Day 4 started early- 6:30 am call time. There were two company visits scheduled: Geropharm and IKEA. Geropharm is located outside about 200 km outside of Moscow. After a 2-hour drive through Russian forests, we finally arrived at their impressive factory.
Geropharm is a Russian pharmaceutical company, producing innovative products, such as insulin pens. Geropharm was a one-of-a-kind experience for all of us, I believe. Before entering the factory, we were told about some of their sustainability efforts. For example, the employees planted new trees on their property. It is not everyday that one gets to go inside and tour a pharmaceutical company. We were split into two groups and were first shown around the research laboratories. Dressed in full on scrubs, we each had to wear shoe covers, a hair net and a robe. It is important that the labs stay sterile and free of bacteria.
One could really tell that the Geropharm representative wanted to make the tour interesting for us. They were proud of their innovation and it was nice to see that they were very passionate about their work.
After the tour of the laboratories, there was a second part at Geropharm. We visited the manufacturing part of the factory, where the product is packaged. This part was extremely interesting because here we could see how much work goes into the actual process. Each insulin tube was first inspected, then sterilized, then photographed, labeled, checked again and then packaged. The amount of work that goes into one tube of insulin is incredible. I think this was an eye-opening experience.
After Geropharm, we rushed to get to our next appointment at IKEA. Unfortunately, the traffic in Moscow proved to be more extreme than we all thought. We were stuck in traffic for almost 4 hours. Naturally, we were late to our next company presentation but the representatives at IKEA were very patient and welcomed us nonetheless.
The IKEA representative, Magda Ropotan, was very welcoming and heart-warming. During this presentation, we got more insight as to what Russian customers value and how Russian companies work. She said that Russians are short-term planners which hope for luck, are open and generous, straightforward and hot-tempered. Children are central in society and thus an extremely important target group for IKEA. Russian families spend their money on their children. Russia’s society is at a “war for talent” with only 5.5% unemployment in the country. With rapid urbanization and infrastructure shortage, IKEA has its work cut out. They are developing solutions for this social phenomenon in the products they design and manufacture.
One of IKEA’s core businesses in Russia is in retail management. IKEA operates shopping centers in Russia (called MEGA) that are becoming more and more popular due to its convenience. Shopping centers are a one-stop destination for families with everything under one roof. IKEA’s aim is “to create a better everyday life for the many people.” Hence, the functionality of the shopping centers definitely fulfills this. These MEGA centers constitute a fifth of their business in Russia. IKEA tries to localize as much as possible with 59% of products coming from local suppliers. There are currently 14 MEGA shopping centers in Russia.
After the presentation we were let go and Carla and I made our way to a nearby shopping center. Russians are famous for their beautiful braids and we wanted to experience this. In one of the shabby stables in the shopping center, we found a woman who braided our hair. Within 15 minutes our hair turned from boring into a beautiful hairstyle!
At this point, we would like to say THANK YOU to Geropharm and IKEA for their patience and especially sharing their business knowledge with us. It was a pleasure to visit these companies!