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Dutch company biggest mover in RussiaPublished on 15 July 2011
Moscow – During the International Economic Forum last month in Saint Petersburg, the Russian paradox came forward again: while, in the eyes of the Kremlin, the outside world is still hesitant to invest in Russia – legal uncertainty, corruption, as well as doubts about the immediate political future of the country would still work repellent – a large number of foreign companies, at the same time, do excellent business in Russia.
“Without false modesty, but we are now by far the largest removal company in Russia,” says Dennis van Diemen, Country manager of Voerman Russia. “During the last few years, we have seen a growth of at least 25 percent per year. We lift along on the internal dynamics in this country, which at present are gigantic. We have only one concern: not to grow too fast, since that could have a negative impact on our quality. ”
Van Diemen (41), resident of Amstelhoek, ended up in Russia by coincidence, some seven years ago. He had just sold his company, a meat wholesale, and one evening he got to talking to Robert Voerman, currently a Board member of Voerman International. They are globally active from their headquarters in The Hague. “He told me how he himself had gone to Moscow in 1991, just after the collapse of the Soviet Union, with just a suitcase but without a well-defined plan. During those wild years, he managed, just from scratch, to put Voerman on the map. Robert asked me to help them grow the company. The adventure attracted me. I left.”
Of course Van Diemen was also confronted with the infamous Russian bureaucracy, but his lesson is still simple and clear: “Keep acting straight and eventually you will succeed. Our shipments have to be cleared though Customs. It is a common fact that bribes are paid, simply to speed up the process. Our point of view is not to pay one Ruble, we simply respect the law. Otherwise it is just not possible to build up a serious business.”
Now van Diemen weekly visits customers around the country and flies from St. Petersburg to Yekaterinburg, from Rostov-on-the-Don to the seaside resort of Sochi on the Black Sea.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted an economic growth of 4.8% for the coming years. During the Petersburg Forum, President Medvedev promised that the policy of modernization will continue-regardless of who will reside in the Kremlin as the new president next spring. Van Diemen: “On the one hand, I understand the wait-and-see attitude of foreign entrepreneurs. Investments in Russia require more efforts than for instance in countries like France or Germany. But on the other hand, you can turn a blind eye to reality. And that is that not only the big money from the oil and gas industry plays a major role.
Diversification has started. In a small town like Kaluga, 200 kms. south of Moscow, a modern and mature automobile industry has been realized in just a few years. Volvo, Peugeot, Volkswagen, Mitsubishi, they are all there and they realize fabulous results”