Gerhard Pfeifer: Backing Business in Russia
Published: July 16, 2014 (Issue # 1820)
Russia and German engineering company Bosch have had close ties since tsarist times, says Gerhard Pfeifer, president and CEO of Bosch Group’s operations in Russia, Georgia and CIS countries.
He can say that again: the company first arrived in Russia in 1904. Though it did not stick around in Soviet times, the engineering and electronics giant came back to Russia in 1993, opening its first factory in the Saratov region on the Volga River in 1996.
Bosch has maintained a steady presence on the country’s power tools, automotive components and household appliances markets ever since, and not for nothing: Bosch’s growth rate in Russia in 2010 and 2011 reached up to 30 percent.
Growth has since slowed to hover around 10 to 20 percent, but still far outstrips the national average — the Russian economy in 2014 is struggling to avoid a recession.
“I call it back to normal,” the 53-year-old Pfeifer says modestly of his company’s expansion during an exclusive interview with The St. Petersburg Times, held at the company’s new boiler plant in the Volga city of Engels in the Saratov region earlier this month.
The exorbitant growth in 2011 was due in large part to a 156 million euros ($212 million) paycheck for Bosch’s work on the main stage of Moscow’s renovated Bolshoi Theater, a 12-story-tall piece of theatrical machinery.
But theatrics aside, Bosch’s products remain in demand in Russia, and neither an economic slowdown nor the ruckus over Ukraine and the threat of Western sanctions are slowing down its activity in Russia, Pfeifer said.
Bosch has invested 250 million euros in Russia so far, including in three plants in Saratov and a joint venture with Siemens in St. Petersburg making household appliances. An automotive components plant in Samara is slated to open in 2015, and all that on top of a 120-million-euro headquarters in Khimki, just outside Moscow.
Pfeifer — an impeccably polite man with a calm gaze and occasional flashes of wry humor — had no personal ties to Russia before coming here as Bosch supremo for the region in 2011. He speaks with Russians through an interpreter, and his wristwatch shows German time.
But the company is doing something right in Russia, and Pfeifer sat down with The St. Petersburg Times to talk about why the country’s business climate is not as bad as it may seem.
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