Businessman from the UAE. Interview with Roman Konovalov

    Taken from here ...

    Interview with Roman Konovalov ( Tolyanych ).

    Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up, where did you study?

    I was born in Penza. When I was 6 months old, my parents moved to Estonia, the city of Narva. Then it was one country. In Narva, I grew up and graduated from school.

    In my first year I studied in St. Petersburg, in BSTU (formerly Voenmekh) at the Faculty of Physics and Mechanics, Department of Laser Systems. Then just began the withdrawal of the republics from the Soviet Union. After completing the first year, they called to the dean and offered a choice - either to accept Russian citizenship or transfer to Estonia. As a result, he transferred to Tallinn, where he continued his studies at the Faculty of Informatics.

    Computer education directed the whole course of my activity. All my work is related to IT.

    Mom from the Tver region, dad hails from Leninsk-Kuznetsk. Now they live in Narva.
    Why did you decide to leave Estonia?

    There was a desire not just to leave Estonia, but just to leave to work abroad. Like all my friends, he was planning to leave for America, and even had already begun to prepare documents for departure. In the meantime, he began to look for a new job so that he could gain more versatile experience. Stumbled upon an ad in a newspaper about working as a programmer in Sweden. As a result, he ended up in Sweden. And somehow with America, the idea did not advance any further.

    You lived in Sweden, went on a business trip to India , now you are building a business in the UAE. Which countries still managed to visit, and which were not, but would like to?

    He visited many European countries, often traveled to the States. There was a period of work when for 9 months I had to spend two weeks in Sweden, two in America. I would like to visit Asian countries and Latin American countries.

    Once my classmate said that he wants to visit Australia, look at the kangaroo. Then I thought it was a great idea - someday to go to Australia, we would look at a kangaroo together :). So the list of countries where you want to visit is quite large.

    And meet in Australia with Max Krainov ?

    Why not?! Moreover, he learns to play tennis, it will be possible to hold a friendly match. :)

    How did you manage to get to work in Siemens? Connection?

    Just an ad in a Swedish newspaper. Initially, I worked in Sweden in the IT department of a textile company - we created a new information system for them. After a couple of years, when all the technical solutions were invented, a routine began to add new functionality. It became boring. Then the announcement of recruitment in Siemens caught my eye. At that time I didn’t speak Swedish at all, and I just got on a project in which there were about 5% of Swedes. In our office in Gothenburg there were employees of 9 different nationalities. The language of communication was English.

    You probably know English already perfectly. What other languages ​​can you communicate?

    I can in Swedish. This means that you can communicate with the Norwegians and, in half, with the Danes - Danish is a little more difficult to understand if you know Swedish. Previously, he could also in Estonian. But Estonian has almost forgotten due to the fact that there is no practice. To prevent this from happening with the Swedish, I try to actively communicate with local Swedes and Swedish organizations. Especially from the Swedish business clubs in the UAE there is real support.
    Do foreigners have any special relationship with Russians? How did this manifest in Sweden, India, the UAE?

    There is, and, unfortunately, it is not always positive. Here comes a typical confusion with concepts. If you speak Russian, it means from Russia, forgetting that they speak Russian in Ukraine, Estonia, and Uzbekistan. As a result, any problems associated with Russian speakers are automatically perceived as problems with the Russians.

    In Sweden, sometimes there is a very wary attitude towards Russian speakers, since there are a lot of crime among the Russian-speaking population. The same thing in the UAE - crime, prostitution. If a prostitute speaks Russian, then for locals it automatically means that she is from Russia.

    Nevertheless, both Sweden and the UAE recognize the fact that there are a lot of talented programmers among Russians. Although I do not consider myself a particularly talented programmer, it’s still nice when an equal sign is placed between you and the virtual “Russian talented programmer”.

    I was pleased with the attitude towards the Russians in India - there is traditionally strong cooperation with Russia, since the days of the Soviet Union. I used this fact to establish contacts with our Indian colleagues. If contact is not made in any way at work, you begin to communicate more informally and in one of the conversations you mention that you are not really any Swede, but Russian. Often after that, many things were solved much faster.

    I got the impression that Muslims and Arabs in particular are very conservative people. Is it so? Are women still walking in the burqa and not revealing their faces to strangers? What other traditions do they have that are strange from the point of view of a Russian person?

