Aleksey Chudinov

We talked to Aleksey Chudinov, the founder of the «Interactive» international agency, Chairman of the International Relations Committee of «Opora of Russia» in the Sverdlovsk Region, and asked him to give us some insights into prerequisites to entering the global markets and potential of the payment technology SoftPos.

Aleksey, tell us about your recent projects. Who do you lend support to in establishing cross-cultural relations?

As for the remarkable events, I can recall the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships held in Yekaterinburg. Our interpreter team was working in the 24/7-available format for almost a month. We escorted both regular sportsmen and top-chart stars as Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr., and Roberto Durán. Our specialists were interpreters at summit-level meetings, including events that featured the Governor of the Sverdlovsk Region Evgeny Kuyvashev, the President of the Boxing Federation of Russia Umar Kremlyov, and other public figures. To say that was an interesting project is to say nothing. Such periods induce a burst of motivation to hone interpreting and managerial skills.

Since 2016, we organize interpretations at Innoprom exhibitions. At one of Russia-China EXPOs, we gathered around 50 interpreters to escort the Chinese delegation. That is a fairly high number of specialists for the Ural region. Most of them were Russian specialists, but the team also included Chinese students who study Russian. I must admit their Russian was good. Perseverance and profound knowledge of the vocabulary, subjects, topics, and basics of business communications are the factors that secure success. To support apprentices (that we engage in case of lack of experienced interpreters), we provided them with curators that were there to help at any moment.

For a few years, we have been cooperating with Maksim Bornovolokov from MST Company: we translate payment system-related articles, texts, and documents into English. Oftentimes we have requests from abroad, which suggests that foreign entrepreneurs are interested in MST solutions, including SoftPos, an application that can turn your smartphone into an Internet-connected cash register. Recently, we aided in holding a conference call, dedicated to that solution, with South Africa and Nigeria. We are happy to see our translations do attract foreign partners and customers.

We engage native speakers in preparing translations, thus we can guarantee that all our texts are authentic, comprehensive, and culture-tailored. Starting from spring 2020, our written translations became focused on IT projects (website, software, and application localization). People realized that if they want to not just stay afloat but grow, evolve, and develop, the best thing they can do is to go online. We regularly receive requests on translations into Chinese, Hindi, Arabian, German, Portuguese, Spanish, and—certainly—English.

Why do you think emerging nations are more interested in innovative payment technology?

I think every country is fairly interested. Apparently, the European market is both highly competitive in terms of innovative technology and conservative—Germany and Switzerland in particular. Emerging countries are more flexible in this regard, inclined to welcome and consider various proposals. User mobilization (growth in the number of smartphone users) results in the need for services that make the payment process easier. This leads to an interest in looming financial technology that is developed in Russia. On top of that, they are very cost-friendly, which helps them stand out from the competition.

By the way, you profess at the university. How do you manage to find the balance between tutorship and agency work?

I professed from 2013 to 2018 at the Ural Federal University but then left my alma mater. My personal goal of professing was to tell about the practical side of international relations and economic activity. I shared my experience in logistics, international economic activity, and sales with my students. Also, I tried to tune up for what they will need in their professional life and what is demanded in the labor market.

During my lectures, I told the students about how the European Union and local politics evolved. In a bid to blend theory and practice, I offered practice-oriented thesis subjects that were based on where my mentees would like to work. As an outcome, some moved to a country they had dreamed of, some work at a company where they had been an intern.

How has the coronacrisis affected how companies market internationally?

Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 situation has a severe impact on the international industry. Specifically, the volume of written translations reduced by 40-50% in March, while interpreting got out of the game completely. But, people adapted to the new environment and began to organize conference calls in April. At that time, we started receiving website and app localization and newsletter adaptation requests. For example, we are currently translating materials into German, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, and Kazakh for a major Russian hookah tobacco and accessories manufacturer.

Leveraging our translations of articles, newsletters, and presentations, entrepreneurs can explore global markets.

Speaking of the activity abroad, I must admit that the coronavirus outbreak negatively affected the purchasing power, caused shipment delays. All that took its toll on enterprises. We will see the ultimate outcome of this situation in late fall—when businesses will reduce staff in light of a decline in sales and other detrimental factors.

Obviously enough, international communication technologies will gain traction, including conference calls featuring professional negotiators possessing flawless language skills.

How do you see the future of translations?

We use a variety of translation software as Trados, Memsource, and ABBYY FineReader. All these programs streamline our workflow, automate routine, making written translations faster and better in quality. Translators and editors also use accumulated translation memories and glossaries, as well as last-gen spellcheckers.

I think machine translations will proliferate over the next 5-7 years, leaving bulk of translations fully automated. For the last few years, machine translation quality has grown so significantly that some texts can be handled by a computer, only to be subject to slight post-editing. Some of our customers follow this method: they translate a text with Google Translate first, and then resort to us to have us edit their pre-translated material. However, some texts require full-featured localization, as the machine translation may look, sound, or read clumsy or non-native—and thus require refining by a native speaker or experienced editor.

How else do you help enterprises jump into new markets?

We seek partners and products. For one, we found spice manufacturers in Turkey, fabric makers in Italy, and equipment producers in China. We help foreign partners find Russian colleagues: By doing this, we can gain a better understanding of how the market develops and transforms, and frame the workflow for international relations specialists and translators.

During the lockdown, we helped look for masks and unwoven materials in and beyond Russia. In that period, various related businesses (ateliers, clothing factories, etc.) restructured for making personal protection masks; for most, that was the only way to survive. For example, a friend of mine used to be the best-in-town event manager, but had to switch his specialty to producing face shields, and that transitions saved him from bankruptcy. This can be called a case of bona fide entrepreneurship.

