What do you know about IT market of the world’s largest country?
Russia covers more than one-eighth of the Earth’s inhabited landmass. The country spans nine time-zones, owns the world’s largest reserves of mineral and energy resources, and has more forests, lakes and nuclear warheads than anyone else.
Being one of the world’s fastest growing major economies, the country’s IT market is rapidly growing too. In the past five years, Russian companies have satisfied domestic demand, and are slowly expanding into Europe, and the UK. Are you prepared?
The Russians are coming
Russia has more unique visitors online than any other country in Europe. According to Boston Consulting Group, the Internet contributed to 1.9 percent of its GDP in 2010, and this number is expected to grow by up to 2.8 percent by 2016, as the number of Russians online reaches 100 million.
Much like China, Russia has its own companies filling the shoes of global IT brands: instead of Google, it has Yandex, instead of Facebook there’s Vkontakte, and instead of eBay, Russian’s sell stuff online using Molotok.
Russia has no “Great Firewall” like China: Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are not banned. However, companies that want to enter this market would do well to study the local mentality.
A classic example of the Russian approach to IT is manifested through the Skolkovo innovation centre. Before Skolkovo, the government lacked any coherent strategy as to how to move the country away from its communist past and into the digital century.
The centre aspires to create an R&D environment akin to California’s Silicon Valley, but with a twist: it leverages generous, even wasteful state sponsorships, tax exemptions and a special legal status for participating companies.
The Skolkovo project was launched by President Dmitry Medvedev in November 2009. It was designed to stop the brightest minds from leaving to work abroad, to modernise the economy of the country, and decrease its dependence on oil and gas. By now, the Skolkovo Foundation has given away 9 billion roubles (£196 million) in grants, recruited three Nobel Prize laureates, and signed-up over 184 start-ups.
This being Russia, corrupt officials are never too far away: just last week, Skolkovo Foundation made public the plans to audit every single resident company, after two managers were accused of misappropriating around 24 million roubles (£514,000).
Skolkovo is the perfect illustration of the state of the Russian IT industry – its over-the-top approach and innovative thinking, supported by tons of money, but also its unpredictability, made worse by frequent failures of the state.
So what do you know about Russian IT?
And if you like it, try some of the others.