Your company is working in Russia for a long time. Could you describe in some words - how did you start your business in Russia? And how things are going today?
We are an Indian family business and started working with the foreign trade organizations of the USSR from 1958 in the mining, power and metallurgical industry.
In 1992 we created SUN Brewing in Russia and later partnered with Interbrew to form SUN Interbrew.
Our current focus is on energy, mining, real estate and technology projects. We are privileged to partner with ITERA, HydroOGK and Gazprom to explore various business opportunities in Russia, India and other countries together.
What are, from your point of view, major problems and achievements of the Indo-Russian relations? What scenarios you could propose to widen ties? What could Indians operating in the Russian market expect and what could Russians operating in the Indian market expect?
Russia and India have enjoyed great friendship, deep mutual respect, close political ties and cultural connections for well over 60 years. We organized a research to assess the awareness of Russians and Indians about each other's countries. While we found evidence for deep mutual empathy, there is little proof of awareness of the tremendous business opportunities that are available in both countries.
The world is becoming increasingly complex and competitive. The need to work hard with reliable partners is ever more relevant. While we do have significant trade between our countries, we have to invest in each other's industries, provide for large-scale joint ventures, establish production units and more actively implement projects jointly in third countries. Both countries have talented human capital with vast opportunities for mutual collaboration and significant growth.
What it is distinctive about being an Indian? How does it feel for an Indian person to live in Russia?
India, like Russia, is a multi-ethnic and extremely diverse country. Belonging to a country as vast and multi-faceted as India, gives its people a strong feeling of empowerment and pride. Traditions of Indian society and culture are deeply rooted in the ancient philosophy as well as more contemporary teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. These traditions of tolerance, non-violence, respect for elders, care for your extended family, as well as a strong spirit of entrepreneurship are some factors that are deeply rooted in our culture.
Russians also have a culture that cherishes strong human values such as friendship, loyalty and trust. I have found it a great privilege and very fulfilling to work with my Russian partners and develop strong bonds of friendship and trust with them that have lasted many years. Speaking Russian however is very important to be able to communicate openly.
Russia as well as the entire world today is in a situation of profound economic crisis. What challenges this situation poses for business activities in Russia? What could be its likely consequences for doing business in Russia in perspective?
This is a global economic crisis and serious problems are faced by businesses all over the world. The speed and gravity of events were unexpected. Russia and India have experienced strong growth in recent years. Governments as well as businesses in both countries planned large scale investments. Now with capital becoming scarce these plans are being reassessed and careful prioritization and management is extremely important.
Yet the present situation presents unique opportunities. Both Russia and India have vast markets and potentially high internally driven demand which can facilitate powerful development. While governments around the world are taking steps to stimulate demand, businesses should innovate and be flexible to act swiftly and appropriately.
What are the differences between Indian and Russian styles of making business or business thinking? What Russians and Indians could learn from each other or should teach each other?
Business people all over the world are focused on creating value through economic enterprise. The situations in which they work differ significantly and they have to adapt to those circumstances and this brings out some differences. However, at the end of the day, business fundamentals around the world are very similar. India has had a longer history of being a market economy but Russia has learnt and adapted very quickly. By working together Russians and Indians will learn a lot about the opportunities in each other's countries and in countries around the world.
What is you perception of Russia - its past, present and future?
Russia offers tremendous opportunities that are always of interest to investors. The country is dynamic and challenging. I have lived in Russia since 1990, and the change that I witnessed during these years is unprecedented. The country and its people have unique experiences and it has been a privilege for me to be a part of it. Through the years we have built unique friendships and partnerships in Russia which is what we value most.
I am also a strong believer in Russia's outstanding educational and scientific potential - with proper support and encouragement it will help ensure that the country continues to modernize and excel.
SUN Group is one of the curators of the Skolkovo business school project. What could you say about this project?
My father and Chairman of SUN Group, Nand Khemka is a co-founder of Skolkovo Business School. The idea was based upon Rajat Gupta's (Chairman, McKinsey) idea, The Indian School of Business, which our family foundation has also helped to fund and which is today ranked as one of the top 20 business schools in the world within 10 years of its inception.
We believe top quality leaders can create and build successful businesses and lead a nation to prosperity. Our vision is to create world class centers of learning that will nurture and develop leadership skills in young minds. We are delighted to be working with many Russian business and political leaders who all share a common vision.
The school campus construction is almost complete and quite a few programs have already been launched. We hope Moscow School of Management Skolkovo will soon be ranked among world's best business schools.
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