It is already Day 3 of our trip to Moscow in Russia.
Once again, an interesting program is waiting for us today. We will have the opportunity to visit one of Kühne & Nagel’s warehouses in the greater Moscow area, speak to the General Manager of DeAgostini Russia and finally meet the Ambassador of Switzerland to the Russian Federation at the Swiss Embassy.
Visit to Kühne & Nagel
We learned quickly that it is normal to be stuck in traffic in Moscow which is why we left the hotel extra early in the morning. Nevertheless, we arrived about 30 minutes late and were welcomed by a very passionate French Operations Director at the Kuehne & Nagel warehouse. After a brief introduction session, we had the opportunity to walk with him through the 20,000sqm warehouse. We learned that demand for quality warehouse space in Russia is increasing but high property prices are one reason, which hinder international companies like Kuehne & Nagel from expanding further. It was of great value to us speaking to somebody who openly shared many of his great experiences as well as challenges when doing business in Russia.
Lunch meeting with Mr. Nikos Skylakis
After an exciting morning with Kuehne & Nagel, we left the warehouse to drive to our second appointment of the day, lunch with Mr. Nikos Skylakis, the GM of De Agostini Russia. After having been stuck in traffic for 2 hours, Anna, who was the representative of our partner school the Lomonosov Moscow State University Business School, reorganized our lunch plans so that we could combine lunch and the session with Mr Skylakis. It was very interesting to speak to a non Russian who was successfully running an international company in Russia. He provided us with some very helpful and insightful advice when doing business or working in Russia.
Reception at the Swiss Embassy
One of the highlights during our trip in Russia was the reception at the Swiss Embassy. We were all very excited when we saw that we will be able to meet the Swiss Ambassador.
Once again, we tried to leave early to be on time, knowing that traffic can be bad in Moscow. After 40 minutes in the bus, we managed to drive around the building next to our hotel and decided to take the Metro. We made it to the Embassy and were warmly welcomed by the Ambassador Dr. Pierre Helg, Ambassador of Switzerland to the Russian Federation.
Dr. Helg and his colleagues spoke to us about the good relationship between the two countries Russia and Switzerland and the potential of the Russian Federation as one of the BRIC countries in the years to come. After this insightful and promising presentation we were spoiled at a cocktail reception à la Swiss hospitality.
All in all, it was another memorable day in Moscow for all of us, which was incredibly well organized and which allowed us to get an insight into the Russian business world and its future outlook by speaking to Russia experts as well as foreigners who successfully manage companies in Russia.
The day started with a number of us experiencing ‘very mild’ hangover – recovering from marathon shots of Vodka the day before during the apero session at the Swiss Embassy which was tightly followed with a continuation at the hotel bar. The day was also spiced with light jokes, recollecting from the interesting roadtrip we had on the evening the day before when we were rushing frantically to meet the Swiss standard departure time of the chartered bus to the embassy, only to make a small loop and ended up at the same spot 30mins later due to severe traffic jam.
Leadership in Russia
Settling in back to the conference room at ICSS like days before, Dr. Alexander Lazutkin kicked start the day with the topic ‘Leadership in Russia’.
We started exchanging our perception of what we think are the qualities of typical Russian leaders. We were then explained how some of these characteristics developed and their linkages to socio-cultural and political background. During the presentation also, Hofstede model was used to contrast the leadership styles across different nations using 5 key dimensions – power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation. Using the model, relations and comparisons were built against Russian vs. West European cultures. Of particular interesting point was the 5 characteristics drawn as the styles of successful Russian leaders – modest and fair positioning, impeccable politeness, creation of core loyal supporter, punctuality and strong expertise. I find some of the traits described thought-provoking and in fact, quite contradictory to intuition (Just to name an example, both Kremlin and Bolshoi theatre are screaming ‘modesty’ – relations?! )
Visit to Japan Tabacco International and Kaizen in Russia
The day is followed by a journey to visit to Japan Tobacco International, a manufacturing facility producing tobacco goods.
Coming from a manufacturing environment myself, it was an exciting experience especially when it is in a high volume and fast turnover industry. It was striking to me also how Japanese Kaizen (continuous improvement) concepts penetrate through the operations – from key metrics clearly displayed on the shop floor with benchmark against other sites, tight housekeeping with application of 5S, to even calling the production floor ‘Gemba’.
While this was not surprising knowing that the company is of Japanese origin, it was very impressive to see how the various elements got integrated and meshed in the Russian culture. Being in a controversial industry, the company presented also the various philanthropy activities adopted and the strong emphasis being environmentally friendly.
Sushi and Pekin Duck in Moscow
It was free and easy evening. Some were in Pushkin restaurant – a luxurious and classy dining place, touted to be the best in Moscow. The food, as I gathered unanimously from the peers, was splendid. The ‘Asian population’ of the class (myself included) went on to hunt for some Asian food (I craved for chicken fried rice being away from it for a while :)). After some random but persevered searches, we ended up in Japanese cum Chinese restaurant which turned out to be superb with very nice Sushi and Peking duck. Ordering the food without anyone in the restaurant speaking English and with no English menu remained our laughing material for the rest of the night…