Interview with the Executive director of the Russia-Singapore Business Council Mr Sergey Pronin
– Sergey! What is meant by the omnitude of the Platform?
– Firstly, omnitude is versatility and multitasking. The Platform is not industry specific. It is not only export-oriented or, on the contrary, import-oriented. Moreover, it can be used as a convenient tool in the country. Secondly, the Platform is glocal. The term glocality, made up by political scientists about the EU, where global trends and universalization are combined with the interests of regions, countries, particular territorial subjects, suits well to the description of the ideology underlying the establishment of our Platform. The functionality of RSTrade allows to watch through the prism of global processes and in country/regional/industrial sections; both from the point of view of the manufacturer and from the point of view of service providers and consumers. Moreover, the Plarform operates in English, Russian, Chinese and Indonesian. Besides the integration of a number of Eastern and Western languages is planned. Thirdly, omnitude, paradoxically, means patriotism. The idea was Russian as well as the development and the design team. We are proud of the country where we were born and work and we hope that our activity will contribute to its development and return to the number of the leading technological states. Fourthly, this also means openness. Openness to new ideas – we are ready to refine something, change something, give up something. Openness is also the openness to cooperation. We are ready to partner up with companies from different countries. We are ready to integrate with the platforms, which, it would seem, should be our competitors. Simply together you can faster and more efficiently solve the emerging difficulties and break through the stone walls of misunderstanding and mistrust. Currently we are negotiating with a range of companies from Russia, Singapore, China and New Zealand on the possibility of integration and the creation of some new products and services. Fifthly, it is an independence. And again, I do not see any contradiction here with the fact that we are open to integration. We are open to cooperation, but to such interaction, where our opinion will be perceived and respected. I hope that in this quality – as equal partners – we will be perceived. And, perhaps, the last one, but not the least – it means a comfort. We hope that our partners feel comfortable working with the Platform and other tools offered. And we love comfort in a relationship. We really enjoy working with a number of service providers and communicate with them as friends, and we also feel ease with each other. In fact, we have two generations. We have such a wonderful youth. As it’s said, they are incomprehensible Ys and Zs, but in fact, excellent, smart, hard-working with new ideas and desire to realize themselves. They all are nearly 20-25 years old – it’s all ahead of them. They are our present and future. The second generation is about forty (I belong to this part of our team). And they are interesting and smart, and they are also experienced, they worked as top managers in major Russian and European corporations, but for some reason they left to join us. In fact, to the startup, to some kind of uncertainty. I think, not least because we feel comfortable together, and we possess the conviction that we will be able to achieve what we aspire to.
– Yes, a good team where everyone trusts each other is extremely important. I’m glad that you have this. And yet, Sergey, I would like to understand how the Platform was in progress, and where did this name come from?
– If you don’t mind, I’ll start with the last part of your question. RS – is acronym from «RussiaSingapore». Initially we thought to develop only this direction, then we realized that via Singapore there is an entrance to Southeast Asia. Afterwards it became clear that Russia is not in itself, it is a part of the Eurasian Economic Union and it turned out that representatives of other regions have an opportunity and interest in using the RSTrade Platform (www. rstradehouse.com – ed.). And how did things develop? Now it seems everything is simple and ordinary. All the experts of the Council met and began to think about how to cope more effectively with the task of expanding foreign trade turnover by weak forces. We thought about and brainstormed (even loudly called this evening a «strategic session»), used up several flip charts and decided that the usage of electronic resources would be the most efficient way. We decided to create the Platform. And immediately not a catalog, but a platform that would include insurance services, the capability to pay in different currencies, legal support services, financial support for sellers and buyers and later we realized a whole lot of other things. In a couple of months, we decided to add more investment passports of the regions, investment projects and a catalog of potential investors. One month later, one of the active members of the Council Interskol company made a request for a reliable supplier, that could produce the same-type products in a large volume of required quality. We helped to find it. But we realized that this can also be automated. This is how the section «contract manufacturing» appeared. Now it unites not only manufacturers and customers, but also scientific and engineering collectives, universities, start-up project teams, designers, companies that provide