I never thought one day of attending business meetings wearing snow boots… In Russia, it is common. And rare are the few people who do not wear the fur hat, it is THE essential accessory for your survival on the streets of St Petersburg as well as in the Ural countryside in winter. There are hats for everyone, of all colors, leather, rabbit skin, felt, with brilliants, pearls, but in any case, always something that goes with your coat! Going up Nevsky Prospect in the early morning, amid all these people wrapped up in their own way, going to work with a firm step, reminded me of my literature courses in highschool, and the grotesque characters that Gogol portrayed in a satirical tone in his St. Petersburg Short Stories, which I reread at the moment of this trip: Akaky Akakyevich Bachmatchkine, petty official shivering in his worn coat on the way to the Ministry (The Overcoat) or Major Kovalyov who awoke one morning without a nose (The Nose)…In Perm, after we had been introduced to the ritual of tasting the “Ruski Standard” (remember to drink only half of your glass and then leave it on the table is very rude to the person who invited you to drink), Denis and his colleagues talked to us about survival skills in the taiga, that we (thankfully) did not have the time to practice. Besides these very good moments that made me completely forget my prejudices about Russian austerity. Anyway, our friends both in Perm and St. Petersburg demonstrated to us their strong commitment to international development and improving their technical and business skills from every point of view. This was an encouraging attitude when thinking of creating a prospective partnership in this country, despite the past legacy which seems to continue to weigh heavily on professional relationships. One entrepreneur explained to us how he launched his business at the time you could read signs saying “No business is no good” in the streets. Today the dream of Russian entrepreneurs is to do business with France, Germany …Fred spoke of the language problems in his post; it’s true that the use of English is not yet systematic amongst IT engineers. But after thinking about it, overall I didn’t feel any more difficulty in communicating than I did in India, where people spoke English well enough but with a “local” colored accent and with various expressions which I didn’t have the habit to use. I will not speak of French language (the “Alliance Francaise” courses in Perm seemed to be attended mostly by young women from well-to-do families) but on the other hand we met German-speaking people, which is an additional positive point. The language problem is of course less obvious in Saint Petersburg which is a doorway to the Western world, a very cosmopolitan and modern city of 7 million inhabitants, with 120 universities and engineering schools. It is probably the 2nd largest city in the world for engineering outsourcing, maybe even the 1st when compared to Bangalore in terms of the percentage of the population going to university.So in conclusion, many interesting things to think about after this trip, both in terms of SAP, as well as embedded systems or the opening of new markets in Scandinavia. We were really impressed by the people we encountered. Russia almost seems an obvious choice for the future development of our business and the presence of Pentalog. These projects came at the right moment; the France-Russia year was inaugurated yesterday in Paris… We will return with great pleasure to these frosty regions, but so welcoming!
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