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Tamaz Mchedlidze by CoolBrands

Meeting Tamaz Mchedlidze in Saint Petersburg

I’m on my way to meet Tamaz Mchedlidze, the owner of the prestigious MEDI clinics in St. Petersburg. Tamaz has asked me to meet him at his largest clinic on Nevsky Prospekt, which is housed in a classic building that has been fully refurbished and modernized inside.

At the clinic, an assistant shows me to a meeting room on the top floor with panoramic views over the city. After a few minutes Tamaz enters in a doctor’s white coat, apologizing profusely for making me wait.

As the assistant serves tea, I ask Tamaz when he opened his first clinic. “MEDI is my baby,” he says with a warm smile. “I have been working on these clinics for many years. The first clinic was tiny and opened 22 years ago. I spent all my energy and money to expand and improve the concept and soon we had moved from a small dental practice to a chain of 19 high-end medical clinics in St. Petersburg and Moscow operated by a team of qualified professionals.”

“Amazing! What areas do you work in?”

“We offer a full range of treatments and specializations from dentistry to family medicine and plastic surgeries… More importantly, we are constantly striving to work with the most advanced equipment. MEDI is one of the few medical institutions in Russia that works with an international standard quality certificate.  I am really proud that the MEDI clinics have become a recognized brand in Russia.”

“So what motivated you to study medicine?”

“I think it’s in my blood,” Tamaz says with a smile. “My great-grandmother was a herbal doctor, so I think my desire to help people and make them healthy and beautiful comes from there. It was my brother who said I should become a dentist or a plastic surgeon because I like to see fast, visible change. He was right. But I also wanted to take a different approach to healthcare, to make sure all patients received proper attention.”

“That must have been very challenging back then! Do you still use this approach?”

“Yes, every patient in clinics is treated as a relative or a close friend, with all the care and consideration they deserve. All my employees work such way.”

Tamaz showing me the pictures of new project

“I also heard you were working on project in Georgia. Can you tell me about that?”

“Yes of course! I’m developing an advanced health center in a beautiful location in the mountains with mineral springs, mud baths, fresh air and healthy food,” he says with a smile.

“Sounds like the perfect place to get away from the daily stress of modern life!”

“Exactly! That’s the idea I want to convey to people: that you need to learn to have a good rest.”

“I live in Europe and I see how medicine there is different from what I am used to. Do you see the difference?” I ask.

“Definitely!” says Tamaz. “In Europe medicine is a science and in Russia it is an art. My goal is to combine those two philosophies into one. And I hope that one day MEDI will gain an international reputation for medical excellence.”

Tamaz Mchedlidze by CoolBrands

Tamaz Mchedlidze by CoolBrands

By Ekaterina Rogova for Cool Brands

© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

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Tags: 80 brands, around the world in 80 brands, Around the world in 80 days, Brands with a purpose, CoolBrands Storytelling, third party storytelling, Global Storytelling Campaign, Katerina Rogova, Russia, Russian Brands, storytelling, MEDI, Tamaz, Tamaz Mchedlidze, medicine, healthy life.

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Meeting Vladimir Kirillov

Meeting Vladimir Kirillov in St. Petersburg

meeting Vladimir Kirillov

“Come in!” says Vladimir as he welcomes us into his spacious office that offers sweeping views over St. Petersburg’s rooftops. “Wow!” says Maarten as he heads over to the full-length windows. “Talk about being on top of the world!”

Katya and I join him and try to spot some of the city’s landmarks. Vladimir comes to stand next to us and points out a sharp golden spire rising up on the banks of the Neva. “The Peter and Paul Fortress,” he says, “the citadel of St. Petersburg that was built by Peter the Great when he established the city in the early 1700s. For me this represents important aspects of Russia’s rich history.”

“In what way?” I ask.

“Peter the Great had real vision,” says Vladimir. “He wanted Russia to develop its trade links with maritime nations and the construction of St. Petersburg as a seaport was key to that. It allowed Russia to strengthen its role on the international stage.”

“Interesting… so how do you see that role today?” Maarten asks.

“I think our position may have weakened, but we can reclaim our strategic role,” Vladimir says. “In the Soviet era, we were strongly inward-looking. During Perestroika, we were oriented towards the U.S. Since then, our focus has concentrated more on Europe. And I think we have now reached the point where we should rise above all this – take a helicopter view.”

“Well it looks like you’re well positioned to do that from here, that’s for sure,” says Maarten.

View over St. Petersburg

View over St. Petersburg

Vladimir laughs. “I guess you’re right – this office definitely offers perspective… You know, Russia has changed very rapidly and fundamentally over the last 20 years. For some, it was even too rapid. But if you look at the big picture there are all sorts of opportunities for the future.”

“Which you can spot better if you have taken the helicopter view presumably,” says Maarten.

