Vestnik journal (December 2016)
Why did you decide to implement the project in Kaluga region?
The regional authorities adopted a well-thought-out development policy and created a comfortable working environment. An important factor is the proximity to markets and the availability of raw materials of the Central and Southern Russia. At the start, we were given a good work site, provided with the necessary infrastructure. The authorities fulfill their obligations in full. The Governor oversees directly the project. I am deeply grateful for the support given by Anatoly Dmitrievich and his team. We also work closely with the regional Ministry of Agriculture and its head, Leonid Gromov.
How did the idea to start this business come to your head? Is the complex unique as well as its technologies?
Our epoch gave the idea. “BioTech Rosva” meets the current needs of the modern Russian economy. I have already said that there are no similar enterprises in Russia. The field of biotechnology is relatively new. Russian President Vladimir Putin more than once stressed the need to develop this area in the country. The project is being implemented on the initiative of the “Institute for Advanced Scientific Research”, at the Department of Social Sciences of the Russian Academy of Sciences. As its leader, I know how expertly they deal with the issues of evaluating and selecting high technologies. Take, for example, the project we are talking about. Given innovative technologies, engineering solutions and equipment put together, the plant is a leader in the Russian biotechnological industry. All processes at the enterprise are environmentally friendly, almost waste-free and energy efficient. The product line includes 6 items. Moreover, sorbitol, dextrose and GFS-55 have not been produced in Russia, so the company also has a significant import-substituting capacity.
What specialists are required to the company? What are the most important criteria for Biotech Rosva employees?
Since the complex is unique, we need highly qualified specialists for production lines. At the start-up stage, we invited experienced specialists from other regions. Now we are looking for such personnel both in Kaluga and in other regions. As for the training of young specialists, there is a branch of the Timiryazev Agricultural Academy, with whom we work closely. Regarding the criteria, I would say that the most important is the person’s interest in his work, its result. And it is not only a material interest. A person should love his job, be inspired by it. Now the core team has been created. In the near future it will grow: it is planned to recruit workers, specialists for the laboratory, and office employees. We also need engineers and technical workers, incl. production automation experts. Today the company employs 102 people, soon we plan to expand the staff to 300 employees. We expect that almost 90% of them will be Kaluga residents.
What is an innovative business? Is it necessary to have any specific qualities to do it in Russia?
In the case of Biotech Rosva, we are dealing with technological lines that are innovative in their segment, i.e. with those that can change the situation on the Russian market of biotech products. People who feel acutely responsible for what is happening around them can be engaged in such projects. It is simply not interesting for them to make a profit: they want to do something specific for the country where their children live and study. Without bragging, I’d like to note that the project was conceived as another point of growth in a region of the Central Russia. Our overarching goal is to create a socially responsible business cluster based on large-scale production that gives impetus to the development of agriculture and small businesses.
Lev Semenovich, tell us about the main stages of the project. When is the full launch of the plant planned?
The project is impressive, it costs about 30 billion rubles. A complex of this format is being built in Russia for the first time: some design decisions are changed and improved during the process. However, the scale of the project has no effect on the dynamics of its implementation. Less than two years have passed from the signing of the agreement in 2012 until the completion of the first stage – the launch of the Elevator with the capacity of 160,000 tons of grain. Now we have started the commissioning of the second stage, the commissioning of the main production and trial product manufacture. By mid-year, we’re going to provide a full production cycle, and by the end of 2017 to reach full capacity. We are focused on complex production – from growing wheat to its deep processing. The complex is capable for processing of up to 250 thousand tons of wheat per year. To obtain our own raw materials this year, we have already acquired 4.3 thousand hectares of land in Kaluga region. Soon we plan to increase the area to 10 thousand hectares, and to grow up to 80 thousand tons of our own wheat. I know that some Kaluga farmers have shifted to our needs in the hope of finding a major consumer. We are certainly ready to buy their wheat. I am sure that this will give an impetus to the development of grain growing in the region.
Did the economic situation in Russia result in any correction to the plans regarding the future of the project?
The project is gaining momentum, we have many plans for the future – in the shorter term we will launch the production of modified starch and riboflavin. In the longer term – the production of ascorbic acid. As for the corrections, they are positive. The sanctions pushed us towards import substitution on a number of items. Today it is one of the strategic directions of the Сompany’s development.
Does BioTech Rosva participate in social projects?
Yes, in particular, we are considering the possibility of providing housing for our agricultural workers. With the support of the local administration, we were allocated a plot of land for building a cottage village. We are planning to restore a cultural and leisure center in Molodezhny settlement, we will take part in the repair, and may be in building of local children’s educational institutions. However, first do, then say.
Tell us about the socially significant projects that you initiated?
The main project is the creation of the Olimpia football club on the basis of the Moscow special boarding school for children with cerebral palsy. For more than 20 years of its existence, we have got not only great experience in the rehabilitation of children with cerebral palsy, but also a number of sports victories. The team became the base for formation of the Russian national team participating in the world championships and the Paralympic Games. I can talk endlessly about our guys, everybody is an example of mastering himself. Eduard Ramonov became the best football player in the world in 2015, in the same year Vladislav Raretsky became the best goalkeeper in the world. Paralympic champions, world champions Ivan Potekhin, Vladislav Larionov, Alexander Kuligin. Trust me, the list can go on and on…
Lev Semenovich, what qualities help people achieve success in sports and business? How to search for new ideas and make a product that is needed here and now?
The efficient operation of a large mechanism depends on the reliability of thousands of parts. It is at this level that the strength of the entire system is built. It is necessary that a person be in his place, be interested in success, then he will work, putting maximum effort. The leader must plan competently, be able to find optimal solutions, and for the future. In a word, a close-knit team plays a key role in the success of a business. Reliable, highly professional people with a heart for the common cause have always been the best investment in success.