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Monthly Newsletter - April 2013



Are you interested in doing business in Russia? Learn where the biggest and best opportunities in the Russian market are.

The idea of doing business in Russia can sound rather challenging for most people, but as you could learn from our previous newsletter, it is becoming significantly easier and more open for new investors since Russia eventually joined the WTO.

Despite the fact that the UK exports to Russia have grown by 80 per cent since 2010 making it Britain’s fastest-growing export market, according to the UKTI estimations there are still only about 600 British companies operating on the Russian market. It means that there are already some UK businesses represented in Russia (mostly the big names like BP, Shell and GSK), but the number of companies is not that impressive, especially if compared with Germany, which has ten times as many. 

The advantage of doing business in Russia doesn't only lie in unsaturation of the market. As Yaroslav Lissovolik, chief economist at Deutsche Bank Russia says, Russia’s economy is in a relatively good state. In comparison with most developed countries, it is exhibiting a pretty healthy GDP growth of about four per cent. The tax regime is favourable as well: there is a 13 per cent flat rate on income, while other taxes are competitive and have fallen in the past decade. 

Following on from what is mentioned above, there is great scope for UK firms to operate more intensively in Russia. One of the most promising opportunities to start a new Russian career can be an idea of opening a beauty chain in one of the Russian cities. Some successful UK beauty brands like The Body Shop and Lush (as well as a French L'Occitane) are a must in every big Russian shopping mall or shopping street and their doors are always busy. The Russian market will hardly ever be saturated with beauty chains, because Russian women need to look their best 24/7 and are ready to spend on cosmetics much more generously than their central European counterparts. Nobody knows the real reason why Russian women put such a great deal of pride in their appearance and some people suggest looking for the answer in no other place other than the "mysterious Russian soul". Stylist Natalya Tan said to Russia Beyond the Headlines that the Russian soul has always been shaped by luscious paintings and the shining domes of Orthodox churches. “Our art, our national costume and architecture build on the heritage of the Scythians, Mongols and Byzantines. This is the cultural code that identifies our taste and penetrates us from early childhood.” 

Accessories and clothes department stores (consumer goods, retail and giftware) can be a success as well, because high street fashion is something today's world lives with, particularly in Russia. Opening such a department store, you can follow viable UK brands like Accessorize, M&S, Debenhams and many others. British style promises to stay in vogue for times to come. 

Don't despair if your business is far away from fashion, beauty and body treatment. There is a place “under the sun” for almost any other scope of activity, where UK firms are missing out on opportunities.

The Confederation of British Industry states that in relation to the Winter Olympics in Sochi in 2014 and the FIFA World Cup in 2018, sports industry can be a good ground for entering the Russian market. 

If you are doing business in infrastructure, you should be aware that the Russian government has announced a railway modernisation programme that will include refurbishing and redeveloping more than 300 stations by 2015, offering opportunities worth approximately £450m.

We should also mention financial services as another promising sector, because almost 80% of Russia’s financial resources are transacted through the City of London and the relations are already well established, yet have the scope for development.

The CBI also claims that Russia is the fastest growing market for food and drink in Europe and is expected to become the continent’s largest by 2015. In particular, there are opportunities for producers and retailers of specialist food and drinks, including organic foods, special dietary foods, convenience products, gourmet foods, and light alcoholic drinks (for example, cider).

Some other gaps in the market are in advanced engineering, ICT, power/energy, airports, construction, creative industries, innovation, life sciences (drugs procurement), oil and gas, mining, advanced engineering and manufacturing technologies.

So don't miss your opportunity in Russia and don't be scared. As Philip Owen, Director of Volgatrader Company says, cultural similarities between Russia and Europe/North America are very strong compared to China or India.



May Day parades in Russia

May is around the corner. It's already quite warm (even in Russia), so we can spend more time outside having outdoor picnics (shashlyks, as Russians say), enjoying drinks in outdoor cafes and, first and foremost, attending parades. Russians love parades and they don't miss any opportunity to commemorate an important historical event or festival by holding a parade. 

