A 180 degree turn in Russia


Some years ago Jyri Häkämies, the Minister of Economic Affairs of Finland at the time, shocked the Finnish entrepreneurs by his speech where he mentioned that Finland has three risks: ‘Russia, Russia and Russia’. The business owners engaged in Russia – myself included – immediately shot down that statement as unconsidered, against the business field and insulting to Russia. Lately we have had to face the meaning of that statement in a completely new situation.

The media reports of today’s Russia have echoes from the past. Added control, surveillance of citizens and legislation restricting the freedom of media – the laws restricting bloggers and the added controlling of foreign agents – are examples of toughening attitudes and atmosphere. According to the latest international studies about the freedom of media and press, the media in Finland has the most freedom in the world: the contrast to Russia is big.

A few days ago I got back from a vacation in Japan, where I was following the writings on The Japan Times about the situation in Russia. According to the newspaper, Russia wants to focus on China and thinks of it as a strategic partner. However, the true interest of both countries – Russia and China – is directed more towards Washington then each other. The editorial in the newspaper about the current situation ended to a statement: ’Russian aggression must not be ignored or rewarded’.

My company has been offering Start-up and financial management services in Russia for over 20 years, and from its’ point of view I can see that the situation has changed radically. The risks involved in the Russian investment environment are so big these days that many companies have pushed their investment decisions forward, to the distant future. They are waiting for the crisis in Ukraine and the geopolitical situation to stabilize. According to the latest barometer (FRCC) Finland’s export to Russia declined by over 30 % in the first quartile of 2014.

What positive sides could we find from the situation? Let’s make a 180 degree turn! Let’s focus our attention to the Russian and international companies that are investing to Finland. Let’s try to tempt new start-up companies from Russia. Let’s offer them high-quality training, education, consulting, IT, financial and legal services. Finland is a safe business environment; no corruption, the cooperation with authorities work and the authorization procedures are light. At the moment there are approximately 3000 companies with a Russian background operating in Finland. Let’s help them to network with Finnish companies by inviting them to the Federation of Finnish Enterprises, Chamber of Business and other organizations that promote business. Let’s help them succeed in Finland. We have the right attitude and a lot to give: let’s make this a win-win situation that will grow the business for both parties.

 

Pirjo Karhu
Yrittäjäneuvos
CEO, Centre d’Expertise Oy