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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bull Treads Cautiously In Computer Market

The former Soviet Union with its outdated information networks of abacuses, fountain pens and paper files might seem like the perfect virgin territory for foreign computer manufacturers.

Many see the new rich private enterprises in manufacturing and services as their natural market.

But the French computer company Bull has taken the view that despite the obvious need, many sections of the country will not be able to afford computers in the next few years.

Instead, Bull has targeted a few key sectors for special attention. Owned 70 percent by the French government and with experience of servicing government bodies, Bull is targeting its sales effort at the big government ministries that are keen to improve their information systems.

"We have put our eggs in the basket where we believe our biggest chances are", says Bu Lejdstrom, general manager of Bull CIS.

He says Bull is very close to concluding agreements with several Russian ministries. Ministers from Kazakhstan are now in France.

Bull's association with the Russian government goes back to the '70s when it landed a contract to supply the news agency Itar-TASS with its computer systems.

Bull's other main focus has been the banking sector. It is negotiating with the Russian commercial bank, Vostok, on the establishment of Russia's first internal credit card system in the Bashkiri city of Ufa.

Following an agreement last September, Bull, sold the bank a complete computer system of cash dispensers, electronic cards and accounts in a series of deals worth 50 million French francs ($10 million. )

The bank wants to convert the cards, which can currently be used only at automatic teller machines, into credit and direct debit cards which can be used at shops and service stations.

Bull also installed the first computerized automatic ruble dispensers for Sberbank in St. Petersburg, which Bull won in the face of stiff competition from Hewlett-Packard.

Having found customers, Lejdstrom says Bull is now facing one of the biggest challenges for high-technology exporters -- establishing a service network for following up on what they have sold.

In many cases, part of the deal Bull offers is training local people to handle the technology, but Lejdstrom says Bull wants to have its own people on the ground". It is very much a matter of commitment and credibility in the market", he said.