Projects in St.Petersburg require 50 times more work
When we decided to expand into St. Petersburg, our aim was to offer companies a business environment which is as reliable and effortless as it is in Finland. We have grown used to the facilities being in order and services running. There has been a lot of work, as things are done differently in St. Petersburg than in Finland.
When a company wants to locate in our neighboring country, they face various challenges. We have succeeded in implementing our own concept in spite of the Russian cultural differences, and we are working hard so that our customers can focus on their own business. Usually, most of the resources and working hours of companies’ personnel is spent arranging basic matters and maintaining the conditions. It is a tremendous benefit that we have arranged all of this on behalf of our customers. Actually, we have five times as many employees at the St. Petersburg office compared to other regions.
A lot of work to deploy Technopolis concept
Starting a new construction phase and construction in St. Petersburg requires 50 times more work compared to Finland. Permits, planning, building supervision, and acceptance inspections take a lot of time.
When we started up the construction of the first phase in St. Petersburg in 2008, Pöyry and a local designer and building contractor were involved in the project. Our partners were more familiar with local practices and were able to solve the problems we faced with building permits, electricity, and road connection.
The standards of the Technopolis concept were a challenge, and we saw much effort in having everything realized. The economic situation was also difficult at the time, and other foreign investors left Russia, but our focus was on the longer term. The second phase went much better, and we also had Finnish partners involved in it, Lemminkäinen and Pöyry.
Usually before commencing a construction project we require a certain pre-occupancy rate, but in Russia one must act differently. Russian companies want to see the building ready, it must be accepted for use and registered before they dare sign the lease. Many projects have been unfinished or delayed, which has made companies cautious.
Concrete walls and not much more in office space
The physical and technical quality of office space varies considerably. Rentable space may consist of mere concrete walls without electric power, data connections, or any other required services.
The relationship between the lessor and the lessee can be strange. In case of a dispute, the lessor can prevent electric supply, heating, or elevators from working. Companies already aim to protect themselves against such cases in the lease phase. Some larger companies even resort to having their own electric supply, as power might not be available from the wall sockets.
Russian companies want impressive premises. They usually decorate and design their offices to suit Russian taste. However, it was a surprise to us that almost all companies liked our Scandinavian style and the materials and colors chosen by us.
Location and safety are particularly important
Because traffic and congestion are major problems in St. Petersburg, it is important to pay particular attention to the location. Being located in the city center is challenging from the point of view of traffic connections, and at some sites the environment is not as it should be in a business environment. Also, you cannot be certain about your neighbors.
Safety is one thing to which Russians pay particular attention. They are afraid for their property. It is customary for companies to ensure that their safety arrangements, such as guarding services and alarm systems are in good order. Also, fire safety is not taken for granted.
We have paid particular attention to the location and safety of Technopolis. Our Pulkovo campus is located next to the airport, at the crossing of the ring road and highway, and a train service to the city center is also on its way there.
Reception service, restaurant and meeting spaces cannot be taken for granted
For us, reception services are the most important customer contact where they receive personal service and that provides an easy channel for taking care of everything. In several other places, there are security guards in the lobby whose sole purpose is to check access rights.
In Russian culture, it is customary to prepare food in the company’s own kitchen and eat in the company’s lunch premises. Self-service culture is strange to them, and all meals are portioned in advance at our restaurant. Our customers have met our restaurant services favorably, and they have been satisfied with the traditional Russian and international dishes available. I have seen large Business Centers with just a small lobby cafeteria. Shared facilities, such as meeting services and in particular, videoconferencing facilities, are not available elsewhere.
I had my first experience with Russia in 1993 when I took part in a major construction project in Moscow. During this time, I have seen several crises and difficult periods in Russia, but we have always survived them. And I believe that this will also happen with regard to the current situation.
Director, Real Estate and Services Operations