Interview with Bernard Meunier
Russia Today: This investment forum is being built as an opportunity for open and frank dialogue between foreign companies, private companies and the Russian government. Is it that? How successful is it in that?
Bernard Meunier: It is only one step in a constant dialogue we have all around with the authorities. We have the Foreign Investors Advisory Council (FIAC) which is also a co-organizer of some of the sessions here in Sochi. FIAC is organizing this constant dialogue between the authorities and the main investors. We had the economic forum in St. Petersburg in June, which became a major event. The forum in Sochi is probably becoming the second largest event in the year. We were here a few years ago. This was a small forum with the few thousand people. Now we are talking about 15,000 delegates today.
RT: We know there are actually 10,000 delegates here this year. In 2002 there were a meagre 500 attendees here. But as a man of experience what would you say are the pros and cons in investing and working in Russia's food industry specifically?
B.M.: The food and beverage industry and food, and beverage consumption in Russia, are one of the fastest growing in the world, and obviously one of the large ones, thanks to a large consumption basis of some 140 million consumers. It is re-emerging as one of the main consumption centres in the world. For Nestle being the leading food and beverage company in the world, this has been an area of focus already for the last 12 years. We have grown with the consumption here.
RT: Your company Nestle indeed, as you have been saying, is operating in Russia for years now. You can offer a lot of advice for newcomers that would have come to that forum hoping to invest here. Is it a right way?
B.M.: The forum offers a chance to do network as always. Indeed we have been one of the prime investors in terms of our commitment to the region. We had the first acquisition in 1995 and by the time of the crisis in 1998 most of the production was already localized, which allowed us to avoid packing and going, like some investors did at that time, and continue to sell and benefit from the boom that came afterward with the increase of the purchasing power. Obviously, one of the limitations you mentioned is the infrastructure. We happened to have one of the major factories here in the south of the country and we use the Novorossiysk port not far from Sochi. However, this port like all ports in Russia is coming to saturation. We were very happy to hear that President Putin and the Acting First Deputy Prime Minister, Sergey Ivanov, addressed with so much emphasis the increase and the improvement of the infrastructure of the country.
RT: What is the secret to enjoying a successful working life as a foreigner here in Russia?
B.M.: I would say there is no difference any other country in the world outside of your home town. I would say it's having good cultural sensitivity and understanding the differences between where you come from and where you are working. If you apply the sensitivity to your work and understand the peculiarities of the people and economy surrounding you I think you'll be successful.