He has worked in various countries, but now he has moved to Moscow and has stayed here a long time, because this proved profitable not only to
― When did you first visit Moscow? What was your first impression of the city?
― My first visit to Moscow was six years ago. I didn’t spend very long here, but the city and its inhabitants made the most favourable impression on me. I saw a lot in common between Muscovites and the Dutch. Therefore, when I was offered the chance of moving to Moscow to work, I jumped at it.
― What is there in common between the Muscovites and your fellow countrymen?
― Muscovites are just as purposeful as we are. Another thing I like about Russians is that they call a spade a spade. If things are going badly, they say so. This trait of directness also makes the Russians like the Dutch.
About Peter Vullinghs:
He joined Philips straight from university in 1996. In 1999, he was appointed manager of the internal auditing department of Philips in India, then moved to Singapore, where he held the post of financial director of the audio and video section. In 2005, he took over the position of financial director of the household equipment subsection in Hong Kong, travelling round the BRIC countries. After that, in January 2008, when the consumer goods subsection was formed by merging household electronics and household equipment, Peter Vullinghs obtained the post of vice-president and financial director of the consumer goods subsection in the BRIC countries, and returned to Singapore. And on 1st October 2009, he was appointed senior vice-president and manager of Philips' consumer goods subsection in Russia and Central Asia.
― Has Moscow changed a lot since you came here the first time?
― Yes, and for the better. For example, many cafés have appeared, where you can get a tasty breakfast, and there are sufficient places for sporting activities. Previously, there were problems with this. By comparison with my first visit, restaurant service in Moscow has risen to a very high level and is now among the best in the world. Of course the people haven’t changed much, but on the other hand, I cannot fail to mention the rise in the number of citizens belonging to the middle class. Six years ago, the gap between rich and poor was very noticeable, but today the middle class is rapidly increasing, as is the prosperity of the whole population.
― Are there any traits and features of Moscow and Muscovites which you still can’t get used to?
― It’s difficult for me to find an example of anything I still need to get used to. There are certain cultural differences, of course, but where aren’t there? The most unpleasant thing in Moscow is the constant traffic jams. And another thing I don’t much like is the long winters, like last year’s for instance. Winter could be a bit shorter, it would be better if it ended by April.
The most unpleasant thing in Moscow is the constant traffic jams. And another thing I don’t much like is the long winters.
Also, I have never understood why in the passport control queue at the airport, at first everyone calmly forms one line, and then some smart Alec comes along and says he was here before, and brings another ten people with him. He is rebuked, and immediately takes offence and begins loudly expressing his indignation.
― Have you encountered any difficulties due to the fact that you don’t speak Russian?
― On one hand, it would be a good thing if I did speak Russian fluently, it would have made it possible to avoid a few embarrassing moments, but on the other hand, when people realise that I don’t speak Russian, they stop arguing with me because it is useless. However, I understand Russian not too badly, those around me do not know this, and I take advantage of it sometimes: there have been situations when people have been speaking ill of me in my presence, and then I suddenly reply in Russian. Imagine how awkward that makes them feel. But such cases are exceptions, people in Moscow are friendly on the whole.
― You don’t intend to leave Moscow?
― Not yet. I won’t hazard a guess about how long I shall continue to work here, because we can’t know in advance how our life is going to turn out. I don’t see any reason to leave at present; I like living and working here.
― Would you call Moscow one of your favourite cities?
― Undoubtedly. First of all because of the people who live here.
― And what are your other favourite cities?
― Amsterdam, Barcelona and Hong Kong. In general, Moscow takes city life to extremes, and that’s what I love: dynamism, energy – on the whole, quiet places don’t suit me. In Moscow, I can keep up all my hobbies. For example, I like classical music – Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. I would go as far as to say that the level of performance of the classics in Moscow cannot be compared with any other city. One more quality of Moscow little known in the West is that it has so many green areas. For example, yesterday evening I went running in Luzhniki, on my days off I have been to Tsaritsyn, and next weekend I intend to go to the park in Kuzminki.
― Why do you like working in Moscow? How does the Moscow business medium differ from the Western?
