Month: September 2010

Polyominos, corruption and style

I emerged from the Metro this morning, walked towards the office, looked up and right in front of me was… (get this) Domino’s Pizza! In Kyiv!

Now, if you’re from anywhere else in the modern world this isn’t a big deal, but this is Ukraine! This is a country that has, so far, resisted the large-scale universal adoption of global brands. OK, it has some (MacDonalds, Metro Cash & Carry, Marks & Spencers) but not many.

But why not?

Well, I’m sorry to say but it’s not because:
a) Ukrainians value local producers over global mega-brands, or that they (as a society) reject multi-nationals
b) The multi-nationals haven’t been trying
c) Their is no market here for greasy fast-food

The problem is, as it always is in Ukraine, a problem of corruption, of a lack of transparency and accountability. It’s a problem with selective law enforcement and a murky and compromised legal system which exists to support vested local interests. It’s a problem with licensing, bribery and the refusal of the government to return taxes on time (if at all) or to honour contracts. A problem with tax police and the customs officers who can seize your assets and refuse to return them until a large sum has been paid to the fat controller. It’s a problem.

Would Ukrainians like to shop in Ikea? Of course they would. Just like the rest of us they like modern funky designs, high quality and cheap prices. Would Ikea like to embrace a market of 46 million people keen to invest their hard earned Grivna in a Malmo bed? Of course. Are they prepared to bribe regional Governors, buy the ‘correct’ people to get the licences, fund the government in unreturned VAT payments? It seems not. Despite owning land and some manufacturers here in Ukraine, Ikea pulled out of the country earlier this year and for me that’s why it is interesting.

Whatever your views of multi-national companies, it seems that many-many companies are prepared to put transparency and honest business before profit. Or, at least reputation matters and playing by the rules is seen as important. This must be seen as a victory for the numerous campaigns, lobby groups and prosecutors who have fought so hard against anything-goes corporate greed. Ask anyone from Siemens if they’d like to bribe a Russian official in 2010.

I interviewed the German Ambassador to Ukraine on Friday and he said himself – their is a long list of German companies who would happily invest in Ukraine but they won’t do it if civil rights are being curtailed, if there is no transparency and if the government steals your tax returns to fill its budget deficit. More alarming still, there are Germany companies involved in the upgrade of the countries diabolical healthcare system, who have put their projects on hold because the new authorities under President Yanukovych refuse to honour the contracts signed under the previous administration.

Anyway, back to Domino’s Pizza. Initially I thought wow – finally Ukraine is opening up! …but then I looked around and groaned. The huge (and it is HUGE) fascia DOMINOS on a big blue background looks out over one of Kyiv’s oldest and most picturesque squares. It sits uncomfortably squashed under the fantastic national chain of canteen-style eateries Puzata Hata and next to the colourful buildings of the National Bank and, it be honest – its impressively ugly. It does (whatever you think of their pizza) ruin its surroundings. Is it written in the Cyrillic alphabet? No, corporate branding doesn’t allow it. Is it unique, interesting or in anyway keeping with its surroundings? No. Is it really a sign of an opening up of trade and markets? or did they give-in and bribe the right guy? Who knows…

So, why the long rambling post about it? Well, basically because the whole globalization debate is playing itself out here in Ukraine right in front of me. Ukraine desperately needs many of the things we take for granted: better governance, a free and fair trading environment and a great deal more companies who value their staff, their social responsibility and their reputation. Will this enhance the culture here or the look and feel of Ukraine? No way.

Therefore, however large they make their sign – Dommino’s Pizza will never stop me eating at Puzata Hata. I’m happy they’re here but I don’t like their style.

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Polyominos, corruption and style

I emerged from the Metro this morning, walked towards the office, looked up and right in front of me was… (get this) Domino’s Pizza! In Kyiv!

Now, if you’re from anywhere else in the modern world this isn’t a big deal, but this is Ukraine! This is a country that has, so far, resisted the large-scale universal adoption of global brands. OK, it has some (MacDonalds, Metro Cash & Carry, Marks & Spencers) but not many.

But why not?

