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The Adventures of IKEA in Russia

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Lennart DahlgrenIn early spring, the publishing house Alpina Business Book published a book by Lennart Dahlgren, the first general director of IKEA in Russia, “How I Conquered Russia, and She Conquered Me” (translated by Oksana Belaichuk).

Lennart Dahlgren is one of the heroes of the consumer revolution in Russia. Ten years ago there was not a single IKEA store in Russia. Last year in Omsk 12-th has already opened. Dahlgren experienced many adventures in Russia. "You come, sometimes, to work on Monday, look at the clock - it's already Thursday," he recalls. The arrogance of governors and mayors, nitpicking and incompetence of smaller officials, contradictory laws - from such a head anyone will go around. But Dahlgren had in stock a super weapon: the gratitude of millions of buyers, hidden and obvious allies on different floors of the Russian government. Dahlgren returned home in 2006, but his relationship with Russia did not end.

Read excerpts from the book Lennart Dahlgren, the history of formation of IKEA in Russia.

About the Swedish ambassador

I will never forget my first meeting with the Ambassador of Sweden in Russia Sven Hirdman. This is very straightforward person greeted me with the words: "So it's you we have from IKEA. Then explain how you can be such idiots to begin construction without first having understood what is going on here? "

What can I say? The only thing that I could say, "If we knew exactly what was going on, we probably would not be here. It would be a pity, is not it? "

Pro Vice-Governor of the Moscow Region

Second IKEA was to stay in the south of Moscow, and also outside Moscow, on former farmland.

In this regard, we expected a difficult test for humility. Part of the land plot was occupied by "agricultural land", whose status had to be changed to "production land", and this is very difficult. But even worse was the case with the second part of the site, behind which the status of "forest lands" was fixed, the category of which can not be changed. In this process, it is necessary to involve many different committees and departments - altogether 39 instances. After the next resolution, we were told each time that we had to get the last permission. But after that it was found out that the approval of one more department is necessary, and behind it - one more ...

We transferred documents from one instance to another, diligently collecting all the necessary signatures. The culmination (although not the last stage) was the signature of Prime Minister Primakov. Then this paper returned to us, passing through the same offices, only in the reverse order. But we relaxed early, receiving a package of documents. On the site there were still trees growing, which had to be cut down - naturally, having received a special permit for this. Who knew that it would be impossible to obtain permission to cut down trees that grow in the forest, which formally does not exist from now on? Refraining from the estimates, I note: certain differences between Russian and Western logic objectively exist.

How now to get permission to cut down? We did not know. The problem was solved with the filing of the vice-governor of the Moscow Region Mikhail Men, a great lover of sports. Russian branch of IKEA has committed a large donation for the development of children's sport in the Moscow region. After that, cut down trees and start construction, we were allowed.

About chapter Solnechnogorsk district

In order to ensure that our goods stores, a distribution center was needed. We started to look for land for him, and found a good option in 30 kilometers north of our first store in the village Esipovo Solnechnogorsk district.

Popov head of the district has been extremely active man - he was always on the go from one meeting to another, always late, and people from his reception always explained his absence that he had a meeting with the governor. For the first time we met in our office - that in general very uncharacteristic for him. After exchanging greetings on duty, he suddenly said: "Mr. Lennart, I know all about you."

Of course, I asked where. He said that as the time goes by the FSB, where carefully studied my file. I do not doubt that certain information about me there. For a time, we suspected that our phones are tapped. Word for word, I tried to get at least some information from Popov. At first it was limited to common words that can be attributed to anyone. But I insisted: "Tell me at least, that it is said of me bad."

"It highlights the lack of your main. Mr. Lennart, you are very stingy and save beyond measure. "

Do not have time to go Popov, I sat down to write a request to the Federal Security Service to provide an extract from my dossier. I was almost sure that he would not answer, but I could not resist. After some time, our security service call from the FSB to know how seriously to relate to my request. Our security manager approached me to see if I really asked for a statement from the FSB. When I told him everything, he could barely keep his laughter.

about Kazan

Already after the first reconnaissance trip to Kazan, I realized where we will build. The second time I came with a map on which our site was marked.

The meeting with the city administration was excellent - Mayor Kamil Iskhakov and his deputy Rais Mubarakzyanov greeted us with a truly oriental hospitality. They promised to work out a series of questions about the project and get back to us with an answer. No sooner had our return flight to land in Moscow, as we have received confirmation from Kazan: Project implementation is possible, provided that the store will be open to the millennium of Kazan. We promised to catch the appointed time, and immediately outlined the date of laying the first stone and the alleged discovery.

Kazan, of course, was interested in us, but not in the first place. The decision to start with the city was dictated by the heart, rather than rational arguments. We contracted enthusiastic guide, and as soon as the Mayor Kamil appointed his deputy Raisa personally oversee the IKEA project, which, in turn, has been declared a priority, we have given the green light, and the work began.

My wife and I enjoyed to be in Kazan. When we went, always by train. Night train set off from Moscow late in the evening and arrives in Kazan six in the morning. Usually on the platform we met the vice-mayor Rais. He always stood exactly opposite the exit from our car with a huge bouquet of roses for my wife. He was accompanied by dressed in national costumes girls treated us with bread and salt. Rais was always glad when I came to Anna. According to him, it meant that I come to Kazan not only a need, but also in his heart. The way it is.

A year after I first crossed the threshold of the City Hall to tell about themselves, IKEA and a plot of land, which we have chosen, IKEA store opened in Kazan. This is an absolute record, anywhere in the world the discovery did not happen so quickly.