    In the UAE, there are not many women with closed faces. Mostly, local women wear traditional black clothes and headscarves. Another thing is Saudi Arabia. They will not be allowed into the country if the woman’s head is not covered and their black clothes are not dressed to the toes. There are a lot of women in the burqa, when only the eyes are open or the whole face is closed. Imagine you are sitting at a meeting, and among the interlocutors are women with their faces covered. Emotions are not visible, reactions to your words, too. What does she think about your words? One can only guess.

    What was unusual for me at first was breaks in prayers, even at meetings. You sit, communicate, say, on the subject of sales, and how many percent who will receive, and suddenly the interlocutors apologize and go out into the corridor for prayer. If there is no special room for prayer, then just lay the rugs on the floor and kneel down.
    You have lived among different nations. Is it possible to say that everyone has their own characteristics, their own mentality?

    Of course you can. For example, I really enjoy occasionally sitting in a warm company and drinking cold vodka for the right snack. If I tell my partner an Arab about this, then at least he will not understand me. In Sweden, I took my colleagues to a Russian restaurant several times, it seems that they realized that vodka for borsch or pancakes with caviar is very correct. So the Swedes have not lost everything. :)

    It’s more difficult with Indians - their culture is far from understanding for us. With the Arabs, and especially the Swedes, we are somehow closer, or something. For Indians, even the sign language is different - turning their heads from right to left means “yes” for them, but “no” for us.

    In the UAE, in particular, Dubai attracts many tourists from all over the world, are there many Russians among them? Do they somehow differ in their behavior from other Europeans?

    Russian, or rather Russian-speaking, a lot. A distinctive feature is that people do not particularly bother with English. They just approach the seller or taxi driver, and begin to speak Russian. Moreover, if suddenly an Arab suddenly answers them in Russian, this does not cause any surprise. Reminds that bearded anecdote about the new Russian, who after the first trip abroad was asked if he had problems with the language. He replied: "I didn’t have - they had."

    I have a friend, so he generally knows only a couple of phrases in English. However, this does not cause him any problems or any complexes. Even being the Director General of a diamond processing plant and constantly riding in various African countries where diamonds are mined, he somehow manages to agree on everything with everyone. How he does this is really a mystery to me.
    What can offend the Arab, Indian, Swede?

    An Arab can be offended, and not only - and specifically angered on his own head - by any jokes about religion. Last year, when cartoons about Islam appeared in one of the Danish newspapers, Danish goods instantly disappeared from the shelves. They don’t understand the joke on the topic of religion, and I think it’s not worth joking with this if you want to build long business relations with Arabs.

    Hindu - talking about castes, especially if he is not from a higher caste. Although the caste system in India has been officially abolished, it is still present at the household level.

    How can you offend a Swede? I don’t even know - probably, like all other people. And, the Swedes can be offended by a loss from the Russian national hockey team. :)

    You came to the UAE to open your own business. So, are you the owner of your company or occupy some other role in it? Is the company Swedish at you? How many employees are there, what is its turnover?

    I am a co-owner, and I still have partners who also own part of the company. Yes, it turns out that the company is Swedish - it’s easier to live with it in the Arab world, because for some reason there is more trust in European and American firms than in Arab ones.

    We are a typical startup. We are engaged in the development of software, and its sale. We are not even two years old, and only a few months ago, sales began to feed the company. So there is still a lot of work ahead. The company has only a few people. Two in the Emirates, two in Saudi Arabia and several programmers in Egypt.

    You talked about the problems of outsourcing. Do you hire freelancers from Russia?

    Honestly, before this question I didn’t even think about using freelancers from Russia. If everything goes as planned, then within a year it will be possible to consider this idea more seriously. Nevertheless, I am a supporter that the people with whom you work are in your office. To do this, they need to pay decent salaries and provide decent working conditions - this is expensive, but we strive for this.

    What are the main obstacles to doing business in the UAE?

    The main problem in the Emirates, as I see it now, is that decision-makers came here to quickly cut down money. Therefore, if you offer him some solution that is beneficial in the long run, he is not interested. In a year, maybe he will return home, and he will be in parallel with how his former business partner is doing there.

    What are the main advantages of starting your own business there?

    The main plus is that there are not many difficulties that exist in Europe or the States. For example, what we do is simply impossible in Sweden or America, because this market has been densely occupied long ago, and serious money investments are needed to move everyone with their elbows. And here no one is doing it yet.

