– When and how did your company come to Moscow?
– We began with St. Petersburg (at the end of the nineties), and appeared in Moscow in 2001. We only hold exhibitions in Moscow and St. Petersburg because we run very large international trade fairs, and industrial ones at that. Moscow is the main city for the exhibition industry. It is here that the widest opportunities open up for promoting industrial goods in the market. I think our brands are not yet suitable for the provinces.
– When did you yourself come to Moscow?
– In 2004. I was already working in Messe Frankfurt at that time. I didn’t become Managing Director immediately; at first, as in Germany, I dealt with finance. A few months later I was offered the position of Managing Director, with the job of increasing our Russian portfolio and adding two or three projects.
– Did it work out?
– We now have seven projects, of which four are market leaders.
Eugen Alles is a specialist in finance and financial control (bookkeeping). He has worked for the German company HIM (domestic chemicals, 1993-1997), the French Atos Origin (IT services and consultations, 1997-1998), the German SEB Asset Management (managing assets, 1998-20003). He came to Messe Frankfurt GmbH in 2003 as Head of Investment Controlling. In April 2005, he was appointed Managing Director of the Russian office of Messe Frankfurt Russia. He lives and works in Moscow.
– What impression did Moscow make on you?
– I liked Moscow immediately, because it was so dynamic and business-orientated. I liked the people I came to know, and I set to work. There is a particular atmosphere in Moscow. When I am in other cities, I soon begin to feel the lack of the frenzied rhythm of Moscow life. One of my acquaintances, who worked in Metro Cash&Carry, once remarked: “In Moscow you come out of the office and hope your working day is over, but five minutes later, something happens that turns your whole career upside down”.
– What targets does the company set itself in Moscow? What difficulties did it have to face here?
– Messe Frankfurt is a state company. In Russia, we are developing those lines of business which are already developed in Germany and other countries. This differs somewhat from what other, smaller companies are doing. They put profitability first. I’m not saying that profitability isn’t important to us. But all the same, the development of a certain industry is more important.
Moscow is the main city for the exhibition industry. It is here that the widest opportunities open up for promoting industrial goods in the market.
We have not had to face any special difficulties in Moscow. Yes, we have had failed projects. But that’s normal in business.
– How does Moscow differ from the great cities of the West?
– Before I joined Messe Frankfurt, I worked in a bank and saw many cities. Moscow is a modern city, like all the Western capitals. Did we want globalisation? We’ve got it.
– You have a good command of Russian. Is that important for conducting business in Moscow?
– Of course it is. When people speak the same language, it always brings them closer together. It’s hard for foreigners to learn Russian, it’s not an easy language. But in principle, there are also many examples of foreigners working successfully in Moscow, although they understand very little Russian.
– What are the priority industries for you?
– As far as Germany, South America and of course Russia are concerned, we are the leaders in textile exhibitions. The automobile industry ranks next in importance. Everyone has heard of the Frankfurt Motor Show – that’s our work. And once every two years, we hold “Automechanika”, an exhibition of after-sales automobile services and technical servicing.
– How many people are working in the Moscow company?
– At the present time, 42.
– How do you select your staff?
– In a variety of ways. We have been working with one agency for 10 years now. It’s a small one, but the main thing here is trust: they know us well, we know them well, and they understand at once what we need and what sort of person we’re looking for. We look at the resumés which come in unasked. And of course, we find people through our acquaintances. Like everywhere else. That’s the normal process in life. But even if an agency finds someone for us, we try to conduct the interview ourselves. And we’re not just talking about top managers. There are top managers, and there are those who work on projects. And their work is no less important. It’s not the rank that’s important, it’s the efficiency.
– What is the Moscow labour market like?
– It’s not easy to find people in our sector. The teaching establishments don’t train the sort of specialists we want. There is one university in Germany where they teach how to organise exhibitions. But it is financed by big exhibition companies, who recruit its graduates themselves. So our personnel in Moscow come to us from a variety of backgrounds.
– What can you say about the business qualities of Moscow specialists? Are there any particular ways in which they differ from Western ones?
– I have worked in various countries and various cities, but I can’t say that there is anything that stands out about Muscovites. People here try hard to get a good education, particularly a theoretical one. I think they are less interested in the practical side. For comparison, in Germany they are more inclined to the practical. Perhaps this is to do with the fact that Russia and Moscow are developing rapidly at the present time.
