Kyiv executive Yuriy Kryvosheya is a prominent personality in Ukraine-Canada commercial cooperation and has been involved in many of the most high profile initiatives designed to bring the business communities of both countries closer together. As Managing Partner and President of the Private Joint Stock Company ‘Toronto-Kyiv’, which owns and operates the Toronto-Kyiv Complex, Kryvosheya oversees what is arguably the flagship project of bilateral business ties between Canada and Ukraine.
Strategically located in the heart of Kyiv’s historical & business districts, and directly across the road from the landmark St. Nicholas Catholic Cathedral, the Toronto-Kyiv Complex boasts Class A office premises, retail space, restaurant areas, and Ukraine’s first five-floor underground parking facility. The Complex is the only commercial real estate property in Ukraine that has premises with LEED GOLD Certificate status, and also houses the Holiday Inn Kyiv hotel managed by InterContinental Hotel Group.
The Toronto-Kyiv Complex business center is home to a range of international corporations and prominent business brands including Mars, Wrigley, Royal Canin, MacPaw and Glencore – all attracted by the Complex’s high-end office premises professionally managed and built according to true International Class A standards. The Complex also offers incredible views of the nearby cathedral and a spectacular courtyard that regularly hosts headliner corporate events like the 2015 Elle Style Awards and Canada Day celebrations.
Prior to going into private business, Kryvosheya studied in America at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, before returning to Ukraine to take up a position with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in Kyiv. He credits this IFC role with offering him a ‘tremendous opportunity’ to gain hands-on experience in a range of different sectors of the economy.
In addition to his current role at the Toronto-Kyiv Complex, Kryvosheya is Co-Founding Shareholder and Partner at Yakaboo (www.yakaboo.ua) - one of the largest e-commerce companies in Ukraine. In parallel to his business & entrepreneurial activity, Kryvosheya also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Canada Ukraine Chamber of Commerce (CUCC). Business Ukraine magazine sat down with Kryvosheya to discuss the future of Canada-Ukraine business ties, explore the opportunities presented by the recently inked free trade agreement between the two countries, and to ask what it was like meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
You played a key role in organizing the recent visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Ukraine. What was your experience of interacting with the Canadian delegation?
It was a genuine honor for us to help organize the reception for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Canadian delegation’s July visit to Ukraine. I have long believed that the importance of Canada’s support for Ukraine cannot be overstated. Thanks to the success of the June 2016 Canada Ukraine Business Forum in Toronto, and the subsequent concrete progress made during the governmental visit to Ukraine, the relationship between Canada and Ukraine is now moving to another level that will create even greater opportunities.
In addition to signing of the Canada Ukraine Free Trade Agreement during the visit, guests at our reception event also witnessed the signing of a number of additional business projects that pave the way for closer direct partnerships between the Canadian and Ukrainian business communities. None of this would have been possible without strong teamwork, and I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to have worked with the Canadian delegation and everyone else who contributed to the success of the visit. Throughout the preparation period and during the trip itself, we worked as one team and were able to find creative solutions whenever new challenges arose – as they often did! Any successful event depends on strong leadership and the Canadian leader succeeded in impressing everyone in this respect. I had the opportunity to meet Prime Minister Justin Trudeau personally during the welcome reception organized by the Canadian Embassy on 10 July, when I was one of literally hundreds to be introduced to him. When we met again during the St. Sophia reception on the following evening, PM Trudeau greeted me with a friendly, “Nice to see you again.” This demonstrated his attention to detail – an important skill for any leader. This highly professional approach and mastery of detail were also confirmed by numerous other team members who had the opportunity to discuss various aspects of Canada-Ukraine ties with PM Trudeau during his time in Kyiv and Lviv.
The Trudeau visit to Ukraine and the signing of the Canada Ukraine Free Trade Agreement has generated considerable buzz. How can this momentum be maintained?
In addition to the signing to the free trade agreement, the visit of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also saw the signing of a number of business deals. This helped to build on the success of the Canada Ukraine Business Forum in Toronto, which took place on the eve of the visit to Ukraine. There are also a number of exciting initiatives currently at various stages of implementation, such as the Canada Ukraine Trade Investment Support project (CUTIS). These projects are all integral to the long-term vision of strengthening ties shared by both countries. In order to maintain momentum, it is important for further business cooperation to develop from these solid foundations. As in any business relationship, it takes two to tango. Businesses and investors from both countries must now do their homework in order to appreciate the opportunities presented by free trade, the CUTIS project, and other associated initiatives. There is much to learn from existing success stories and positive examples already present on the market, like the bilateral cooperation at Bombardier and PJSC Toronto-Kyiv. The Toronto-Kyiv Complex has already hosted a range of business networking events and initiatives designed to help maintain the momentum of bilateral ties and enhance business bridges between our two countries. Ultimately, it is up to the business community to seize the opportunities presented by recent developments and recognize the potential for initiating new cooperation or building on existing collaboration. By doing so, they can contribute to a positive trend that will gain a momentum of its own.
