Rustam Minnikhanov: ''We support you, Finns, when Ak Bars doesn’t play''

How Tatarstan hosted Finnish Business forum

Rustam Minnikhanov: ''We support you, Finns, when Ak Bars doesn’t play'' Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Finnish Business Goes Kazan 2018 opened in Kazan, which, in both sides' opinion, can help to strengthen and develop Finnish-Tatar relations. However, as Finland's ambassador to Russia notes, these relations are already strong enough, as the sides ''met each other'' a long time ago. But this is little – more is needed. Realnoe Vremya's correspondent listened to stories of Finnish companies about the successful experience in entering the market of Tatarstan and the reasons why the Finns are almost ideal business partners.

Finnish business targets Tatarstan

Finnish Business Goes Kazan 2018 opened in Kazan on 17 October. As moderator of the plenary session, Director of East Office of Finnish Industries Ilkka Salonen noted, the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce organises the forum for the eighth time. About 50 companies from different spheres are representing the Finnish side in the capital of Tatarstan. Director General of the Finnish-Russian Chamber of Commerce Jaana Rekolainen explained why Kazan was chosen in 2018. Tribute should be paid – both speakers spoke the Russian language quite well.

''We traditionally hold this event in regions where we see big potential for Finnish business. At the moment, Finland is very interested in Tatarstan. This is why such a decision was made. A personal factor also plays a role here – Tatarstan is one of my favourite regions of Russia,'' Jaana Rekolainen explained.

''We traditionally hold this event in regions where we see big potential for Finnish business. At the moment, Finland is very interested in Tatarstan. This is why such a decision was made. A personal factor also plays a role here – Tatarstan is one of my favourite regions of Russia,'' Jaana Rekolainen explained

Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov approached the rostrum and gave to understand that the republic was also glad to have Finnish business – he began his speech with the phrase ''good afternoon'' in Finnish.

''We're interested in attracting Finnish enterprises and capital to Tatarstan. We will be glad to expand mutually beneficial links, we're ready to provide any help,'' the republic's head noted.

And he confirmed his words with numbers. Last year, turnover between the two countries increased by 50%. But the first half of 2018 wasn't very positive.

''I think after our business forum the situation will change to the good,'' Minnikhanov hoped. He also reminded that direct flights connected Tatarstan and Finland in spring and summer, there was visa centre in Kazan and cooperation with Tatar communities in Finland.

''I think we were made for each other''

Ambassador of Finland to Russia Mikko Hautala turned out to have a good sense of humour. His presentation began with the slide ''Why a Finn is almost an ideal partner?'' and was accompanied by information about the country's GDP growth in 2017 by 3%, a 15% rise to €60bn, last year's export and several other interesting facts.

''Finland will become an important partner for long – our expectation of life is over 81 years. It means that as we live for so long, we always manage to pay off all debts we have,'' Mikko Hautala noted whose words sunk in a burst of applause in the end.

Then the people present knew the Finns were always ready to go to banya with Tatarstan residents because their country had 3,3m saunas, they also consumed 12 kg of coffee a year and it's always fun to be with them, as the UN recognised them as the happiest country in the world in 2018.

''Finland will become an important partner for long – our expectation of life is over 81 years. It means that as we live for so long, we always manage to pay off all debts we have,'' Mikko Hautala noted

It became known on another slide that Finnish companies invested about €12bn in the Russian economy, and Russians were the biggest group of tourists in Finland.

In Mr Hautala's opinion, Tatarstan's approaches to economic development are similar to that of his country.

''This is why I think we were made for each other. We found each other a long time ago and will work on this path,'' the ambassador noted.

To share successful experience

Then representatives of big Finnish companies that are present in the Tatarstan market gave a speech from the stage. YIT Director Teemu Helppolainen already told about houses built in Kazan and praised the government and the robust competition for helping to develop his business. In the end, the developer who began to erect his facilities as early as 2006 joined Tatarstan culture and pronounced proudly in Tatar: ''Together we can!''

Alabuga Director General Timur Shagaliyev told about advantages of the special economic zone after him. Huhtamaki Foodservice Alabuga PLC is one of its residents. Director of the Finnish company Yevgeny Osipenko shared they produced 19bn paper cups in the SEZ a year.

''It includes egg carton, chocolate. Any package you purchase is likely to be ours,'' Osipenko noted.

The company appeared in Russia in the early 90s. But Soviet people acquainted with their disposable tableware in 1979 at the Spartakiade of Soviet Union peoples and at the Olympic Games the following year. But the tableware was made outside the USSR.

Then representatives of big Finnish companies that are present in the Tatarstan market gave a speech from the stage

The Finnish company heard about Alabuga in the early 2010s from its client.

''Talking with fast service, food service, egg carton operators, we always understand that they expect their suppliers to be near outlets. In one of the events, one of them, McDonald's, announced its plans to construct a big logistic centre in Alabuga Special Economic Zone after their Belaya Dacha salad supplier. For me, it was a sign we certainly needed to try to know the project of the free economic zone,'' Osipenko told.

According to him, it turned out to be easy to do it – after a call to officials, they were appointed a personal manager, and the business began. The construction of the factory started in 2014, and it officially opened in 2015.

''We support you when Ak Bars doesn't play''

Immediately after the official opening, officials of Tatarstan and representatives of Finland together with local enterprises headed to the negotiating table – to know each other better and please each other's hearing with a new portion of pleasant words.

If Finland's ambassador thanked Rustam Minnikhanov for support and assured their businesses appreciated the president's personal attention, the head of the republic found an opportunity to praise Finnish hockey players for a beautiful game. Jokerit team made his compatriots a present one day before the forum and won Ak Bars. The Finns liked Minnikhanov's words ''We support you when Ak Bars doesn't play'' very much, the words were accompanied by applause that's so often heard at the forum.

Immediately after the official opening, officials of Tatarstan and representatives of Finland together with local enterprises headed to the negotiating table

It remains to be seen if Finnish Business Goes Kazan 2018 will give an impetus to the development of business relations of Finland and Tatarstan. Meanwhile, Mikko Hautala fertilises the soil of future business projects with greetings of the president of Finland with whom the Tatarstan president will meet in several months.

''Of course, they're waiting for your visit in December very much. We will work together to make it successful and very fruitful,'' the Finnish ambassador promised.

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By Maria Gorozhaninova. Photo: Oleg Tikhonov
Tatarstan