When I think of Kazan, I can not rid himself of the idea that all of Russia would be as active, open and dynamic. No barriers or bureaucracy was not in sight. Why elsewhere officials are doing everything possible to transform Russia into the most attractive country for investment in the world?

about Krasnodar

Initially, the list of priority megacities Krasnodar did not appear to us, but the leadership of the city and the area itself offered to start talks on investment in the region.

On closer inspection, it became clear that the city is really of interest to us. We were offered a very well located site, we immediately agreed to purchase. As usual, the start of trading. But soon we heard rumors that the area is no longer owned by the city. The rumors were true - the city gave land to another owner. We contacted his agent, who, without revealing the name of the owner, called the price five times higher than the one of which we have already agreed with the authorities.

We clearly given to understand the city administration, that such attempts led us by the nose is categorically unacceptable. We have started negotiations with the President of Adygea, an enclave in the composition of the Krasnodar Territory. The line between Krasnodar and little populated Republic of Adygea along the river Kuban. Right in front of Krasnodar, in the territory of Adygea, and we have gained a huge plot of land. Today on this earth is a family shopping center "Mega", the majority of visitors who come from Krasnodar and the surrounding area.

about Putin

I really wanted to [the founder of IKEA] Ingvar Kamprad met with President Vladimir Putin. I thought the two men will certainly find a common language. For Ingvar meeting with Putin, of course, would be the key that would open the door to no one in front of us in the future. Putin probably would also be interesting to meet with well-known and serious businessman who considers Russia a country, a priority for investment.

Ingvar attitude to this idea is not without interest, but not so enthusiastic. However, I managed to convince him to write a letter to Putin in German, which is transmitted to the president. Of course, it was naive to assume that this will work, but we were told that Putin and read it, because it raised issues of an economic nature, handed it to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov. It is possible, however, that this decision was made by someone from the presidential administration.

Learning that our message is "painted" Zhukov, I was upset and thought that should leave these attempts. But Ingvar did not lose optimism to meet with Deputy Prime Minister should fail. I promised to organize this meeting as soon as possible.

Ingvar several times communicated with Zhukov, discussing the situation in the country and the world. The Vice Prime Minister stressed that the Russian government supports IKEA's activities in Russia and is ready to assist in the implementation of our investment program. Ingvar repeated that Russia is a priority country for IKEA. These meetings invariably took place in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Once I was once again among people with whom I could discuss the possibility of a meeting between Kamprad and Putin. One of those present said in Russian that IKEA would hardly want to meet with Putin. I asked why. I do not know if they were serious or joking, but the answer was this: "IKEA is saving on everything, but on our taximeter the meeting with Putin will cost five or ten million dollars, which you will never pay." Instinctively, I felt that, perhaps, it would be better not to develop this topic, and did not answer.

About furniture production

The Russian leadership has repeatedly expressed the wish that IKEA has organized its own production in Russia. In his opinion, it would serve as strong evidence of the seriousness of our intentions. In the early years of our work in this country formally investments in shopping centers were not considered real investments.

Only a small percentage of the purchased products we account for its own production of IKEA. Furniture factories in various countries managed by our industrial group Swedwood. In Russia, the first sawmill was opened in Swedwood 2002 in the Leningrad region with the full support of the regional government. We expected to expand its presence in Russia, in particular, through the purchase of a new fully-equipped manufacturing complex, which was sold at auction.

Swedwood specialists have carefully studied this venture and began to registration applications for participation in the auction. But soon they called the auction administrator confused and said that he will not accept the application. He reluctantly said that he received a call from the Ministry and explained that this company should get some kind of a Russian company that affect this decision is impossible and we can only express deep regret.

In Russia, there is everything that is necessary for successful furniture production. There is an excellent raw materials base, energy resources and skilled labor. There is not enough only one, but very essential detail, without which it is almost impossible to organize profitable furniture production and which Russian officials usually do not attach much importance to. Production needs stability, the ability to build realistic forecasts. Any failures, delays and abrupt changes can bring the business plan to naught. I am sure that this can explain why the Russian furniture industry did not develop as we expected. In any case, for this reason, the leadership of Swedwood's industrial group is very skeptical about the prospects for further business development in Russia.

about Baturin

One case involving Mrs. Baturina, the wife of the Moscow mayor Luzhkov, a well-known, ambitious and prosperous business lady and the richest woman in Russia, did not go out of my mind for a long time. Baturina owns construction companies and a number of other industries, in particular, plants that make furniture from plastic. In one of our meetings with the representatives of this company, which we considered to be a potential supplier, Ms. Baturina suddenly took part. She entered the room in the middle of the conversation and, without introducing herself, stated that if we were going to buy the products of one of its enterprises, then it would have to be done on its terms. These conditions were beyond the reasonable and completely unacceptable. Then we were told that this disagreement played the role of a red rag in our subsequent negotiations with her husband about the construction of IKEA on Kutuzov Avenue. I still can not believe that this could be true.

About the informers from the FSB

One of the surviving remnants of the old Soviet system - a different sort of informers working for the FSB and implemented in all large enterprises. It's part of everyday life, it is everyday and in most cases completely harmless.

During the years of my work in Russia IKEA security service does not just report to me about these people. From the beginning I decided to ignore this phenomenon. I was quite interested to know who we "snitch", and who is not - we are in any case have nothing to hide. If I kept thinking about what, where and who said in his own office, I would simply could not work. On occasion I told this Ingvar, and he agreed that if us someone and implemented, then we do only good. Let everyone know that our intentions are serious and we have nothing to hide.

Based on materials

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