By Max Clarke

An export development event organised by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) sets out to dispel some of the myths about trading in Russia and to demonstrate to South East companies the attractions of doing business there.

A key speaker at “Doing Business in Russia”, at the Holiday Inn, Gatwick, on Tuesday, 1 February, is Damion Potter, Head of the UKTI team in Moscow, who will also be meeting company delegates at the event.

The case for trading with Russia is as compelling as it is in the other high-growth BRIC markets (Brazil, India and China). However, many companies still need to be convinced, and a number of misconceptions are perpetuated about Russia and its business culture.

Damion Potter said:

"Setting up business in Russia offers some great opportunities. By speaking to business leaders in the South East, I'm hoping to dispel some of the myths and share UKTI’s knowledge and expertise of what it's really like living and working in Russia, and set out how we can help UK companies expand their business in this market.

"The UK now has a huge presence in Russia, with over 600 companies there. This includes many household names from all sectors who have made strong connections and prove that it is possible to succeed and flourish in competitive overseas markets."

Russia can seem a more daunting prospect than many other countries, with issues of market access, language, business practice, and bureaucracy. However, it is a dynamic and developing market with a rapidly growing middle class. It is the eighth largest retail market in the world and the fourth-largest market in Europe. After a downturn, the Russia economy is recovering strongly, and UK exports in the year to October 2010 were £1.9bn, an increase of nearly 50 per cent on October 2009.

Recognition of the need to modernise the economy and infrastructure is producing an urgent demand for international expertise and products, creating wide-ranging opportunities for businesses across the South East. The most promising sectors are: Advanced Engineering, Financial Services, ICT, Power/Energy, Sports & Leisure Infrastructure (particularly the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics and, now, the 2018 World Cup), Airports, Construction, Creative Industries, Rail and Water.

Lev Denker, a Russia specialist with UKTI South East, said: “We need to correct some of the outdated perceptions about Russia. Russians are now more westernised in what they buy, and what they wear. Increasingly, they are interested in branded goods, in style, presentation and the power of marketing.

“This translates into opportunities for companies operating in a wide range of sectors, demonstrating that there is more to Russia than a market for oil and gas and heavy machinery, important as these are for UK companies. And with the right advice, from UKTI among others, any problems of red tape and regulation can be tackled effectively.”

“An event like this, with contributions from experts such as UKTI’s Damion Potter, based in the market, and companies already trading successfully in Russia, will help to drive these lessons home and encourage more companies to do business there.”