RBTH Answers Readers' Questions

Q: How affordable is office space in Moscow?

A: Moscow's commercial real estate is developing rapidly due increased demand as foreign companies come into the city and local ones expand. More and more office buildings are rising up within Moscow and outside the city line, while older buildings are undergoing renovations to fit the needs of the modern office. With such a high demand, the prices remain steep and can be as high as $1000 per square foot in the most central locations.

Q: How common is credit card fraud in Russia?

A: While credit card fraud is on the rise in Russia, with 1000 cases reported in the first half of 2007, it is still significantly lower than the global average. This in part can be attributed to the low use of credit cards by Russians- only 3% of personal expenses are paid by credit card. Visa reports that credit cards make up only 7% of all commercial transactions in Russia as opposed to 64% in the UK or 86% in Italy.

Q: Do I have to learn Russian to do business in Moscow?

A: It is not an absolute must. It is nice to know some Russian to be able to understand what your partners are saying during negotiations, but the good thing is that most Russian businesspeople speak English. There are plenty of U.S. and UK businesspeople who are doing business with immense success without speaking a word of Russian. A good example of that is the leading Russian publishing company Afisha Industries, publisher of the popular city listings magazine, which was founded and run by an American who did not speak Russian. However, if you stay in Russia long enough, you will certainly master some language - especially while reading, because Russian is a very phonetic language - the words are pronounced exactly the way they are spelled.

Q: Is it hard to find a job for an American or British MBA graduate in Russia?

A: It's actually very easy. Robust economic growth results in higher wages. Major Russian firms in fact are trying to fill positions in banking, finance, marketing, business development, public relations and other fields by offering fresh U.S. and UK MBA graduates extremely attractive compensation packages and career growth opportunities. Higher salaries are partially offset by the high cost of living in Moscow, but international experience, adventure and a bit of glamour still draw young businesspeople to Russia. Yet there is a need for more.

Q: Is bribery still a problem?

A: Unfortunately, it is still a problem.

Q: Is there a bias against businesswomen?

There is no visible bias against businesswomen in Russia, although men comprise about 80% of top management positions in the country. But this is changing - for example, two ministers in the new Russian government are women. In the younger generation, women make up as much as 50%, so in a few years the top management female:male ratio is likely to be more evenly distributed.

Please ask questions and share your experience of doing business in Russia: business@readrussia.com

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