing industry for feed, protein (soy protein), etc. Another example is coffee. Different countries buy coffee in Rotterdam, but Rotterdam does not produce coffee. Brazil and other countries produce it. In this situation, Brazilian producers also lose, because they sell at a low price, and those consumers lose, who buy with distributors' and retailers' premiums. We have coffee producers that carefully preserve traditions, and they want to create joint ventures with Russian companies in Russia, where green coffee will be delivered, where it will be processed, roasted, and packed. We have similar meat projects where the meat producer is ready to open production of finished meat products in Russia together with a Russian partner. There is interest in mutual deliveries of Russian fertilizers to Brazil. We have to work on this.
You live in Brazil and actually feel the sentiments of both the local population and businesses. You watch political decisions. What do you think of Russians now? Has the attitude changed due to the geopolitical situation?
“When we talk about Brazil, we have to talk about Latin America as a whole. Here we are called Russians – los russos, regardless of who you are by nationality: Georgian, Armenian, Jewish, Ukrainian, Tajik, Uzbek – and historically, the attitude towards us is very good. I would say that in Latin America the best attitude towards us is that they treat Americans worse, much worse. We are to some extent an example to follow, the regular people really love Russia and are interested in Russia. Will this attitude change? Hardly – people are not stupid. Especially today, the age of the Internet, where you can find objective information – for instance, RT (Russia Today) – and people are looking for information.
I am sure that it is possible to make a country stronger only through trade, through the development of business and the economy. Therefore, we welcome new business projects in Brazil, including foreign participation. And the more business there is, the better the attitude will be.