As for seeking products or customers, we don’t try to catch all fish in the sea, be a sleeky intermediary, or come up with other ruses. Instead, we provide a direct supplier and transparent pricing and contact information, all for the pre-arranged one-time fee.

What resources do you employ when seeking foreign contacts?

We use several sources. For example, as a member of Opora Russia in the Urals and heading the International Relations Committee, we cooperate with our representatives abroad. As the Chairman, I’m concerned with establishing contact between experienced and new exporters to exchange expertise and connections.

We seek information through foreign partners and use our translators’ connections in China, US, Czechia, and Turkey, Without abandoning long-standing relations, including commercial companies and colleagues’ contacts. If we deal with unique requests, we make use of social media and open sources and appeal to Russian trade representatives and consulates. But our most reliable and fruitful instrument is searching on our own. Turning to the definitive, crucial skills in this profession, those are maintaining connections and networking. At the very dawn of your career, make sure to form a pool of valuable contacts that will help you solve any problem, shortly.

Did you do product research? Please share your experience.

We assisted with looking for a foreign contractor to form a product line of tea varieties to be exported to the Middle East. However, we do not carry out such studies on our own.

Here’s how we work: we solicit specialists in the country where we are going to launch our product. We do it because Russian companies are inclined to skim through the sources that cannot provide a holistic picture. How on earth could a Russia-based firm gather a focus group in Iran or Afghanistan? So we only can guess if their data are credible.

Surely, we cooperate with Russian agencies on Russian projects. But, when the goal is entering global markets, we recommend engaging foreign colleagues who know their markets better. Thus, we involve distributors who are well aware of the product lines and what customers really need, or a major commercial company that has been operating in the target region a great while, or a consulting agency that will carry our a dependable and cost-efficient study.

There is a risk that you will find yourself wallowing in facts and details, and feel that nobody wants your product (but in fact, everybody does). It’s virtually impossible to assess research quality objectively; you either trust it or not. Anyway, you have to gain certain insights.

When you promote a product, a good option is to find a partner and send them a trial batch so they can assess your product’s potential personally. You can hold a free tasting at a trade show: give away samples, talk to the locals, get new connections. If the public likes your product, you won’t be put aside. Or, if your product failed to impress people, make sure you ask what to improve or change—for instance, packaging, taste, or ingredients. It all depends on your desire, I mean, how motivated you are to go the whole way and achieve the result that will please you.

What are the industries or areas in which Russia is currently underperforming?

Russia has a generally poor global presence, only holding a tiny 3 percent of the international trade volume, most by virtue of exporting gas, oil, metals, and fertilizers. You can check out a study on the website of the Russian Foreign Trade Academy.

In this regard, Russia sees very little export in such fields as technology, agriculture, machine engineering, and IT.

With that, there are rich growth opportunities and thousands of great specialists who didn’t emigrate and create globally-demanded products.

Is there any kind of checklist of things to keep in mind when entering foreign markets?

1. Decide for yourself whether you are ready and geared up to go global.

  • What production scaling facilities do you possess? Global work is about large supply. For instance, China often requires supply volumes of hundreds of thousands of metric tons. Are you ready to invest in ramping up your business or will you resort to a sponsor?
  • Can you quickly solicit specialists to conquer a new line of business? Do you have enough funds to hire new employees?

If your business is services, you will need representatives with brilliant language skills as they will process requests and be the face of your company. Mind you, it’s way easier for service providers to enter the global market, if we speak of costs.

Start with devoting funds and efforts. Open an international bank account, prepare essential documentation, translate your resources. Be financially and mentally ready that costs will hugely prevail over incomes at first.

2. Evaluate demand, pick markets to come to.

Study the planet’s greatest markets, the US with 333 million citizens, the European Union with 447 million people, and China with almost 1.5 billion people. Leverage this potential!

  • Scrutinize studies of your niche for specific regions on the website of the Russian Export Center. There, you can select a region, find partners, insure your products, or get any other advisory support.
  • Resort to local export support funds that lend free help and assistance with export matters.
  • Publish information about your company on a European B2B platform.
  • Publish your company profile on Alibaba or similar trade platforms. Such services are usually paid.
  • Contact exporters from your region who are already concerned with international activities. They can share connections, experience, and practices.
  • If possible, seek consulting companies that aid businesses in establishing and streamlining export processes.
  • We can help in this field as well.

Most got stuck at this stage as they face a pile of things to do. But, the global market means vast, international opportunities. If you manage to work out your activities thoroughly, you will be awarded skyrocketed profit and create new jobs. As a result, specialists with language skills will be demanded, and students will be able to intern and improve their competences.

You use JoinPAY in settlements. Tell us what you like about it.

My favorite features of JoinPAY is invoicing by bank card and Russian Fast Payment System. We ask a customer what bank they are with. Of the bank is connected to the Fast Payment System, we just send the QR code via which they can pay, and thus we pay twice as low fees.

What are SoftPos’s global prosperity perspectives?

Applications like SoftPos drive the future. What Maksim and his team do is remarkable, especially for Russia. The best evidence is tons of requests from foreign companies.

SoftPos simplifies finance management and somewhat gamifies the process. It allows us to accept, track, and perform transfers, in real time. Such a workflow is very user-friendly and helps save lots of time and efforts.

I seek—and negotiate with—foreign customers. I’m ready to do my best to help this app grow.

We also employ MST hosting, which has our website run smoothly. Our plans include website modernization, promotion, and integration with social media; we rely on Maksim’s company in this context. I recommend MST because the founder is a reliable and dependable person, appealing both as a partner and a friend. Modern companies appreciate mutual respect. People that feel needed and respected always go the extra mile and establish partnership on a win-win basis.

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