An interview with Country Manager at Ippon Technologies in Russia and CEO at Exalis Russia.
French Tech discussed with Dahbia why she loves Russia so much, and how her offline and online activities changed after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dahbia, you have been living in Russia for many years, tell us, how destiny brought you to this country?
I came to Russia when I was 22 years old because of love: my boyfriend was promoted to work in Russia and asked me to join him, so I agreed. Initially, I worked in the French consulate for 3 years, and also founded a real estate agency that I later sold to Intermark. Then I moved to Novosibirsk where I worked for a franchisee of Kiabi. I spend there almost 3,5 years and that was wonderful, because I love to work with Russians. When France took all the initiative to manage Kiabi in Siberia, I decided to come back to Moscow.
In France my higher education was financed by Etam, a French company specializing in clothes, so I was always interested in fashion and wanted to connect my live with it. I continued my work in Russia as the CEO of Exalis, a fashion-oriented consulting agency and the official representative of the Première Vision exhibition in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. These exhibitions target big fashion companies such as Dior, Chanel and also little and new fashion brands and show them trends in fashion, textile, materials, colors, etc. This work is very exciting.
Unfortunately, in Russia there are some difficulties with customs that slow down the import of goods. In addition to this, because of the Covid crisis the exhibition will probably have some traffic issues this year. So, for now with regard to Premiere Vision Exalis is in “stand by” mode in Russia.
What is your activity in Russia now?
I continue to work at Exalis, so we help not only big companies, but also small private designers to create their collections by forecasting fashion trends and much more.
And also, since December 2019 I have been working as a Managing Partner of a Russian branch of an IT consulting company Ippon Technologies. I have never thought before that I would work in IT-sphere, but I’m very thankful to the founder and president of Ippon Technologies, Stephane Nomis, who believed in me and gave me this opportunity. And now I’m managing our 11 permanent employees and also freelancers. Despite the COVID-19 crisis, Ippon Technologies continues to work as actively as it was before the crisis. We help companies with digitalization, create digital strategies, products and software, and also design and organize workshops. Our office is located in the heart of Moscow, and the atmosphere is very friendly.
How could you describe your relationship with Russia?
As I mentioned before, I love Russia very much. Russia is an open book for me. We work here not with businesses, but with people. Everything is personal here: friends, evenings, relations. My children are here with us, they love to be in Russia and to visit from time to time their grannies in France. And for the time being we don’t want to return to France. All my best friends are in Russia, and in France my friends are also Russians.
What are the difficulties for fashion industry in Russia now — or IT consulting, for that matter?
Well, speaking in the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the fashion industry is suffering not only in Russia. Unfortunately, despite the fact that everybody was talking about digitalization before the crisis, only a very small number of businesses had adapted to online. In addition, even the buyers are not ready yet, in my opinion, to switch to online purchases 100%. Besides, individual income of population has decreased and if you do not need to go anywhere, clothes are the first thing people start saving on.
Of course, there were many other factors, such as transportation, customs and tax difficulties, which sometimes impede the work of fashion-related businesses. Difficulties with customs are sometimes the most important factor that affects the development of this industry. Let us see how things develop. So far, the fashion industry is at risk.
Concerning IT consulting, as I said before, we are actively working, and with digitalization of everything and of every business, I suppose that more and more businesses will start to think about digital transformation. I am more positive about this field despite some difficulties.
How exactly is your team working during quarantine time?
Both of my teams are working remotely. Firstly, we had to adapt to the new situation and create a new work model and implement necessary tools. However, now the working process is clearly set up and I can say that it is easier. Nevertheless, we hope to return to our offline routine as soon as possible. But we should admit that the world will never be the same.
Do you participate in French Tech Moscow’s activities?
Since my work was not previously related to technology, I did not have the opportunity to participate in French Tech Moscow’s activities. However, now that the situation has changed, and I became a director at an IT company, of course, I plan to participate in the activities and events organized by French Tech.
What are your projects for 2020?
We plan to expand our team and our projects. So far, I prefer not to plan too much ahead, since, as we see, things change very quickly. I try to take an iterative approach. Therefore, our goals are global, but we try to go towards them thoughtfully.