BRIC 2015: Business Environment in Russia
Posted by: Magdalena Sofia Cosio and Ian Jared Coffin, Babson Class of 2017
This week while in Saint Petersburg, we began to visit companies as part of our Business Environment in Russia course. We had the opportunity to speak with many prominent businesspeople and community leaders throughout the week, beginning with Professor Stanislav Tkachenko, professor of International Relations at Saint Petersburg State University, and Anastasia Kosnikova, a Babson MBA alum who is a member of the sales team at Gazprom Exports and founder of an education-centered non-profit called Choose to Teach. We later met with executives from Marriott, the American Chamber of Commerce, Citibank, EMC, PwC, and Solopharm.
When visiting Solopharm, founded by Oleg Zherebtsov, we were able to see and hear about a true Russian entrepreneur. Oleg has started – and succeeded in – four different entrepreneurial ventures, all in different industries. We were lucky enough to get to know his latest venture Solopharm, a pharmaceutical company he has created, at his facility about an hour outside of Saint Petersburg. It was enlightening to hear how he recognized a lack of locally produced pharmaceutical products in Russia and thus decided to create his own factory and start Solopharm. He defines Entrepreneurship as “taking a risk and then… who knows what will happen” which is interesting as it is similar to the way we are taught at Babson, but with the true Russian spirit of never knowing what to expect. He was able to give us insight into the difficulties of starting a business in Russia and the main hurdles he has had to overcome due to the current geopolitical instability. Oleg put an emphasis on how connections mean everything in Russia, and how due to the relationships he has made with the government he has been able to expand very quickly. Likewise, we learn in Babson how networking is the key for anything such as starting a business or just landing internships. BRIC has allowed us to get hands on experience in prominent business in Russia and learn how they are functioning in Russia’s developing economy.
Our contacts came from a wide array of backgrounds and were spread across the political spectrum, with some such as Prof. Tkachenko remaining ardent supporters of the Kremlin, while others suggesting that they might not be wholly pleased with President Putin’s policies. However, they all delivered the same message: the Russian economy is in a precarious position at the moment, but confidence runs high that the future is bright. Much ado is made in the news about the Ukraine crisis, the weakened ruble, and the murky political climate in Moscow. Yet what the media often doesn’t show is the incredible potential of the Russian business sector, spearheaded by exceptional entrepreneurs and leaders like the ones we met this week.
For more stories from the 2015 BRIC study abroad program, please click here.