— The first time I was in Russia was in 1995 when I was 17 and still at school, — Itsuki Zaima tells me. — I was very interested in the events of the Civil War and the foreign military intervention including that which took place in Siberia and the Russian Far East. This affected my family: one of my relatives was involved in it in Russia. And also I was very keen on Dostoevsky, so I decided to study in the city - St. Petersburg - where the great Russian writer lived and created his works. I decided to see if I could get into Saint Petersburg State University without knowing any Russian. During the entrance exams for the Philological Faculty, I was unable to reply to even the simplest of questions from the teacher, such as what my name was, so she then switched from Russian to English. A suitable group for me with my non-existent knowledge couldn’t be found, so they offered me an individual programme. They warned me that this would be more expensive: 6,000 dollars a year.
According to the Housing Code of the RF, the Residents Association (TSZh in Russian) is recognised as a non-commercial organization, bringing together property owners in a multi-occupancy building for the joint management of the entire building complex, to maintain the operation, tenure, usage and, within the limits as established in law, regulation of the property as a whole. Similar owner associations for multi-occupancy residential buildings exist, in one form or another, in various countries.
In Russia, the TSZh has the right to sell or hand over for temporary usage the communal parts of the building belonging to the association. So long as this does not infringe upon the rights and lawful interests of the apartment owners.
To open an office on TSZh premises, one must address the president of the association who will seek the consent of the owners of the premises, and once this has been obtained, a tenancy agreement will be signed between the TSZh and the businessman in question. The businessman is permitted to buy out a ground floor residence and convert it into non-residential premises. After which the owner has the right to rent out the premises or start a business there. However, in leasing out the property or opening in it a shop or workshop, bakery, café etc., agreement from the TSZh must be sought that this does not infringe upon the rights of the property owners of the multi-occupancy residence.
During the course of conducting business activities, it is possible that some residents will be unhappy with something or other. However, their claims can only be formulated in a request addressed to the businessman through the president of the TSZh. Sometimes residents complain immediately to the regulatory authorities. For verification of the legality of the businessman’s activities, he will be required to present all of his title deeds.
There can be instances when the TSZh does not fulfil its obligations as set out by the tenancy agreement. For example, the businessman wants to open a shop. He has signed an agreement with the TSZh. Refurbishment commences. And then the residents complain that the noise is causing a disturbance. They start talking about terminating the agreement, and block the tenant’s access to his property…
In such an instance, the tenant ought to seek professional legal assistance from a lawyer who will by judicial process order the TSZh to discharge the costs of the refurbishment works carried out, return the funds paid to the TSZh according to the tenancy agreement, and extract a penalty plus interest for the improper use of a third party’s monetary resources. Whatever the circumstances, on any conflict arising, one should act strictly according to the law.
The current market for foreign language schools in Moscow is extremely competitive. It is considered to be one of the most profitable business segments, and one which doesn’t require large investments. Schools come under various categories. There are global brands which invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising. Competing with them is difficult but not impossible. So how can you do this?
1) Establish your own niche and aim for your target market.
2) Offer the lowest prices possible and attract a large number of people.
3) Develop your own unique methodology (or USP: Unique Selling Point). For example:
– Teaching of the first level of the language on computers.
– “English as a workout” (when at the school there is a single timetable of lessons which students attend as they wish). You pay a couple of teachers for the working day, which is cheaper than by the lesson. And the number of pupils in the group isn’t fixed.
– Conversation Clubs format (at a cafe). You don’t need to rent premises and can gather 30–40 pupils together. The charge for customers is usually low (200–300 RUB for two hours per head), but the number of people, and lack of outgoings, can make it reasonably profitable.
At today’s prices, opening a school in Moscow requires an investment of no less than 300,000 – 400,000 RUB. Rent for 4–6 rooms is around 200,000 RUB for a two-month period; purchasing of budget furniture, another 40,000 RUB.; 1 x computer and printer: 30,000 RUB; website creation: 40,000 RUB; publicity: 30,000 RUB; printing of business cards and leaflets: 10,000 RUB.
If you are aiming at the VIP segment, then anything to do with your profile and interior design will be considerably more expensive. Investment required for launching a luxury level school starts at 1,500,000 RUB. Needing to be included in the cost are the leasing of premises in a prestigious part of Moscow, fitting them out in a personal style with up-market furnishings, website creation, developing of a brand-book, the work of a PR Manager on brand promotion, and a sizeable budget for advertising should there not be any direct access to the target market.
All this notwithstanding, I find this market to be a very capacious and promising one. Education is the last thing people stint on, and the requirement to know foreign languages is only going to grow.
I was surprised to see how many foreign language schools are actually available in Moscow, and how many different teaching formulas and method are spread around. It leads me to realize how developed, as underestimated, is the market at the moment.Furthermore, I am sure perspectives for the market are brilliant, considering that index of English-proficiency among Russian people is still quite low. And Muscovites don’t learn only English.Moscow counts 41 schools actively teaching Italian language to 1,680 children. And notice that Italian language has not such high demand as a foreign language like German or French.
Young generations are strictly convinced that speaking English will enlarge their opportunities. And not just for their career. This common wisdom has been much more achieved in Moscow than in many other Western Countries, so that will lead Russia to be polyglot, and competitive on the international labour market, very soon.
That is why, beside renowned schools, many private trainers have been rising up informal communities, Facebook groups or other format able to offer such kind of basic education.
Market entry costs are really low, if compared to Western realities, which is an essential strength: teachers are relatively cheap (an English mother tongue in Moscow will agree to get 1,200 to 1,500 RUB per hour). But the main cost will be finding a proper space to teach in (in Moscow city centre rents are very high: even after the recent real estate crisis you will be asked 80,000 RUB for a 3 classroom school). Finally, the process to legally establish an organization has been considerably simplified, while the main problem remains the formal bureaucratic amount of papers you will be required to fill and sign. Evidently all these costs seem to be really affordable when compared to the Muscovite spending power: average price per lesson-academic hour (45mins) flies up to 3,000 RUB.