Yury Voicehovsky, CEO of the National Investment Agency “Invest in Russia” talks about the tasks of the newly established Institution
Why some foreign companies are afraid of doing business in Russia whereas others love to do business in Russia but keep silence on this?
Yury Voicehovsky, CEO of the National Investment Agency “Invest in Russia” talks about the tasks of the newly established Institution and explains why we have to speak abroad about success stories of foreign investors in our country.
Olga Chebykina: Yury Mikhailovich, good afternoon.
Yury Voicehovsky: Good afternoon.
OCh: The priority of attracting investments to our country is declared at the federal and regional levels. At the moment there are more than 60 organizations , both federal and regional, which specialize in attracting investment, lobbying this direction, etc. There is a sense of excessiveness here. And then at the end of last year an agency “Invest in Russia” was created. What was it created for?
YV: This question is very correct and up-to-date. In recent years, every subject of Russia has created its investment promotion agency. Indeed, the overall number is approaching 70. In addition, many municipalities , especially large formations, also either have created or are in the process of establishing such agencies. I think altogether there will be even more than 100 of such agencies in Russia. This is quite comparable with what is happening around the world. For example, in Switzerland there are cantonal investment promotion agencies.
But, up to now there has been no such an agency at the federal level in our country – up to the moment when we created our agency. Now we build our working relationships with all regional agencies. We are the working tool for them rather than a regulator.
Now we are also creating an association of regional agencies, which will include all the regional structures. They are partners, they are all equal, all have equal voices. Furthermore, we create a common platform for all existing agencies in Russia for better coordination as well as to ensure that foreign investors understand that they finally got a sparring partner in Russian with whom they can interact and work together. When we were holding a round table, to which we invited the heads of many international agencies, their first reaction was – well, finally you created this agency, we’ve been expecting it to appear.
OCh: How would you describe the purpose of your organization? This is a sort of one-stop “window” for foreign investors?
YV: I do not really like the definition of “one stop window” because it looks like if someone climbs up into the window.
OCh: So, you’d rather be a big comfortable door?
YV: I would say that we are a reliable local informed partner. That’s what the agency has been engaged in from the beginning of this year. It was created jointly with the Ministry of Regional Development and the World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies (WAIPA). We are, on the one hand, actively engaged in the promotion of regional projects, and, on the other hand, building a system of communication with the international investment community, because the basis for any investment decision is the correct information, including information about the success stories – there are a lot of those in Russia, but very few are really known. Companies that are successfully doing business here, they prefer not to advertise themselves because they do not want competitors to …
OCh: … to come to this field collect all the mushrooms?
YV: You are absolutely right.
OCh: Oh, if I’m not mistaken, it was you who said at the debate today that the perception of what it is to work in Russia for those who have not come here yet, and those who have worked here for some time is radically different?
I cannot but ask you in the light of the international economic and political situation about the flow of investment in Russia. There is a perception that money flows out of Russia. The figure mentioned is $ 57 billion for 2013, for the first months of 2014 – even more. Do not you think that your agency is thrown into the breach and your positions are doomed to be fired?
YV: Yes, our task now, on the one hand, has become more difficult, but, on the other hand, it has become much more important.
You correctly pointed out that there is some difference in the representation of how business is done in Russia by the companies that are already operating here and those who want to come here yet. Now, perhaps, this difference has even slightly increased. We now regularly speak at international forums, for example, next week I will speak in Spain, then in the Middle East. All this is done in order to establish a direct dialogue with the investment community, in order to fill the information gap for the investors and companies that are already working in Russia, to build a systemic dialogue aimed at attracting investment and improving our image. Certainly, it will not be easy, but I can tell you from those conversations and discussions that we conducted with investors from very different regions – Asia, and the Middle East, and South America – we see that the interest in Russia is preserved. People who have already begun to work in Russia and understand how to work here, they continue to have a long-term strategic interest.
OCh: What will you tell investors during your trips abroad that you mentioned?
YV: By many people Russia is associated with natural resources, and we do not forget about that. This is an important sector, but here investors know already what Russia is capable of, and so our role here is less important.
I will outline the sector, not mentioning specific companies, because one cannot list them all. Our domestic market is interesting for investors, and not only retail, but also production, real estate, logistics. Agriculture is of great interest and at the same time is one of the most challenging sectors, mainly due to insufficient structures and lack of big players.
I recently spoke with an American service company and they said that the Russian market in the last few years had been the fastest growing market among their global portfolio.