RELARN 2012: From Russia, With Love, Yandex Metrika and the Eastern European (Web) Ways

We were invited by our business partner, RU-center (the GoDaddy of Russia), to come to Russia and attend the RELARN Volga river cruise, where we would sail to five different cities and give a presentation to end-customers in each city. Armed with the knowledge of Wikipedia’s description of Russia and a great .Me PowerPoint presentation for Russian end-customers, we sailed off.

What we did not expect was to learn quite so much about doing business in Eastern Europe. My first presentation was in Cheboksary, in front of some 40 people that came to the boat. Somewhere in the middle of my “.me in Russia” presentation, translated by the wonderful Sergey (thank you, Sergey!), it came to me that I don’t really understand the market, despite the similar culture and my understanding of their technical expertise. I realized that I would never be able to see the web through their eyes.

Do You Use Yandex Metrika?

These people follow Yandex Metrika as well as Google Analytics. The conclusion was unsurprising: If you want your web project to be successful in Russia, you have to know how their system works, and you simply have to know how to present yourselves in Russian way.

Natasa giving a lecture in Russia (Photo by Masa Djikanovic)

Unfortunately, many Western companies cannot understand the market outside of their own country. Think about it. Do you really know how to enter a foreign market and understand its differences, both cultural and business related? How many big businesses just entered certain markets by copying the same business model they had in some other country, and consequently, failed?

How many big brands and companies think about Russia, and not India or China, as having potential for spreading their market? I know that many big companies entered Russia and already have their market share. But how many of them did thorough research beforehand on the kind of cultural differences that can influence their business? In terms of web sites and web services, why is Yandex (Russian Google) so big and important in Russia? I didn’t even check to see what it looks like before this journey.

Tweeting from the ship on the Volga (Photo by Masa Djikanovic)

Among all the vast differences, you always find certain similarities. The most obvious are the technical – fighting with spam and viruses, IPv6, DNSSEC and IDNs, the understanding of the domains and websites, even marketing. Russia has the same concept of technical and entrepreneurial progress, but somehow an even stronger concept of how the progress should be led, which is why this market has such promising potential.

And while I was struggling to get the internet connection somewhere in the middle of Volga, I figured out that if we want to be strong on Russian market, we have to understand this potential – the huge number of people walking the same steps of startups and entrepreneurship as in the West, and the different but also similar tools they are using.

As tourists, we wanted to see Moscow’s Red Square, taste the Bosco café cookies in the GUM, pass by the newly restored Bolshoi Theater, check out Nizhny Novgorod – once Russia’s biggest trading place and the city of Sakharov’s exile, visit Cheboksary, the town whose name I long fought to pronounce and whose different culture and language strikes even Russian-speaking people, step in Lenin’s birth house in Ulyanovsk, and see Tolyatti and their big military-technical museum and hidden submarines (for which most of the engineers I know would envy me), and in the end – see Kazan, with a mosque and church hand in hand ruling in the capitol of the republic of Tatarstan. But we perhaps came back with an even more valuable – if unexpected – experience. 🙂

An old school Russian tractor (Photo by Masa Djikanovic)

Get to Know Russia.. and Other Markets

If any company is going to enter the market and grow their market share, they would need to accept the different concepts, the gaps created by history, by empires and Bolsheviks, the rich and the poor. They need time away from tourist attractions and with ordinary people, to dance in the disco to Russian music and to be amazed by how much they didn’t know in the first place. Or they can just have a great business partner who will help them get into the world of Russia. 🙂


Natasa Djukanovic

Natasa Djukanovic is Chief Marketing Officer of .ME Registry. Her interests include domain industry development, Internet governance, and virtual brand-building. Natasa is an occasional speaker at domain conferences and she was featured in Financial Times Business Diary.

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