I didn’t know a word of Russian
– How did you come to work in Russia?
– After graduating from my professional college, I worked in well-known dental technical laboratories. We actively cooperated with the European Stomatological Centre. This clinic was created by a Frenchman. They had such a huge amount of work that it became impossible to fulfil all the prosthetic orders coming to France from Moscow, and the management decided to open a dental technical laboratory on the spot. I was asked: “Would you like to work in Moscow?” Without thinking twice about it, I said “Yes”.
I was 28 years old, and of an inquisitive nature. It interested me to see another world, another culture. So I came to Moscow.
– What were your first impressions?
– Russia was a very different place in those years from what it has now become. I remember that there wasn’t a single street lamp on Tverskaya. When it grew dark, the street was only lit by the illuminated advertisements. You had to look very hard where you were going. Light and dark areas alternated along the road.
About Eddy Karkoukly:
He is a qualified prosthetist. From 1989, he worked in dental technical laboratories in Cannes and Lyons. He came to Moscow in the year 2000. He worked in the Moscow branches of the European Stomatological Centre and the French Stomatological Centre. In 2008, with a partner from France, he founded the dental technical laboratory French Labo, and in 2012 opened his own company, French Creative, specializing in veneers, fully-pressed crowns, implants, metal ceramics and metal-free ceramics. Apart from French, he speaks English and Russian.
– What about the weather?
– I came from the Côte d’Azur, from Cannes, where it is already almost summer by the beginning of April. In Moscow there was sleet with gusts of wind whipping you like a lash.
– The Russians say about such weather: “one tooth won’t stay next to another”. Did you speak Russian?
– I didn’t know a word of it! Listening to Russian, I thought “I’ll never be able to repeat what they said!” It’s a very difficult language. But I went from a standing start to full gallop. A teacher came to me in the clinic for three months and spent an hour with me twice a week teaching me Russian.
It surprised me that there were foreigners who had lived five or six years in Moscow without learning the language. They told me: “I don’t need it, I don’t want to bother my head with it, I don’t want the hassle”.
I worked hard at studying the language. It helped me to talk with Muscovite friends.
Some of them even said: “The less Russian I speak, the fewer problems I have”. This is not correct. The menus in restaurants are written in Russian, everyone speaks Russian in the shops. All the clients are Russians. Without the language, you can’t understand the Russian mentality. I worked hard at studying the language. It helped me to talk with Muscovite friends, with whom I spent my days off. And soon I started speaking Russian. And all because i had such a tremendous desire and motivation to do so.
– What difficulties did you encounter?
– I didn’t encounter any particular difficulties. I lived by the principle: do what you have to do and don’t interfere with anyone. One clinic building was on Sidorovka and the other on Barrikadnaya. That’s in the very centre of Moscow. But I had the feeling that I had returned to a sort of enclosed world: in the clinic, all the managers were French and so were all the doctors. We didn’t experience any competition. Our laboratory was unique in Russia. We provided high quality services using the latest equipment and advanced medical technologies, which were not available to the Russian state medical service. Our laboratory carried out the most complex orders.
– Are clients in Moscow different from Western ones?
– I am constantly dealing with patients. It is important to me to determine certain nuances for myself; the colour of teeth, for example. I must say that Muscovites trust their doctors completely. In the year 2000, when I had only just arrived, there were patients who, one might say, had not been spoiled by good service. Everything was amazing to them. The standardized medicine of the state health institutions could not provide an individual approach to patients.
You’ll get the order when we see the money
– What made you decide to open your own business?
– I went from the European Stomatological Clinic to the French Stomatological Clinic, and after working there for five years, I decided the time was ripe for me to have my own firm. IN 2008, I made my dream come true. By that time I knew Russian as well as French and English, I knew the local mentality, and I had acquired a certain reputation in stomatological circles.
We provided high quality services using the latest equipment and advanced medical technologies.
– Was it difficult to get all the necessary documents together and obtain all the various permits?
– I left all that to my Russian wife Yelena, who is a lawyer by education. She is also the managing director of our enterprise, by the way. Personally, I fail to understand many bureaucratic attitudes and laws. Each time I am amazed: What on earth are they for? But I take all this philosophically. There are such difficulties in the West too. I realize that you can’t have everything good all together in the same place.
I fail to understand many bureaucratic attitudes. But I take a philosophical attitude to this. There are such difficulties in the West too.
