Kumar Deka: "A very large number of people believe that Russia is a kind of Wild West. This is not the case. There is a normal business atmosphere in place here." Source: Personal archive
Media reports about major Russian-Indian investment and industrial projects are common. Small business is rarely in the limelight, however. Kumar Deka, head of the European Design Bureau talks to RIR about his experiences in entrepreneurship in the Russia. His company has been successfully involved in decoration of interiors of luxury houses for several years now.
Can you tell us how you ended up in Russia?
I came here on business. At that time I worked for an American company, IMPAC – Integrated Control Systems Inc. The company provided consulting services, and I was its vice president. In 2007, in Russia, I met my future wife and got married. After the 2008 economic crisis, the company decided to leave Russia, but I stayed on here. I established my own architectural bureau called European Design Bureau. Our main area of activity is decoration of interiors. Now I employ Italians and other experts from Europe, as well as, of course, Russians.
Have you stayed on only because of your wife?
No. I liked Russia very much. I completed my studies in the United States (Master of Business Administration). Then I worked in the US and the European Union. By the time I made this decision, I already had my own opinion about various countries, and about the way people live and communicate in them. I made a lot of friends here. This decision was not an easy one, and was even difficult in the financial sense, but a very good one in terms of my life.
What difficulties have you faced since you came here?
First of all, the Russian language. I took a short course in this language in India 20 years ago and had forgotten almost everything by the time I came to Russia. I had to re-learn the language, word by word. It was difficult, of course. However, I have gradually mastered it, mainly thanks to my contact with people. I perhaps don’t speak very well yet, but I understand everything properly.
I had difficulties in business, as well. For example, the banking system in Russia is very complicated, and its tax legislation is not easy either. But in terms of culture, I have not experienced any difficulties. The Russians who work for me are very responsible employees, and they are willing to learn. All the people in our company are very educated and are very easy to work with.
What projects are you carrying out here?
We mainly work on the interiors of luxury private homes for the very wealthy. All materials we use come from Europe, and they are expensive, so not everyone can afford them. And we have such customers that we cannot even name them. These are very well known people. Every year, we do about 4 to 6 private homes. We do not have a lot of employees, and we are not yet undertaking large volumes of work.
All our construction workers are Russian. However, we send all our main specialists to Europe for training. They are certified by European companies.
What advice would you give to Indian companies that would like to enter the Russian market in small business?
Firstly, not to be afraid. A very large number of people believe that Russia is a kind of Wild West. This is not the case. There is a normal business atmosphere in place here. Secondly, if they want to come here, a project should be launched in cooperation with a Russian partner. The relevant legislation is complex here, and foreigners who want to work here need to study all nuances thoroughly. This is not easy. For example, in Europe, as the owner of a small business, I can always receive a loan or other support, but in Russia I have to rely mainly on myself. Therefore, if you want to implement some big project, you need to look for the finances on your own. And to avoid getting into trouble, it is better to deal with a local entrepreneur who you can trust, or with an Indian who had lived in Russia for a long time.
Do you miss India? What do you lack here?
I do miss India, of course. What do I lack? Perhaps I miss openness. In Russia, people do not immediately “open up” themselves. I have many friends here, but I cannot manage to get acquainted with someone and immediately make a friend. In contrast, in our country, in India, people are open; we love being surrounded by a lot of people – relatives and friends. There is no such big, family-like communication here. And this is what I lack, I guess.
But I love Russian culture – Russian folk dances and music – very much, I visit almost all interesting events held in Moscow. I love Russian theater very much. Initially, I even visited performances despite the fact that did not understand (laughing). Now I do understand everything, and therefore it has become even more interesting. I love Taganka Theatre, I also like the Bolshoi Theatre, but I rarely go there. I prefer more intimate performances.
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