For the next couple of weeks, I will be in the future. In fact, it was my recent travel schedule that prevented me from writing last week's post. I managed to successfully avoid the havoc wreaked by Iceland's now very famous (and very hard to pronounce) volcano, and I took carriers S7 and SAS to my destination.
So what am I talking about? Well, the future that I am talking about is the UK, specifically London. Now I don’t mean that London is the future...I don’t want to sound like the politicians that are currently vying for the UK public's vote this week. I mean that London is in the future (...comparatively). Compared to Chistopol or Kazan, London is...well...futuristic. The UK is viewed and categorized by many as being a "first world" country. Russia, on the other hand, is viewed by many as somewhere inbetween a "first world" and "third world" country. If you are unfamiliar with the terminology, do a quick Google search and you will see that the phrasing "first world" and "third world" have a variety of interpretations as well as various applications and definitions depending on whether you are talking colloquially or academically. To make it a little simpler "first world" means advanced, and "third world" means undeveloped. Russia is typically categorized as developing, or emerging, and I think this is a fair assessment. Now that we have established the setting, we can start explore what this all means.
Upon arriving in London, one of the main topics I have been discussing with friends and investors is something I like to call the Future Gap. Coming to London and living in London provides me with a very strategic viewpoint. I am surrounded by a whole host of services and products; items that make my life easier, inventions, products I use without thinking, services I expect to be there. A lot of these products and services do not exist in Russia. Now I glossed over this and alluded to this in my previous blog posts, but this advantage deserves much more spotlight and its own individual review. The ability for me to see ahead what works, what sells, what’s the latest, what’s the best, is something truly special.
What brings this home is an article from 2008 about the Russian entrepreneur Roustam Tariko, who brought credit cards to Russia. The banking system is a great starting point, and in many of the smaller towns and cities in Russia, the bank services are very limited. I think in some of the larger cities like Moscow, you can probably get a wider range of services, but in the Tatarstan region for example, things are very different. The majority of the cards are regional cards, which means you can’t use them internationally. Additionally, there is no online banking as it exists in many places around the world and there is always large amount of paperwork to fill in when making transfers or payments. The banks do, however, allow you to view your balances with automated text messages on purchases - actually that is probably as high tech as it gets at the moment. All the services that I take for granted here in London are just not available where I am staying in Russia. Seeing what works abroad and transferring it over is one of the smartest ways to do business, since most of the research and core development has already been done.
While there are things I miss about Russia, for the moment, it’s good to be back in the future again, seeing what I can bring back with me during my time travels.
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