If you visit Russia in the first half of May, you will be a witness of two big parades. On the 1st of May, International Workers' Day is celebrated. It was celebrated illegally until the February Revolution in 1917, after which it became one of the most important official holidays of the Soviet Union. An elaborate popular parade celebration was held in the Red Square, where the prominent leaders of the country stood atop Lenin's Mausoleum and waved to the crowds. Since 1992, May Day is officially called "The Day of Spring and Labour" (День весны и труда) and it is a day of such big importance for Russians, that a 5 day long official public holiday was recognised by the Government of Russia (non-labour days are from the 1st May until the 5th May) this year. This period is called The first May's holiday (Первые майские праздники).

The ordinal number “first” in “the first May's holiday” seems to indicate that there should also be a second holiday in May, doesn't it? The supposition is complеtely correct. After three days in work (maybe?), Russians can relax and celebrate again. Why? Because the Victory Day, celebrated on the 9th May and characterised by huge military parades, requires such stormy celebrations, that many Russians usually need the whole next day to recover (resulting in the 10th May being a non-labour day as well).

The 9th May is known as Den' Pobedy (День победы) and marks the end of the Second World War (in Russia it is usually called the Great Patriotic War) and is an incredibly important date for several generations of Russians. On the day there are thousands of people strolling around the main boulevards and displaying their respect to war veterans by wearing the increasingly popular Ribbon of Saint George (georgievskaya lentochka). The ribbon is one of the most recognised and respected symbols of military valour in modern Russia. It consists of a black and orange bicolour pattern, with three black and two orange stripes. It can be seen literally on every lapel or bag the week before and after the Den' Pobedy. Another feature of the Victory Day parades is the famous song Den' Pobedy. If you are not afraid to be in the centre of a crowd, you can hear it performed by the professional military bands. But if you are not lucky or brave enough, you can at least listen to it online:


Russian lyrics


День Победы, как он был от нас далёк,

Как в костре потухшем таял уголёк.

Были вёрсты, обгорелые, в пыли —

Этот день мы приближали как могли.


Этот День Победы

Порохом пропах,

Это праздник

С сединою на висках.

Это радость

Со слезами на глазах.

День Победы!

День Победы!

День Победы!

Дни и ночи у мартеновских печей

Не смыкала наша Родина очей.

Дни и ночи битву трудную вели —

Этот день мы приближали как могли.



Здравствуй, мама, возвратились мы не все...

Босиком бы пробежаться по росе!

Пол-Европы, прошагали, пол-Земли —

Этот день мы приближали как могли.

Chorus x 2

Victory Day, it's been so far away,

Like an ember dwindling in the fading fire.

There were miles, burnt and covered in dust, —

This day, we hastened it the best we could.


This Victory Day

Is thick with the smell of cordite,

This is a holiday

With temples already gray,

This is joy

With tears in our eyes,

Victory Day!

Victory Day!

Victory Day!

Days and nights at blast furnaces

Our Motherland hasn't closed her eyes.

Days and nights we fought a hard battle,

This day, we hastened it the best we could.


Hello, Mother, not all of us came back...

How I wish to run about barefoot in dew!

Half of Europe, we have stridden half the Earth,

This day, we hastened it the best we could.

Chorus x 2


Non-Russians sometimes find it quite confusing, that the victory over the Nazis is celebrated on the 9th May, whilst the war finished on the 8th. The issue is that the instrument of surrender was signed in Berlin on the 8th May at 23:01 Central European Time, which was already the 9th May early morning Moscow Standard Time.

PS: The difference between Moscow Standard Time and the UTC used to be 4 hours. Since 2011, however, the 4 hour difference is valid only during winter. In summer it is just 3 hours, because the Russian government decided that the summer daylight saving time is useful even in winter! So the Moscow Summer Time (MSD or UTC+4) is now observed all year round, even if cities are entirely covered with snow and temperature has nothing in common with summer.

It seems that, apart from parades, Russians love to confuse the rest of the world.



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