“Exactly,” says Vladimir. “Geographically we have a very strategic position between Europe and Asia. And we are also a multicultural country, a meeting point between east and west… We are ideally positioned to bridge the gaps between cultures and this is key. If we embraced this role, it could drastically change our position and image in the international arena. I think it would positively influence the way in which countries perceive us. And that is exactly what we need and what this generation and the generation after us is ready for.”

I open up my iPad and start taking notes: “Russia as a bridge between Europe and Asia,” I write.

“We need more openness, cooperation and communication with the rest of the world. We have to position ourselves economically and politically for this bridge function.”

“And what about your company?” asks Maarten. “The investment fund?”

“Well actually now that you mention it, our company is a good example: we are both Russian and international, which enhances trust, local knowledge and, therefore, success.

Meeting Vladimir Kirillov in St. Petersburg

Meeting Vladimir Kirillov in St. Petersburg

“And what about your client base, the investors?” I ask. “Are they mainly European?”

“Until recently, yes: our clients were mainly Europeans who wanted to invest in Russia,” says Vladimir. “But we are noticing a gradual shift, with more and more investors from South America, India and China.”

“So would you say that there is both a shift and a growing international interest in Russia?” Maarten asks.

“Definitely,” says Vladimir with conviction. “All we have to do is open up and claim our role! But let’s sit down,” he says pointing in the direction of large wooden conference table, “Let me tell you more about it!”

© 2013 CoolBrands – Around the World in 80 Brands

www.aroundtheworldin80brands.com

Order a book on:
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Meeting Natalia Kuracheva in Amsterdam

Meeting Natalia Kuracheva in Amsterdam

Meeting Natalia Kuracheva in Amsterdam

I’m sitting at The Kitchen on the top floor of the high-end department store de Bijenkorf in the heart of Amsterdam. I’ve just ordered a juice and decided to Google one of

Russia’s top businesswomen, Natalia Kuracheva, who I’m about to meet.

The first two hits show that she’s the general manager of one of Russia’s leading financial company. By the age of 24 she was already the financial director of one of the largest manufacturers in the construction industry. She then  went on to take up top positions in the country’s major banks, chaired the board of a unique asset management joint venture with a major European financial group, and much more.

Pretty impressive for a woman to climb so high in Russia’s male-dominated society… I’m curious to meet her! Just as I’m about to look into another link, Natalia is suddenly standing in front of me, a small, stylishly dressed woman who definitely does not look her age.

“You must be Katja!” she says as she holds out her hand.

“It’s great to meet you,” I tell her, “I was just Googling you!”

“Really? Did you find anything interesting?” she says as she sits down and orders a fresh juice. “I haven’t done it myself for a while so I’d be curious to know what you can find!”

“Well, I just read your professional profile and was about to read about a project you are running in senior housing and care, can you tell me about it?”

“Oh that’s great! And it’s coming up in the top search results! You know this is the most important project for me at the moment: I’m working with the investors and others who believe in the project to create better facilities and better care for seniors in Russia.”

I’m super impressed with the initiative, as I know that there are problems with quality of care and increasing demand in this sector. The government provides institutional services with very limited care – the buildings are old, the rooms are small, there’s a shortage of qualified nursing staff and long waiting lists. But Natalia also told me that the market for social services is monopolized, with a minimal share of private players.

Meeting Natalia Kuracheva in Amsterdam

Meeting Natalia Kuracheva in Amsterdam

“That’s amazing, especially since there is such a need!” I say, “but I imagine you’re running into some obstacles along the way…”

“Indeed,” says Natalia with a wry smile, “it’s a huge challenge because so many people are afraid to change – not just rules and laws, but also attitudes and ideas of how to deal with seniors. The project includes different facets such as the building of special nursing homes for the elderly in accordance with the best global practice, client-oriented education and training for caregivers, promotion of a modern approach to care and better living for seniors etc. I think the ageing population is one of the biggest challenges we face in Russia: we really have to adapt to the new century and push through new ideas.”

“Amazing… it’s so wonderful to hear about this kind of social project in Russia, a project which makes people aware of their own future as well – after all we’re all going to get old some day.”

Natalia smiles. “I think in Russia, people traditionally expect family to look after them. I took care of my elderly parents for a long time, while at the same time raising two children as a single mother. But I believe that we need to go beyond our immediate family circle and engage other parts of society in positive change. Even if it’s not always easy to achieve. I believe there’s always a way.”

 

Katerina Rogova

By Katerina Rogova for Cool Brands

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Meeting Ilja Shiyan in Moscow

Ilja Shiyan

I’m at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, about to take off for Moscow when I get a message on my phone: “See you in a couple of hours @bizz lounge! Ilja.” I quickly write back: “No delays this end, I’ll see you there at 16:15!” It’s perfect: I was trying to arrange a meeting with Ilja Shiyan, one of Russia’s leading fashion designers, and it turned out that he is taking a flight to Turkey just a few hours after I land at Domodedovo Airport. So I’m having my first meeting before even leaving the airport!