Well, I’m sorry to say but it’s not because:
a) Ukrainians value local producers over global mega-brands, or that they (as a society) reject multi-nationals
b) The multi-nationals haven’t been trying
c) Their is no market here for greasy fast-food

The problem is, as it always is in Ukraine, a problem of corruption, of a lack of transparency and accountability. It’s a problem with selective law enforcement and a murky and compromised legal system which exists to support vested local interests. It’s a problem with licensing, bribery and the refusal of the government to return taxes on time (if at all) or to honour contracts. A problem with tax police and the customs officers who can seize your assets and refuse to return them until a large sum has been paid to the fat controller. It’s a problem.

Would Ukrainians like to shop in Ikea? Of course they would. Just like the rest of us they like modern funky designs, high quality and cheap prices. Would Ikea like to embrace a market of 46 million people keen to invest their hard earned Grivna in a Malmo bed? Of course. Are they prepared to bribe regional Governors, buy the ‘correct’ people to get the licences, fund the government in unreturned VAT payments? It seems not. Despite owning land and some manufacturers here in Ukraine, Ikea pulled out of the country earlier this year and for me that’s why it is interesting.

Whatever your views of multi-national companies, it seems that many-many companies are prepared to put transparency and honest business before profit. Or, at least reputation matters and playing by the rules is seen as important. This must be seen as a victory for the numerous campaigns, lobby groups and prosecutors who have fought so hard against anything-goes corporate greed. Ask anyone from Siemens if they’d like to bribe a Russian official in 2010.

I interviewed the German Ambassador to Ukraine on Friday and he said himself – their is a long list of German companies who would happily invest in Ukraine but they won’t do it if civil rights are being curtailed, if there is no transparency and if the government steals your tax returns to fill its budget deficit. More alarming still, there are Germany companies involved in the upgrade of the countries diabolical healthcare system, who have put their projects on hold because the new authorities under President Yanukovych refuse to honour the contracts signed under the previous administration.

Anyway, back to Domino’s Pizza. Initially I thought wow – finally Ukraine is opening up! …but then I looked around and groaned. The huge (and it is HUGE) fascia DOMINOS on a big blue background looks out over one of Kyiv’s oldest and most picturesque squares. It sits uncomfortably squashed under the fantastic national chain of canteen-style eateries Puzata Hata and next to the colourful buildings of the National Bank and, it be honest – its impressively ugly. It does (whatever you think of their pizza) ruin its surroundings. Is it written in the Cyrillic alphabet? No, corporate branding doesn’t allow it. Is it unique, interesting or in anyway keeping with its surroundings? No. Is it really a sign of an opening up of trade and markets? or did they give-in and bribe the right guy? Who knows…

So, why the long rambling post about it? Well, basically because the whole globalization debate is playing itself out here in Ukraine right in front of me. Ukraine desperately needs many of the things we take for granted: better governance, a free and fair trading environment and a great deal more companies who value their staff, their social responsibility and their reputation. Will this enhance the culture here or the look and feel of Ukraine? No way.

Therefore, however large they make their sign – Dommino’s Pizza will never stop me eating at Puzata Hata. I’m happy they’re here but I don’t like their style.

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Surprising surprises…

I attended a presentation at work on Tuesday on ‘Road Safety’ which was given by a guy from the Dutch road safety group VVD. (the full name is impossibly unpronounceable)

By all accounts the statistics he presented were shocking and with 215 yearly road deaths (per 1 million residences), Ukraine looses an astonishing 36 children under the age of 14 PER WEEK to road accidents.

Social attitudes, poor infrastructure and even poorer law enforcement all exasperate the situation but they cannot be excused, this is a tragic number of deaths

However, what surprised me the most about the meeting was the seemingly genuine shock and surprise with which everyone reacted to the educational videos that were shown at the end.

If you’re less than 35 and from ‘Western’ Europe, you’ll have grown up with these videos, and the chances are you’ll know damn-well the consequences on not wearing a seatbelt, even in the back. However, it seems that this was genuinely surprising stuff here in Ukraine and the intentionally shocking ads were met with gasps of surprise and looks of genuine concern.

