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to pay off in Russian market

Persistence, patience likely
to pay off in Russian market

As this writer has mentioned in previous articles, SUNY College at Brockport has a summer intern program supported in part by the state Department of Economic Development’s Global Export Marketing Service initiative. The program sends students to Russia to do market research for Rochester companies. One of the first questions we are asked when we make a presentation to a potential client is, “Why would I want to do business in Russia?” My first response is to outline our successes based on the summer of 1994. My second response is, “Why wouldn’t you want to do business in Russia?”
The Russian nation covers the largest land mass in the world, with more than 150 million people stretched over 11 time zones.
News reports about this vast country paint a very negative picture. Everyone would have preferred a different solution to the Chechnya fighting. Any student of Russian history knows that the struggle to overcome all those years under Communist rule–with its police state, its stress on heavy industry and its large military budgets, and its inheritance from previous Czarist governments–will not be completed in a few years. Doing business in Russia requires one to study its history and literature, and most of all to be very persistent and patient.
However, the interns and I have learned there is help for companies that want to enter this exciting market. First, contact Rochester businesses that are actively doing business in Russia; the International Business Council of the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce Inc. is an excellent source. Second, contact the U.S. Department of Commerce local office in Rochester.
If you happen to be in Russia, look for American business centers located near U.S. embassies in Nizhni, Novgorod, Novosibirsk, St. Petersburg, Vladivostok, Volgograd and Moscow. These centers are under the management of DOC’s U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service, and provide individualized counseling, agent/distributor location services, market research, trade promotion events and advocacy services. In addition, each center has offices and conference rooms, international phone and fax, computer equipment and interpretation/translation services. Call 202-482-4655 in Washington, D.C., for more information. In Moscow, videoconferencing is available from both MCI and Sprint.
Another very important source of information is the U.S.-Russia Business Council in Washington, D.C. This organization includes two Rochester organizations (SUNY Brockport is a member). Materials from government meetings and interviews with current officials from the United States and Russia are just a few of the advantages of membership.
Briefings from the Gore-Chernomyrdin Commission have been furnished to members. This commission, chaired jointly by Vice President Gore and Russian Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, has held over five meetings and has moved these two nations from confrontation to cooperative problem solving. Last summer, council members were able to meet the prime minister–a person this writer believes to be the next president of Russia, if Yeltsin does not seek another term.
In closing, permit me to recommend a book to you that I believe is an excellent source of understanding of this new market: “Russia 2010 and What It Means for the World,” by Daniel Yerkin and Thane Gustafson. Former President Richard Nixon reviewed the book and said, “A visionary and provocative book. These distinguished scholars offer a fascinating history … that reveals the dangers inevitable if we do not act, and the great opportunities to be realized if we do.”
(Walter Boston Jr. is director of the International Institute at SUNY College at Brockport. Write to him at SUNY College at Brockport, Brockport, N.Y. 14420.)

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