Sietske Galama, bursaal van het NIP, Master Culture Organization & Management; Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
Hello everyone! My name is Sietske. I am currently collecting data for my Master Research in Russia and I will share my experience with you. The main objective of the research for my master thesis is to understand the opportunities and challenges for Dutch stakeholders in the Russian dairy industry. In February I visited the NIP to discuss the details of my research and sign the scholarship. After the meeting it was up to me to execute the research.
As the majority of Dutch agricultural businesses are located in Moscow I moved to Moscow where I met with the agricultural department of the Dutch embassy, visited a dairy expo and contacted around twenty businesses through email and phone. This was the crucial first step to getting access into the dairy industry. Luckily my approach worked. After two weeks I had many scheduled meetings. I interviewed Russian and Dutch MDs, CEOs and owners of dairy farms and processors, manufacturers of equipment, supermarket chains, research institutes, business and financial services and regional government.
Executing your research in Russia can be a lot of fun. Almost everyone I met was kind and provided me with information, stories and experiences of doing business in Russia. People were very open about opportunities and challenges in the Russian dairy market. I was surprised about the amount of information I received. During 50% of the interviews the respondent would say: “well, what I will tell you now has to be kept secret” or “this has to stay between four walls”. These were most often very interesting stories, that gave me better insight in Russian businesses. Some stories were true, others maybe not. In addition meetings take place in a variety of environments. I have been in luxurious offices in the center of Moscow, small industrial cities, multiple farms and factories. When you travel together business continues from early morning until late night, combined with dancing and drinking. For example I drank Vodka on the night train with a company that invited me to a seminar they had organized. During this seminar I participated in a cockroach race as being part of the evening program. Unfortunately my cockroach Edgar let me down, and we ended last place. None of the above mentioned things happened to me in the Netherlands.
Through this experience I discovered that doing business in Russia means you have to take a multiplicity of factors into account. Doing business in Russia is more than a calculative process: it requires strong communication skills, some creativity when it comes to building a network and insight in regional politics. This is something that I find appealing and makes the work more diverse, but it is not for everyone. If you are interested in Russian business culture and open for a new experience I would definitely recommend executing your research in Russia.