― I would say this: I like doing business in Moscow because everything is possible here. For example, a profit growth of 30-40%. That is quite unrealistic in the West at the present time. Moscow consumers differ from Western ones. They pay more attention to quality and technology. It’s important to them to know all the details. Russians don’t abide by the rule “the cheaper the better”, they are willing to pay for quality.
― What is the reason your business is growing so rapidly?
― Philips started doing business in Russia in 1898, when the company founder Anton Philips sold 50,000 lamps to the Tsarist government. Over our years of working here, we have studied the Russian consumer very thoroughly. For example: Russians love salads. In particular “Olivier” salad, for which all the ingredients have to be cut into cubes, is very popular here. We have produced a hand blender especially for Russia, which helps housewives to prepare one of their favourite dishes quickly.
I like doing business in Moscow because everything is possible here. For example, a profit growth of 30-40%. That is quite unrealistic in the West at the present time.
There are many other examples. Philips also owes its success in the market to marketing strategies developed to allow for the local specifics. In the West, marketing is largely based on how a brand is perceived emotionally, but for Muscovites, the technology is more important. Remember that almost everyone here used to receive an engineering education. And now even women know their way around the design of various appliances quite well.
― What would be your advice to small and medium businesses intending to enter the Moscow market?
― First of all, to have a good understanding of your consumer and how he makes his choice in favour of one product or another. Muscovites spend a lot of time on the internet, reading various forums in which various goods are discussed. After finding out how one article differs from another, the Moscow consumer makes his choice, taking all the pluses and minuses into account. The Moscow consumer is distinguished by his extremely thoroughgoing approach to the matter in hand. And of course, it must not be forgotten that a product which is extremely popular in the West might not find consumers in Moscow. Every local market has its own specifics.
― What difficulties have you encountered in the post of top manager in Moscow?
― I would not call them difficulties, but it really surprised me what requirements are made of the head of a company in Moscow. This is very different from what is customary in the West. Moscow needs only the strongest business leaders, capably of taking rapid decisions and of bearing responsibility, because here, the democratic monarchy is the most widespread form of management.
The Moscow consumer is distinguished by his extremely thoroughgoing approach to the matter in hand.
I have worked in China; there, the business culture is based on “not losing face”. In China, you cannot openly talk with someone about your problems or his in the presence of other people; conversations like that only take place one to one. In Moscow, everything is much simpler. And if you compare it with India, where I worked for three years, that’s a place where you have to set each member of staff precise deadlines for each job. In Moscow the level of responsibility is much higher, the staff do not have to be monitored all the time.
― Do problems arise with Moscow specialists? Do they have an adequate level of education, sufficient work experience and are their professional qualities high enough?
― I would go so far as to say that the qualification of Moscow personnel is higher than the requirements made on staff in the West. And yet marketing and sales used not to be taught to anyone here. The experience which Muscovites have gained in marketing over the years of market reforms exceeds the experience of their colleagues working, say, in Amsterdam.
The qualification of Moscow personnel is higher than the requirements made on staff in the West.
This has taken place firstly because Muscovites are very disciplined. Secondly, they know foreign languages. I myself have some knowledge of five languages, to differing degrees. But I talk to Russian colleagues only in English, in order not to find myself at a disadvantage. Some people in this company know Chinese, and we even have one Ethiopian speaker..
― What do your relatives and friends think about you working in Moscow? Have you had to dispute any Western preconceptions about Russia?
― I remember phoning my mother and telling her that I was moving to Moscow (I was working in Singapore at the time), and she replied that it was a very long way away – although it takes nine hours less to fly from Amsterdam to Moscow than from Amsterdam to Singapore. The preconception that Russia is a long way away from world civilisation has its roots in the time of the communist regime’s rule. Another aspect is the behaviour of tourists abroad. For example, young Dutch people really let themselves go in Spain. When I take a holiday in Salou (a resort on the Spanish Mediterranean coast), I try to speak only English, so as not to give rise to bad associations. But not all the Dutch are like that! It’s the same with the Russians who get up to all sorts of debauchery in Turkish hotels. A preconception arises because of them, although there are no more rowdies in Russia than in other countries.
― Would you encourage your colleagues and friend to come and work in Moscow?
― Yes, of course. We invited several Western colleagues here, and they were all very contented.