Interview in English

Good afternoon! My name’s Anna Scherbiy. That’s an issue of Faces&Cases podcast
and we’re talking about marketing, PR and business, how it is. Today our guest is
Nikita Keller, CEO of Kellerman agency.
Please, tell us about you agency and the kind of services you provide.
Well, our business is outsourcing the sales function. When the company wishes to
enter new market or to launch a new product they sometimes encounter that this is
related to big risks and large costs, so outsourcing those functions can be beneficial
in terms of speed, costs and reduction of the risks.
So the main purpose of your projects is business development and launching
business on the market. Let’s take your agency as an example. How did you develop
your agency and what were the main reasons to open your business here in Russia?
We started in 2007. We had our first office based in Europe and after the crisis of
2007-2008 we had lots of companies from Europe trying to diversify their markets
and to enter Russia with their products and services and that’s how we started
helping them to launch sales of the products and services in Moscow, Saint
Petersburg and beyond, in other Russian territories. And by doing that we
encountered a lot of Russian companies also willing to launch their new products
and services. And following this demand we established an office here in Moscow
and it’s been growing ever since.
By the way, what should foreigners be ready for when they plan their business here
in order not to lose or not to fail. What are the main challenges for them?
The main challenge of starting business in Russia, I think, is that you need to
evaluate realistically the size of the market and your ability to service that market.
So I think for many small businesses it’s better to eat that pie slice by slice, not
trying to service the whole market from the start, because it can be very expensive
and very risky for the newcomers. And yeah, that’s actually one of the things we do
when we outsource sales functions and we help our customers to service some of
the channels really quickly, especially if we know that business and if we are
connected with the right people. So yes, sometimes outsourcing can be a good way.
And also, as I mentioned previously, focusing on specific niches on the market is
safer than trying to take it all at once.
Could you remember any of the most successful projects in frames of Kellerman
Agency or may be any case from your own experience?
Our most recent success story is related to the Belorussian producer of security
equipment that wished to have sustainable sales in Russia for many years but they
failed to do so. And the reason they failed to do so was that they had an excellent
product, which is very popular on other markets, but they don’t have this product
market fit. It wasn’t designed to fit specific customer needs in Russia. So when they
approached us, fortunately, we already were connected to some of the potential
customers and that allowed us to make a pre-sale to demonstrate the product, to
receive feedback from the market and to help the factory tailor that product and
some of the services that go along with that product to fit the market needs. And
within six months they entered top-five of best selling safety equipment companies
that work in Russia, which is a pretty impressive result.
Well, everyone is talking about successful business, but what is the secret of it, what
do you think?
The secret of successful business… Well, people, of course, as everybody says. But I
think it’s focus. I think it’s focus that makes business successful. Like Google, they
have this super intelligent formula that returns best search results, you know.
Facebook, Instagram... I think, if you take any business, I think it’s about focus. And if
you are trying to enter the Russian market it’s also about focus, because, as I said,
different market segments have different requirements. There’re plenty of market
segments that are underserviced and that lack decent service from the suppliers and
the service providers. So I think, if you look into the market closely enough and if
you do enough research and if you focus, you can create a product that is going to be
very, very successful.
I am interested, may be you know any stories when a small project turned into a big
business or a real company with huge revenue? What were the main reasons to get
such results?
Well, I think Russia is full of success stories when a bunch of investors or office of
startup became big business from a small business in a short time. I think one of the
most recent stories is the story of this international taxi business called GetTaxi,
when they used the existing infrastructure of the cabs and they helped them to get
more clients, to get better clients, by giving them this piece of software that taxi
drivers installed on their mobile devices, and also people who were using cabs could
install on their mobile devices, and by connecting those two audiences via a very
good software product the company grew and is continuing to grow at a very
impressive rate, I think they are making very good money.
Lets discuss a current situation on the Russian market. It’s crisis now, many
companies are shutting down their businesses in Russia. What would you
recommend you for the beginners in such a situation? What should they do? What
should they think about?
Well, I think that crisis is time when one economical cycle goes down but in the
meantime it’s always true that other economic cycle goes up. So there’re falling
markets and there’re rising markets. And I think the best way to avoid crisis in your
own company is trying to diversify your sales channels and look out to the market,
see what other markets and market segments can be interesting for your business,
and reinventing your product, reinventing your sales presentation and opening as
many sales channels as you can. Which, of course, shouldn’t contradict your
contribution to focus. But keeping your eyes up and open on other market segments
is always a good thing, especially during the crisis.
You know that our podcast is called Faces&Cases. We have very tricky question. So
what do you think, do people make really good products and really great cases or
sometimes it’s the cases that make people’s image when everyone finds out about
someone after a great project.
I think I’m sure that people come first. If you approach an investor and you ask for a
bit of money to develop a business start up, the first question he or she is going to
ask you is who is going to be the CEO. So I think people come first. When a new
business emerges, you know, the press, the customers, partners, they always look at
the CEO, they always look at the executive team and who’s in it. And if some people
that are associated with success are in the executive team then it creates belief that
this business is also going to be successful.
Today we were talking with you about very interesting and serious things not just
about business, may be you can remember any funny story from your experience
and you can share it with our listeners. It would be interesting for our listeners.
A funny story from my experience… Well, you know, when we have meetings with
new customers, I or some of my colleagues, we always ask our assistants to do
background check on our peers, on the people we’re going to meet. And those
background checks quite often result in some nasty press about that person being
accused of something and... I mean, sometimes those stories are true but very often
those stories are made up. So yeah, sometimes we’re just joking around with our
colleagues about who’s got to come meet that person, because there’s lots of
negative press regarding investigations and fraud related to that person, but as I
said it’s only, it’s often just partially true. Black PR is popular in Russia.
Nikita, thank you very much for you time, your interesting stories and your advice.
It was a great pleasure for me to meet you here. We wish you good luck.
Thank you.
So good bye.
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