– Does your company own its premises, or are you leasing?
– We are leasing. And we are paying almost twice as much as we would in France.
In France I could open a dental technical laboratory anywhere, including in a residential block. But in Russia, such a laboratory has to be either in a business centre, as our is, or in a separate building or detached house with a special ventilation system. The premises has to conform to strict rules.
In France, no licence of any kind is needed. Here we had to be checked by the Sanitary-Epidemiological Station before we could obtain a licence. Now, fortunately, the licence is for an unlimited period, but previously it was for only three years, then for five.
– How many people work in your laboratory?
– When I started, four dental technicians. They are local lads, who I have been training for several years now. We have our own website, and many people phone us asking for work. We have a rigorous selection process. Only one in a hundred applicants is accepted. It isn’t enough to be capable, to know how to listen, to pick up the smallest detail, you also have to be motivated, to have the desire to improve. In our profession you have to be an artist, a photographer, a sculptor and a jeweller, all at the same time. You also have to be proficient in anatomy, physiology, properties of materials, casting and computer programs.
– What is the salary level of your staff?
– It depends what work they’re doing. Usually about 45-50,000 roubles a month (a little over 1000 euros).
– Do you bring consumables and instruments from France?
– We currently have two lines of business, We fulfil orders for élite stomatological clinics. We also bring in consumables for the dental technical laboratories – we have a contract with a certain German company. The Russian market has huge potential. We know what to order, what will be in demand and in what quantities. Obviously, these are very high quality goods, for which there is always a demand.
The Russian market has huge potential. We know what to order, what will be in demand and in what quantities.
Here’s an example, so that you can see why we started developing a second line of business. One day I happened to need a certain consumable material. In France, as in the rest of Europe, if something is lacking, you make a phone call, place an order and next day it is all brought to you. My assistant made a call, they took her order and said the goods would be sent… in three months. And our work is urgent. Now, such problems do not arise.
And there’s something else I found surprising. In France, you order components, they are brought to you at once, they don’t wait until you have paid the bill. In Moscow it is all quite different. They will only start putting the order together when they see the payment order. I was constantly hearing: “Wait, we’ll write the invoice for you now”. When I asked: “Can I take the goods today?”, they replied: “You’ll get the order when we see the money”. That’s the way it is, there is no trust.
Russian stomatology has been raised to the world level
– Чем отличалась бы ваша работа, если бы подобная лаборатория действовала во Франции?
– Great changes are currently taking place in Russia, as they were in France in the stomatological field twenty years ago. People are beginning to study, to raise their professional level, to strive to improve quality. This is a great leap forward in development.
There is a crisis in Europe now. There is more opportunity to earn money in Moscow.
There is a crisis in Europe now, development seems to have stopped. Although the level in Europe is still higher than in Russia, there is more opportunity to earn money in Moscow. Income tax is low here compared to France. But social security payments are quite high.
– How do you find new clients?
– Mainly by recommendation. After all, we are operating in a premium élite niche of the market.
– Are tariffs for stomatological services in Russia lower than in Europe or the USA, for example?
– There is a common trend throughout the world. Orders from France, for example, are now sent to Morocco, Tunisia and even China – for reasons of economy. Unfortunately, this has an effect on quality too.
On the whole, tariffs and prices in stomatology in Russia are lower, but prices can be much higher in an élite clinic in the centre of Moscow.
– How do you now assess the stomatological services market in Russia?
– This sector has been developing rapidly for the past 15 years. Russian specialists have been able to travel abroad to study. Now many Russian stomatologists, orthodontists and prosthetists have a perfect command of English, and exchange information on the Internet with colleagues throughout the world.
Today, Russian stomatology has been raised to the world level. There are doctors and clinics operating in accordance with international protocols. There are quite a few networks of clinics operating in the economy sector. Specialist-owned clinics like mine are in demand in the premium sector.
– Many foreigners fear that crime is on the rampage in Moscow. Are their fears justified?
– Do they think it’s safer in Paris, Marseille or America? Everything is quiet in Moscow.
– What are your favourite places in Moscow?
– I adore the Novodevichi Monastery, located on a bend of the Moskva river, near Luzhniki.
– What would you say to foreigners who are still wondering if it is worth starting a business in Moscow or not?
– There are great opportunities in Moscow. You can gain useful experience. It is interesting to live, work and trade here – particularly if you are a globally minded person, ready and willing to work hard.