Where do you see the biggest opportunities for the Ukrainian economy from the Canada-Ukraine free trade deal?
I have always believed that Ukraine has huge growth potential in all areas of the country’s economy. The CUFTA now provides a range of additional tools and options to realize this potential. It is natural to look to sectors that are currently performing particularly strongly such as IT and agriculture, but I think it is a little lazy and shortsighted to focus exclusively on these segments alone. As well as the CUFTA itself, tools such as CUTIS offer the opportunity to both capitalize on existing potential and create new opportunities. This is realistic if businesses are prepared to do their homework.
I am also optimistic that the advent of free trade with Canada will help Ukrainian businesses to grow internally and become more responsible in the way they do business, thus creating more long-term value. For example, the terms of the CUFTA include a chapter on environmentally friendly policy and energy efficiency – a theme that Ukrainian companies desperately need to pay more attention to, and that offers the promise of competitive advantages. This is something I can confirm from my own personal experience. The Toronto-Kyiv Complex is still the only commercial real estate property in Ukraine that has premises with a LEED certificate, while the Holiday Inn Kyiv is part of the Green Engage program initiated by the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG). We have experienced increased demand from potential tenants, guests and partners for environmentally friendly and energy efficient solutions. This helps our business to grow in a responsible and reputable manner.
What were the main themes raised by Canadian business community representatives at the Canada Ukraine Business Forum in Toronto in June?
The Canadian business community, just like any other reputable business community, is looking for a stable environment with transparent rules and a level playing field. Although Ukraine is still at the stage of confronting existing challenges and creating an attractive investment climate, my key message is simple: we must act now and not spend our time analyzing and waiting for improvements. There are already numerous positive examples of successful diversified investments in Ukraine from a range of countries. In terms of the Canadian business presence in Ukraine, I would advise anyone to watch the short but informative video produced for the Canada Ukraine Business Forum entitled, ‘Ukraine. Open for Canada.’ This brief video will immediately give you an impression of the scale of investment that has already been possible in the current business climate. Can you imagine the possibilities that will present themselves following the full implementation of free trade and other initiatives?
The interest is certainly there on the Canadian side. During meetings held in Toronto following the Forum, the head of a large financial institution told me that he had recently noticed increased interest in Central and Eastern Europe – including Ukraine - from Canadian and US pension funds. This interest represents a great opportunity for Ukrainian businesses.
What is your advice to Ukrainian companies looking to develop a presence in Canada?
As I have mentioned previously, I strongly suggest companies do their homework, which ranges from learning about all the instruments and programs available, to market analysis and the identification of particularly attractive niches. Canada enjoys a reputation among the leading nations in virtually every credible international business ranking, so it is natural to expect Canadian businesses to seek partnerships with similarly reputable market players. They want partners with a long-term vision and the will to implement transparency and the highest standards of doing business. Anyone looking to build business relationships with Canada should also remember the support offered by the Canada Ukraine Chamber of Commerce and the Trade Mission of the Canadian Embassy in Kyiv.
International investors have a huge range of countries competing for their attention - why should they choose Ukraine?
It is true that today’s international investment market offers a wide range of opportunities across the entire globe. However, despite what we might hear about this or that particular investment opportunity, there is no such thing as an easy deal. Absolutely every investment requires serious work in order to find the right balance and to establish fruitful partnerships. Ukraine currently has all the ingredients for successful international investment. These ingredients include the current phase of market development, attractive valuations, growing entrepreneurial activity, highly educated and talented population, and advantageous geographical location. These factors make investments potentially attractive, especially if done with the right partners. Ukraine has numerous examples of high-quality business infrastructure already in place and ready to host newcomers to the market.
At the Toronto-Kyiv Complex, we have already introduced a range of firsts for the Ukrainian market including five floors of underground parking and a series of architectural and engineering solutions. The Complex also features the first Holiday Inn hotel to open following the rebranding of the Holiday Inn brand incorporating the latest IHG brand standards. As a result, the Complex serves as an HQ for numerous international companies and venue for all manner of corporate events and fashionable happenings.
If you take all the positive examples and favorable conditions into consideration, I am convinced Ukraine represents a great opportunity for investors to benefit from first mover advantages by entering the market today.
About the interviewee: Yuriy Kryvosheya is President and Managing Partner of PJSC Toronto-Kyiv