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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

British Link for Trading Firm

Lyudmila Kaziyeva is one of the rare examples of a successful businesswoman in Russia's predominantly male corporate world.

In an interview in the offices of her company Germes Limited, located in the exclusive President Hotel, Kaziyeva says she has built up her business from almost nothing.

She says she returned from a trip to friends in the United States with only a computer and 30, 000 in the late '80s but that since then the business has thrived and last year sales totaled $50 million.

Germes is typical of many Russian trading companies in that it has branched out into thousands of fields of activity, taking advantage of niche opportunities but with no core business.

The group has a byzantine corporate structure with 31 separate divisions exporting oil, metals, timber and chemicals and importing consumer goods and foodstuffs.

But Germes is unlike most Russian trading companies, firstly because it has a foreign shareholder. Germes is jointly owned by a British businessman Eric Haydock.

Kaziyeva says that having a British partner has helped her make international contacts and arrange international finance. She says Germes now almost exclusively finances its trading operations through loans from international banks.

Germes also breaks with Russian tradition in that through Kaziyeva it has actively sought to create a public marketing image.

Kaziyeva has headed the company's marketing campaign, appearing in television and newspaper advertisements.

Part of the reason for the publicity, Kaziyeva says, is that Germes sells direct through a chain of 31 stores across the CIS which distributes Germes products. "Advertisements bring you 90 percent of the business", she says, and the publicity also attracts wholesale distributors.

Public relations of a different kind are also crucial for the export side of the business. Kaziyeva says that she needs the support of regional governments to win export licenses for the raw materials in which Germes trades.

She says that Germes invests heavily in charities and public works in the areas where it buys its oil, timber and metals. Thanks to these donations, local officials have helped Germes to secure export licenses.

But Kaziyeva says that Germes is trying to find business opportunities beyond the fickle import-export field.

She says the company has already invested in a mineral-water bottling factory in Ukraine and in a salt mine in Kazakhstan.

But the company's main goals at the moment involve marketing the wares of Russian defense plants, especially aerospace factories, to foreign buyers. She says she is now trying to sell fire-fighting equipment developed for Russia's rocket program to oil companies in Saudi Arabia.