Top tips for export to Russia

One of the key obstacles faced by companies penetrating the Russian market is a vastly different business culture and etiquette from that of Western Europe. It is still necessary to spend time getting to know your customers and business partners. Personal relations are vital to build up trust. So is patience and punctuality at meetings, which should be made as far in advance as possible. Expect meetings to be cancelled at short notice.

The first meeting is very much a getting-to-know you affair at which your would-be Russian partners determine whether you’re credible and worthy of further consideration. It’s essential to show how you’re different from your competitors.

Often meetings involve a period of informal chit chat before the real business discussions begin. You may be invited to sign a protocol, a summary of what was discussed afterwards.

Although formal, Russians enjoy socialising and this may become part of your business dealings. But discussions can often be slow and detailed. Russians are often hard bargainers viewing compromise as weakness. Many do not appreciate the concept of a win-win situation. It helps to have technical information and experts to hand at business meetings. It is also useful to have materials in both English and Russian available. Take the time to learn some Russian as many do not speak English well.

Researching the Russian market requires serious time and financial commitment. Some firms have found it useful to reduce the market into distinct geographical areas: for example, Central Russia, Siberia, North West Russia etc. Doing business generally involves playing the long game.

There are many fears about the Russian market, not least getting paid. But experts are in agreement that this is rarely a problem and there are even cases where Russian customers insist on paying up front even before the delivery of goods once a long-term relationship has been established.

Due diligence is a must in all business dealings. And it is also essential to decide how you will sell to Russia, whether direct or through agents or distributors. Language barriers often make having a Russian representative essential. There are also thousands of Russian trade associations which can be helpful. Sometimes joint-ventures with Russian companies are the best way of proceeding.

Although not a market for the faint-hearted, Moscow is only a three hour flight away. Patience and persistence will pay off. But for the determined business the rewards can be very lucrative.


UK Trade & Investment
Maria Smirnova
Team Co-ordinator, UKTI Russia
Tel: +007 812 320 3220

Russo-British Chamber of Commerce
11 Belgrave Road
Tel: 0207 931 6455
Fax: 0207 233 9736

British Embassy
British Embassy Moscow
Smolenskaya Naberezhnaya 10
Moscow 121099
Tel: (07) 495 956 7200
Fax: (07) 495 956 7201