    Or another example. Estonia has an excellent parking system. You park, send SMS and specify the limit on money. Went with friends to drink lemonade in a bar. When the limit comes to an end, an SMS reminder arrives to you - and you can add the limit without leaving the bar and without interrupting communication. There is no such thing - so I burned the topic :).

    The absence of taxes is, in my opinion, not a plus, since in fact there are no taxes, but you pay yourself for what you do not pay in Sweden. But, as I wrote recently, the fact itself - the opening of our company in Dubai - was based on our false assumptions that in Sweden there is no opportunity to build a normal business. All this is nonsense, of course - a business can be built anytime, anywhere.

    What gives you blogging? Do you consider a blog as a source of additional profit?

    I started a blog in Russian two years ago when I was on a six-month business trip in India. At first I sent my friends long letters by e-mail about our life there, then I came to the conclusion that it is much easier to tell everything on a blog. After India, I did not write anything there. In May of this year, I started a blog in English - I wanted to record everything that happened and is happening with our business here, because many things began to be forgotten. And then the thought came, why not reanimate the Russian-language blog. In addition, writing a post in English, writing it in Russian - some new thoughts come.

    Speaking some thoughts, it is always interesting to look at the reaction, and discussions. I may be wrong in something, or my experience does not allow me to come to some conclusion that can lead to discussions.

    In general, a blog is a place where you can formulate your thoughts. It is one thing when you think about something, and quite another when you say it out loud or write about it. The thought is polished.

    I do not consider the blog as a source of additional profit. I’m unlikely to put paid links, even if it ever becomes very popular. And to find customers through a blog seems dubious - our product is too specific, besides it is for a specific geographical region.
    What blogs do you read? Do you keep in touch with other bloggers?

    I read Max Krainov , Sergey Kornilov and many other bloggers.

    In general, it is always interesting to know the experience of people who really built their business. Max has such cool articles! I translated a couple of them into English for my colleagues, and soon I will translate a few more - he now writes on topics that are very relevant to us. Same thing with Sergey. When I met him a few years ago in the States, I did not even know what interesting work he was doing.

    How much do you need to get to live in dignity in the UAE? Is there expensive housing and life in general?

    To live from paycheck to paycheck, you need $ 3,000 per month. This is provided that you want to live in an apartment without neighbors in a more or less decent area of ​​Dubai. Having a salary of $ 5,000 - $ 6,000, you can already live perfectly.

    Expensive housing - in an area 30-40 kilometers away from the center, a two-room apartment costs about $ 1,100 per month, plus water and electricity. In a good area, prices start at about $ 2,000 per month for a two-room apartment. There is always an alternative to renting an apartment for a couple with someone, but this option may not be suitable for everyone. When hiring, the employer usually provides housing - but this is unlikely to be a separate apartment, rather a room in an apartment or villa with its own shower and toilet.

    It turns out that there are no taxes - but housing prices eat a good portion of income.

    Do you consider yourself a rich person? Can you afford anything you want?

    No, I don’t think and can’t. The period is now like this - everything that was and is invested in business.

    Tell a funny story from your life in the UAE.

    On the issue of restrictions in the country. Once I met one American, told him what we were doing. Our idea interested him, and we agreed to have lunch together. We had lunch, talked. He mentioned his girlfriend several times. After the meeting, he offered to throw me home, and in the car I joked on the topic: “how is it - here is an Islamic country, and you have not a wife, but a girlfriend”. To which he said: "you know, this is actually not a girlfriend, but a friend - I'm blue."

    I have nothing against the blue ones, but then I really wanted to jump out of the car. Just the first instinctive reaction was this. On the way, I casually said that I was fond of boxing - just in case. Then it turned out that the friend of this American is an Iraqi. As they joke, they compensate for America’s aggressive policy towards Iraq.

    So religion is a religion, and blue people are there too, like prostitutes, and alcohol and drugs - everything, as everywhere else, is only "quiet".

    By the way, this American helped us with several very useful contacts, for which I am very grateful to him. Now we are friends with “families” - he is with his friend, and we are with my wife and child :).

    Do you make far-reaching plans? What are you dreaming about?

    There are two big dreams - to give birth to a few more children and develop the business to the level in order to adequately grow everyone :). Well, that is, I will not give birth myself, of course, but I will trust this honorable duty to my wife, but I’m ready to actively participate!

    Dear readers, if you have any questions for Roman, you can ask them in the comments, or directly on his blog.

    Interviewed by Kopernik.

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