related services. I hope we can develop it earlier and better than others. In February last year, it was announced on the Board of the Council that we would create the Platform – and we were supported (morally). Already in May 2016, the Platform was presented in Sochi at the major summit «Russia – ASEAN». In November of the same year at the session of the High-Level Russia-Singapore Commission the launch of the Platform was announced, and we were introduced to the Protocol of decisions of this Commission. We began to attract companies and fill the product range and services. Then we presented the Platform at numerous conferences, forums, meetings in Russia and abroad. As a result, by the beginning of September we had about 500 companies, of which 100 were foreign companies. It was planned by the end of the year to increase the number of companies represented on the Platform to 1200-1400. However… in August of the same year within the framework of the EAEU Summit in Astana (Kazakhstan), we signed an agreement on the integration of services with the State Information Industry System operating under the auspices of the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation. As a result of this integration, we had over 93,000 companies on the Platform. We cleared the base slightly, removed the duplications and so on. It turned out that on November 24, 2017 (a year after the launch) 81,360 companies were registered on the RSTrade Platform. This is a very serious basis. Now we need to imagine properly the opportunities of Russian companies abroad. This fact, as well as services, including unique ones, and the Platform itself should become the magnets that attract foreign partners. We believe, that their number should seriously exceed the number of represented domestic companies
– How much does it cost to be placed on the RSTrade Platform?
– Here everything is different. Generally, the registration and placement of some of the goods are free of charge. This applies to all languages and countries. Then there are different options: the additional payment for the number of flypages of goods or the acquisition of a license for the specific types of services or for the whole package. By the way, the first license for the whole set was acquired on August 1, 2017 by the State Corporation Rostec. We are proud that the largest Russian industrial corporation has chosen us. We hope, that our partnership will be mutually beneficial and will prove to be long-term.
– Sergey! And who came up with the Platform, if it, of course, has a certain founding father or a team of authors?
– There are an author and authors. If we talk about the author of the software – is Igor Antonov. We have known each other for a long time as far back the Zhukovsky Air Force Engineering Academy, which we graduated together, although different faculties. Together with his team he created a range of serious Internet sites and shops, wrote software that successfully operating in a number of wellknown companies. As for the content, the functions that needed to be automated, as well as the requirements for the most convenient format – there are a lot of authors of ideas, practically the whole composition of our company. The greatest contribution to this process, probably immodest, but still, was made by me and Andrey Bykov.
– We briefly talked about the history of the Platform. Apparently, the time has come to ask about the prospects for its development.
– If you think that I will present a development schedule chart or, as they say the “road map” for a period of 5-10 years, it is hardly possible. We, of course, realize, that we need to add languages, introduce some certain services, try to automate customs, strengthen or somewhere simply organize advertising for the Platform abroad and others. And we will do embark upon it. But I’m not sure, that these issues will be prioritized. It is impossible to foresee everything. Yes, because the market develops according to its own laws, we should follow the course of events or be half a step ahead. On the other hand, technologies are developing so rapidly that it is impossible to reliably predict in which direction the development will go: either in the direction of narrowing of the specialization, or the technologies of blockchain and big data will form a completely new architecture of the market. For now, no one can even predict whether cryptocurrency will be used on our Platform. And that is great! This creates such a wide window of opportunity that it is now not a window, but a whole gate. What I want also to say is that the digital economy is a driver, but you will not be satisfied with the figure. Well, there are always the first and second levels of Maslow. For us this means that we need to develop both online and offline directions. That is why, in December 2017 we have presented the Overseas Center for promotion of Russian high-tech companies and initiated its work. It is precisely in Singapore. A unique infrastructure for the promotion of goods and services to the global market has been created there. Also that is why we hold the III “RussiaSingapore Business Dialogue”. Innovation companies and investment projects will be presented there. Parties agreed to hold Youth panel of the Forum for the first time. We are looking forward to breathtaking work and we invite all the interested parties from Russia as well as South-East Asia to participate in the event.
Source: magazine Russia Business Guide #36, 11 March 2018, 82-85