Dealing as Swiss SME with Big Russian State and State-Near Companies

The Russian economy is marked by the presence of large companies, often state-owned, either inherited from the soviet area or newly formed. They are often the main – if not only – clients for foreign companies. However, for a small Swiss SME it is not easy to find the right approach to do successful business with them, as they are - as a rule - organized in a bureaucratic way. The Swiss Business Hub Russia provides a guide with the most important tips and tricks.

Swiss SME

Hierarchy plays a much more important role in Russian companies than in European ones. Russian companies function top-down. Many State companies are organized as vertically integrated groups of companies and have a very complicated structure.

Who is the right contact for international business?

For a foreign supplier it is often difficult to say which department is the best first point of contact. As a rule, these are the departments, which deal directly with your product or services. But depending on the particular company and on your product or service, this department can be located in one or several daughter companies, in the holding company, in a research institute affiliated with the holding company, or in a design engineering bureau affiliated with the holding company.

As for the procurement departments, they are often pure administrative bodies, which control that the process is organized according to all rules. Foreign suppliers who contact a Russian holding on the general address are usually directed to the international department. The employees of this department are used to communicate with foreign partners and are easy to deal with. The negative aspect is, that the international department has often a small weight within the holdings.

The dos and don’ts when working with Russian state and state-near companies

Specialists often do not speak any English; neither do many of the top management or the administrative employees. Therefore, it is important to write your correspondence in Russian and to have a Russian-speaking employee or a partner who can do the follow-up. To establish a first contact is a high hurdle to take, and once you have done it, it is important to stay in touch.

What other tips does the Swiss Business Hub Russia provide? In the guide, which can be downloaded below, you will find information on the following topics:

  • The role of big companies in the Russian economy
  • How do big state and state-near companies work (organisation + model)?
  • How to introduce yourself for successful international business (language hurdles, hierarchy, etc.)
  • How to retain contact with a (potential) Russian business partner



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