People here try hard to get a good education, particularly a theoretical one. I think they are less interested in the practical side. For comparison, in Germany they are more inclined to the practical.
To develop the practical experience of our Moscow personnel, we send them mainly to China. There are 600 people from Messe Frankfurt working there. Once a year we hold internal seminars on our Moscow exhibitions. And we pay our staff to go on courses to improve their qualifications.
– How do you attract foreign participants to your Moscow exhibitions?
– We have 80 agents covering 160 countries, the biggest network of agents in the industry. We have 16 subsidiary enterprises throughout the world: in France, Italy, China, Korea, Japan and so on. And there are also independent agents working with us on exclusive contracts.
– Does the Moscow business infrastructure, and that of Russia as a whole, differ much from the Western one?
– Each country has its own administrative and tax nuances. We try to give Western entrepreneurs intending to invest in Russia complete information about the special features of the Russian system. Many in the West think that this system is very complicated. Here a certain effect comes into play: if you know this beforehand, it all seems extremely simple, but if you don’t, it all seems very difficult. I, as a professional financier, can tell you that the tax system in Russia is not complicated. For individuals, it is just as attractive as can be, and for legal entities, it is no more difficult than the tax system in any other country. In principle, the tax code is as close to the Western one as possible.
I, as a professional financier, can tell you that the tax system in Russia is not complicated.
In Germany it is in no way any more simple. The administrative system in Russia is a little more complex, but recently the government has been putting through reforms to simplify the situation. And this is the most important thing for the investment climate. The simpler and more understandable the laws, the better, obviously.
– Have you been in this office long? Is it expensive?
– We moved in here in 2005. It is expensive. My colleagues from other countries often find it hard to believe how much we pay per square metre. The monthly leasing rate is higher than the annual rate in Mexico. Actually, we are moving to a building nearby in two months. We are expanding again.
– Is Messe Frankfurt Russia a Russian company?
– Yes, we are a Russian company with a founder from Frankfurt. At one time, the mother company invested in us as a project. That money has long been recouped. Everything we have is earned here and we pay all our taxes here.
About Messe Frankfurt
This German company is one of the biggest in the European trade fair and industrial exhibitions market, and operates in more than 150 countries. In 2012 alone, Messe Frankfurt held 109 trade fairs, of which 68 were outside Germany. The company is controlled by the state: 60% of the shares belong to the city of Frankfurt and 40% to the Federal Land of Hesse. The Messe Frankfurt brands best known in Russia are the Moscow exhibitions Heimtextil Rossija (domestic textiles), Ambiente Rossija (goods for the home, gifts and souvenirs), and Auto+Automechanika (the automobile industry) in St. Petersburg.
– Who are your Russian competitors?
– “Ekotsentr” and “Krokus”. “Ekotsentr”, by the way, holds its exhibition projects on its own sites. In principle, this is the same philosophy that is applied by our company in Germany.
– Do you have acquaintances from other countries who are working in Moscow? What do they say about the Russian capital?
– I know many people here from different countries. Moscow is a city which you either like at once, or rapidly leave. Some of my acquaintances have been in Moscow as long as 20-25 years, and could not imagine life in any other city. But there have been those who have left after two or three months.
– What do expatriates do in Moscow?
– Usually they are working up and developing a business.
Some of my acquaintances have been in Moscow as long as 20-25 years, and could not imagine life in any other city.
– Is there strong competition in Moscow?
– There certainly is. The competition in the exhibition business is tremendous.
– Have you ever thought about opening your own business in Moscow?
– My own?? I’ve never given it a thought. I’m probably too much of a corporation man.
– Do you work under contract?
– Yes. But our company has quite a few managing directors working in their own countries. They do not have to sign a contract.
– Do you have favourite places in Moscow?
– I live in the South-West, there are many parks there. I like running in summer, but it’s not possible in winter. In general, there’s nothing particular to do in Moscow in winter. But in the summer you can simply go walking round the city.
– You have two children. Do they speak Russian?
– Hardly at all. They attend a German school.
– Would you recommend Moscow to your foreign friends as a place to work and do business?