Domodedovo Airport is crazy busy when I arrive and I’m happy that we are meeting in one of the quieter business lounges. Ilja immediately spots me when I walk in and waves from a distance. “Hi Katja! Great to meet you!” he says. “I’ve ordered us tea with snacks!”

As I settle into an armchair, I ask Ilja what he’s going to do in Turkey. “I actually live there part-time as most of my partners are in Istanbul. I also work with partners in other countries.” The Shiayn brand has a growing popularity in Russia: Ilja mainly focuses on leather products, but also designs T-shirts, underwear and other accessories.

“So do you see a big difference between the Russian fashion scene and the European market?”

“Not really. The more I travel, the more I realize how small the differences are – I mean in general between people and countries, but also in the fashion scene. It doesn’t make sense anymore to look at fashion trends from a local perspective: it’s global.”

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Meeting Ilja Shiyan in Moscow

“Do you see the Russian market as influenced by Europe?”

“Absolutely, the Russian fashion scene is now catching up with the Europeans: the market is flooded with new labels and trends. People blindly follow the fashion trends. But at the same time, there are lots of talented designers creating great quality designs and I believe that will be the future. Russians will learn to develop their own taste and choose specific styles and looks.”

Our tea arrives and as Ilja pours me a cup I suddenly notice he is wearing a jacked from this latest collection that was presented at Moscow Fashion Week. ““Hey nice jacket!” I say. “What is the material though? It’s not leather is it?”

“Thanks! No, you’re right, it’s a combination of fish skin and wool.”

“That’s unusual! Do you often work with such combinations and unusual fabrics?

“Actually, yes,” says Ilja. “But I’m not doing it just for the sake of catching attention – my goal is not to use unusual or expensive fabrics to create an ultra-trendy designs. Rather I want to reflect the more complex character of my designs, which is also based on my own personality. This is why I combine materials in my design to reflect duality. All my collections attempt to reflect a conflicting world in which we live. To me the most important is that the collections remain true to my personal beliefs and values.”

 

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Ekaterina Rogova for CoolBrands

Meeting Nickolas Koro in Moscow

Meeting Nickolas Koro in Moscow

I’m window-shopping in Stoleshnikov Pereulok, the Russian capital’s premier luxury boutique strip where top brands including Cartier, Hermès and Jimmy Choo vie for customers’ attention. I’m on my way to meet Nickolas Koro, Russia’s leading brand guru, who has revolutionized the branding scene in Russia – essentially introducing the concept of branding to the country.

His offices are in a courtyard off Stoleshnikov Pereulok, surrounded by stately 19th-century mansions. But hidden behind the stark exterior, the offices of the Research Center for Brand Marketing and Brand Management are filled with vibrant colour and bold modern artwork on the wall.

Dressed in an informal black suit and T-shirt plus funky red glasses, Nickolas meets me in the large reception wall. “Welcome!” he says with a big smile. “You must be Katja!” He leads me down the hallway where large Andy Warhol-style portraits of all the employees are displayed.

“I see you like art,” I say.

“Contemporary art is my passion,” says Nickolas. “My personal art collection allows me to create my own vision of the world.”

“Does that also include a very specific vision on branding?” I ask as we settle in soft armchairs in his office.

“I guess you could say it does,” Nickolas answers as he serves me a cup of strong Russian tea and offers me a slice of Praga cake. His office is a cheery clutter of overfull bookshelves, and notes and booklets strewn across his busy desk. A large collection of awards and diplomas on the walls testifies to his vast experience and extensive achievements.

Meeting Nickolas Koro in Moscow

Meeting Nickolas Koro in Moscow

“Branding is still quite a new domain in this region, which is what makes it really exciting,” he says. “I focus quite strongly on the target audience and build brands from the bottom up based on the aspirations and responses of the target audience rather than the other way around. There also a strong focus neuro-marketing, which is a little-explored area here in Eastern Europe.

“Neuro-what?” I ask as I take another sip of tea.

“Neuro-marketing,” says Nickolas with a laugh. “I bet you think it sounds like science fiction but it’s really a wonderful thing: it focuses on how visuals, sounds and colour can influence customer choices. It’s fundamental to building a successful brand in my view.”

“Wow, branding 2.0!” I say. “It sounds ground-breaking! But that’s also reflected in your website isn’t it? It’s colourful and unusual – not like any other branding or marketing website I’ve ever seen!”

Nikolas laughs. “I guess it is unusual, you’re right,” he says. “I see it as an informal space where I can talk about my vision on branding and marketing, but also about all sorts of other things. I want my clients to know real me so that they know what to expect if we work together.”

He passes over the tray with cakes and urges me to take another. “Well all I can say,” I tell him as I take another slice, “is that I would sure like to learn more about just about all aspects of the Nickolas Koro approach and vision to Russian brands in 2013. I feel like I’ve just touched the tip of the iceberg!”

Nickolas Koro personal website: http://www.nkoro.ru/main

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Ekaterina Rogova for CoolBrands