Friday, February 25, 2005

doing business in Rusia: a story

It’s kinda personal story coz it happened to my brother. Were it a hearsay I wouldn’t trust its authenticity.
My brother works at a printing company. They make, i.e. supervise contracts on self-sticking labels and my brother’s job is to look for customers willing to place order for those labels. Not long time ago I found one potential customer. I say ‘potential’ because that company had been already ordering the labels from someone else. But my brother’s firm could offer them a better deal and sent in the price list to the office. The next day, a leather-clad man showed up at my brother’s company office. He said that in order to avoid trouble they should revoke their business offer.
My brother and other managers were completely shocked. What shocked them was not that somebody posing as a gangster shows up essentially threatening them but the fact the contract was of quite low value, about 1000 CAD a month. Although criminal enforcers are instrumental for the functioning of Russian business, it is highly unlikely that ‘serious’ people would bother to interfere for such a small amount of money. In short, it looks like it was just a show. The manager responsible for the contract at the company competitor might have acted on his own accord by asking a friend to stage ‘mafia like threats’. Investigation continues.
The story is truly bizarre. My brother keeps insisting that it’s the first time something like that happened to him and even much bigger companies that do have gangsters at their disposal, would not do it even for larger sums of money. May be it’s true but I still think it says a lot about the nature of Russian capitalism and ‘transition’ in general. Fair competition is still not fully feasible in Russia – until such things become unthinkable, capitalism is not genuine there.


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