From Russia with love

Providing an extensive range of support to help Northern Irish manufacturing companies looking to export, Invest NI teamed up with Albion Overseas Ltd to offer a Moscow Trade Mission during the first week of June.

With Eleanor Butterwick heading up the Invest NI side of things, and a combined Albion force of David Cant, Dave Kenney and James Brook-Fox joining Peter Shulzhenko, Ilya Pukhaev and Mikhail Kondrashov of the Moscow team, the ground was laid for a successful week’s business for the thirteen companies that signed up for this particularly unique opportunity in the former USSR.

The range of companies was very encouraging, showing that there really is opportunity for all sectors and products in this enormous market. From high quality trigger systems for spray bottles to fine foods and wines, there were productive meetings and market research for the various product ranges. Coupled with some fun evening’s entertainment at Yolki Palki, (a traditional Russian restaurant) and the odd night cap at the Radisson Slavyanskaya hotel near Kievskiy Metro Station, delegates and organisers alike embraced the Moscow life and local hospitality on offer.

Albion Overseas was responsible for four of the thirteen companies and organised a week’s schedule for them, with visits and meetings to potential clients and distributors, gathering information and vital contacts for future dealings. With stress given at every opportunity to developing and maintaining relationships with prospective business partners, we were able lead our charges delicately through the unique customs and intricacies of doing business in Russia.

We helped prepare the groundwork for the mission, arriving on Sunday 2nd June to visit our Moscow colleagues and confirm meetings before the delegates landed on the Monday evening, where they were taken directly to the hotel. A meeting with introductory ‘Doing Business in Russia’ seminars and general Russia-related information was organised for the Tuesday morning with some kind words from Eleanor herself and insightful information from David Cant and James Brook-Fox on ‘Business in Russia’ and ‘Product Certification’ respectively. The delegates then moved off for their itinerary before re-convening at the restaurant in the evening.

There seemed to be few if any hitches in the week’s proceedings as delegates moved around Moscow apparently effortlessly, with a group heading off to CTT, the enormous Trade Exhibition in Crocus (an expo centre that outdoes even the Birmingham NEC, while others found their way across the cityscape, meeting with their prospective buyers and partners. Many showed off their flair for languages and ambition for culture when trying out the Russian cuisine and buying metro tickets all under the watchful eye of Albion’s representatives.

Although keen to try Moscow on their own, inevitably most evenings culminated with a retirement into the comfortable armchairs and sofas at the Radisson Slavyanskaya and by the time the end of the Trade Mission arrived, strong handshakes and hearty goodbyes were exchanged before the group managed to catch, (just), their transfer back to the airport on Friday morning.

All in all, a great trip with a proud representation from the UK, proving that the reality of surviving, let alone enjoying the potentials of business, can be more easily achieved in Moscow than our fellow countrymen have given the former Red Giant credit for.

A few commentaries:

“Visiting Moscow has provided The Good Food & Wine Company with a springboard into new and unchartered waters for our little businesses. Luckily we were able to do it with the anchor of Albion Overseas who steered us in the right direction of new potential clients. Their assistance wasn’t just about setting up meetings but more importantly advising us on how best to approach the business and cultural differences that we would encounter.” Nick Lestas, Director, The Good Food and Wine Company.

“In meeting with a Russian distributor of UK plumbing parts I appreciated the directness in response to my questions. In business dealings a high level of openness is desirable to prevent misunderstandings. For this discussion having a Russian speaker familiar with engineering terminology in addition to a commercial understanding made the exchange highly valuable. Outside of work I was impressed by the similarity Moscow has to other European cities. Cars were the same brands you see anywhere ie Ford, Toyota, Volkswagen, Range Rover etc. Most were new. Walking around the city there is a high standard of cleanliness. No chewing gum on the pavements or dog mess on the grass, Unlike London and Paris.” Omar Beggs, Commercial Director, Whale – Munster Simms Engineering Ltd.

“This was my second mission to Russia, and as always with a large group, I was a little nervous about the week ahead but after an excellent start with a briefing on how to approach the Russian market, provided by David Cant and his team from Albion, companies were ready for their meetings. The highlight of the week was attending the reception for the Queen’s birthday at the British Ambassador’s residence which was a lovely opportunity to network and join in the celebrations. 
All in all, a great mission which has received really positive feedback from all the participants. Luckily I got home safely on the Friday after our Russian mini cab driver decided that I might like to stay in Russia and drove off from the hotel without me as I was hurrying the last of our group out of the hotel! – he didn’t speak any English but through much noise the group stopped him about 3 miles down the road and he returned to collect me!” Eleanor Butterwick, Manager of Trade Development Services, Invest Northern Ireland.

“Securing meetings in Russia can be highly challenging. I am pleased to say that our Moscow office remained focused on this difficult job, and with relentless determination, came up trumps with a good programme of meetings for the companies on the mission.” David Cant, Managing Director, Albion Overseas.

“Moscow is a fantastic place to be during the summer. Staying on the Arbat was a pleasure and great to see the city life in full throttle during our time there; it really is exciting to do business with these guys.” Dave Kenney, Director of Business Development, Albion Overseas.