Now, its possible that this was all Ukrainian theatre and a culturally specific sign off appreciation for the guest-speaker, but I got the feeling that people were genuinely facing some uncomfortable facts for the first time (e.g. if you don’t strap your baby in, he may fly head-first through the front windscreen when you hit a bus because you’re talking to Mama on the phone, eating, smoking and driving at the same time)

I have to admit that, my first reaction was ‘Are you serious? I mean, it’s a no-brainer. Everyone knows this!’ right? Well, not really. If we look a little deeper at the statistics, we can see that not long ago us ‘Westerners’ were also pretty-damn ignorant to these facts. Road deaths per 1 million in the Netherlands in 1972 stood at a ridiculous 3,264! It’s all too easy to forget that what we now know and take for granted – we also had to learn.

With the right level of support and a committed public education campaign, social attitudes really can be changed and lives can be saved. The speaker highlighted three Es (Engineering, Enforcement and Education) and the facts speak for themselves – these things work. Mentalities (Ukrainian or not) can be changed. Attitudes to smoking (especially the smoking ban), the use of mobile-phones in cars etc are all good examples of this. What’s more, I really believe that public education fills gaps which is otherwise filled by rumour, superstition or worse, profit seeking enterprises. The contrast between the UK and Ukrainian reactions to Swine-Flu highlights this perfectly…

If this is to be called the ‘Nanny State’ so be it, but whatever your views on her – Nanny is clearly saving lives and Nanny has a lot of work to do in Ukraine.

Also, whilst we’re on the topic, Willard Marketing who publish a monthly marketing magazine in Ukraine also raised this subject recently and linked to the following video:

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Surprising surprises…

I attended a presentation at work on Tuesday on ‘Road Safety’ which was given by a guy from the Dutch road safety group VVD. (the full name is impossibly unpronounceable)

By all accounts the statistics he presented were shocking and with 215 yearly road deaths (per 1 million residences), Ukraine looses an astonishing 36 children under the age of 14 PER WEEK to road accidents.

Social attitudes, poor infrastructure and even poorer law enforcement all exasperate the situation but they cannot be excused, this is a tragic number of deaths

However, what surprised me the most about the meeting was the seemingly genuine shock and surprise with which everyone reacted to the educational videos that were shown at the end.

If you’re less than 35 and from ‘Western’ Europe, you’ll have grown up with these videos, and the chances are you’ll know damn-well the consequences on not wearing a seatbelt, even in the back. However, it seems that this was genuinely surprising stuff here in Ukraine and the intentionally shocking ads were met with gasps of surprise and looks of genuine concern.

Now, its possible that this was all Ukrainian theatre and a culturally specific sign off appreciation for the guest-speaker, but I got the feeling that people were genuinely facing some uncomfortable facts for the first time (e.g. if you don’t strap your baby in, he may fly head-first through the front windscreen when you hit a bus because you’re talking to Mama on the phone, eating, smoking and driving at the same time)

I have to admit that, my first reaction was ‘Are you serious? I mean, it’s a no-brainer. Everyone knows this!’ right? Well, not really. If we look a little deeper at the statistics, we can see that not long ago us ‘Westerners’ were also pretty-damn ignorant to these facts. Road deaths per 1 million in the Netherlands in 1972 stood at a ridiculous 3,264! It’s all too easy to forget that what we now know and take for granted – we also had to learn.

With the right level of support and a committed public education campaign, social attitudes really can be changed and lives can be saved. The speaker highlighted three Es (Engineering, Enforcement and Education) and the facts speak for themselves – these things work. Mentalities (Ukrainian or not) can be changed. Attitudes to smoking (especially the smoking ban), the use of mobile-phones in cars etc are all good examples of this. What’s more, I really believe that public education fills gaps which is otherwise filled by rumour, superstition or worse, profit seeking enterprises. The contrast between the UK and Ukrainian reactions to Swine-Flu highlights this perfectly…

If this is to be called the ‘Nanny State’ so be it, but whatever your views on her – Nanny is clearly saving lives and Nanny has a lot of work to do in Ukraine.

Also, whilst we’re on the topic, Willard Marketing who publish a monthly marketing magazine in Ukraine also raised this subject recently and linked to the following video:

Posted from: www.bearder.com

Hello Modern World!

Like an electronic larva or a blog-like cyber-caterpillar, the mighty Bearder.com has just been reborn …and this time, it’s for real!

I decided that, after a year of neglect and six months of almost absence – it was time for a change. And here it is in all of it’s modern butterfly-like wonder.

So, if anyone still cares – I’ll be back soon with news.

Eddy

Posted from: www.bearder.com

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