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EXECUTIVE OPINION: Twenty-five years of the international business community in Ukraine

The international business community has been present in Ukraine for a quarter of a century marked by rapid change and expanding opportunities

EXECUTIVE OPINION: Twenty-five years of the international business community in Ukraine
Ukraine's business environment has evolved dramatically since the chaos and chronic corruption of the early 1990s but huge challenges remain as the country seeks to cement its post-2014 pivot towards the Euro-Atlantic community
Business Ukraine magazine
Friday, 16 June 2017 19:01

For the past quarter of a century, the American Chamber of Commerce has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the Ukrainian business climate and attract international investment to the country. These efforts have taken place amid the turbulence of Ukraine’s post-Soviet historical journey, with numerous high points and setbacks along the way. To mark the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Chamber in Ukraine, Business Ukraine magazine invited ACC members to offer their thoughts on the changes that have taken place in the country’s business culture over the past 25 years.

 

PETRO RONDIAK            

Head of the Management Board, Winner Group Ukraine

I congratulate the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine on its landmark 25th anniversary. It is my sincere honor and privilege to work with the ACC since its inception. Ukraine has changed dramatically since John Hynansky, our founder, owner and CEO struck a historic deal with Ford Motor Company while a guest of Ford executives at Wimbledon in 1992, and together with Bohdan Kulchyckyj started Winner’s first office at Hotel Nationalny. By the time I joined in 1995, Winner had already established itself as an open and transparent business in a sea of mafia, crime, and bribery. Together with other ACC members, we navigated the vagaries of government legislation, criminal intrusions, Ukrainian banking, and a soft currency called the “Kupon” while saying no to bribes and fending off corrupt civil servants.

I moved to Ukraine in 1995 and immediately grew attached to the country of my ancestral origin. Life in Kyiv in 1995 was almost diametrically opposed to the idyllic image of Ukraine I was raised with in the Ukrainian American diaspora. In terms of business and consumer behavior, expectations were very primitive. We were able to differentiate ourselves by simply having an inventory of vehicles and parts on the ground in Ukraine. Today, the Ukrainian automotive customer is European, worldly, and no less demanding than their West European or American counterparts. Winner now has full Corporate Identity (CI) Complaint Brand concept centers throughout Ukraine with sophisticated sales processes, service processes, and state of the art equipment. Our initiatives like “Winner College”, a Corporate University providing training and development for 2,000 employees annually, were just a distant dream when we were starting 25 years ago. Today they are a reality.

We have been representing Ford for 25 years now, Volvo for 18 years, Jaguar, Land Rover, and Porsche for 13 years, and Bentley for less than one year. To date, we have officially imported over 120,000 vehicles and paid over USD 1 billion in taxes. Supported by the ACC and fellow members, we continue building our business based on the fundamental values of honesty, transparency and professionalism in everything we do.

Ukraine continues its evolution through financial crises, the Orange Revolution, the Revolution of Dignity and the current challenges of implementing true reforms. We are grateful for the opportunities we have in this market, for those heroes in all branches of government that are choosing to reform Ukrainian policy and legislation at great personal sacrifice, and most importantly, for the incredibly resilient Ukrainian citizenry. On a daily basis I am awed by the intelligence, enthusiasm, energy, and positivity of our team members. Ukraine has a very bright future ahead!

In automotive business terms, Ukraine is still a very underpenetrated market with a clear window of opportunity. Winner is significantly investing in the improvement and expansion of our 51-dealer network in 2017-2022. We are also investing heavily in customer experience teams and processes to dramatically increase our value proposition to the Ukrainian consumer.

I can’t thank the American Chamber of Commerce enough for being a beacon of clarity of purpose, for creating a supportive network of likeminded companies, and for tirelessly pushing for reforms and positive economic changes to life in Ukraine. On behalf of all of us at Winner, I wish Andy Hunter and his team great success in all their initiatives and a strong will to continue fighting the good fight for a free and prosperous Ukraine! Slava Ukrayini!

  

OLGA USTYNOVA          

CEO Vodafone Ukraine

A quarter of a century is just a moment in history, but it is also an entire epoch in human life. During these 25 years, we have witnessed great developments in the history of Ukraine: the formation of our state, its economy, business and civil society. Fantastic changes have taken place in the world of technology, especially in mobile industry. Global changes in business philosophy are continuing. The strength of a country is no longer measurable purely in terms of huge enterprises. Instead, information technologies are the new power. The world is ruled by information and by those who know how to use it. Vodafone has always been a driver for the introduction of advanced global technologies in Ukraine. This is what makes our mission similar to the aim of American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine. In close cooperation, we do our best to help the country change faster.

 

OLEKSANDR MARTYNENKO

Director of Interfax-Ukraine

The twenty-five years of the American Chamber of Commerce’s presence in Ukraine has been a period of struggle for the formation and perfection of a favorable investment climate in the country. Since the first years of Ukraine’s independence, the Chamber and its members have created institutional conditions for foreign businesses. Since then, the Chamber has been working hard to attract investment to the country and to ensure normal business conditions for investors.

These years have been a time of challenges and achievements. These achievements have made it possible to create tens of thousands of jobs in Ukraine, to adopt laws that stimulate business, and to prevent the adoption of legislation that could infringe on business. The American Chamber of Commerce and the Interfax-Ukraine News Agency both celebrate their 25th anniversaries this year. This coincidence is not accidental. We have been, are, and will be a reliable platform for lobbying the healthy interests of the American Chamber of Commerce and its members.

 

SEVKI ACUNER

Country Director for Ukraine, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine

In 1991, Ukraine began its journey as an independent country, embracing democracy, promoting freedom, economic prosperity, and striving to establish the rule of law.

Ukraine has been trying to improve its record on ease of doing business with a range of substantial reforms in order to stimulate the necessary investments for this economic growth. It has made quite a progress in this regard but there is still some distance to go. Its rich potential in human capital with its highly qualified and educated population, its fertile land and natural resources and its crucial logistical position are among its most important assets. Ukraine is open for business. It is a challenging, yet very rewarding market. I am pleased to see Ukraine on the right trajectory to attain sustainable and substantial growth and prosperity.

Ukraine became a country of operation for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in April, 1992. Since then EBRD continues to provide a comprehensive support package for Ukraine to assist its stabilization and the anchoring of its reforms with high-level policy dialogue, and helps businesses to flourish through financial investments. 

I am delighted that American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine is making significant contribution to supporting business for the country’s development.

I congratulate the Chamber on its 25th Anniversary and am pleased to see it continue its role as a reliable partner for the business community for the present and the future.

 

SERHIY CHORNY              

Managing Partner of Kyiv office of Baker McKenzie, Legal Advisor of the Board of Directors of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ukraine

The Chamber has played a significant role in my country’s economic and – in fact – political landscape for the last 25 years. The Chamber’s influence was more subtle during certain periods and more vocal in others, like today. However, its influence has always been there and we have achieved many good things (although admittedly not as many as we would wish) as a result of the Chamber’s input. The Chamber unites the best businesses in Ukraine to make our country better, and should be praised both for its achievements and its ability to generate ideas and push its cause forward, despite working in a difficult environment.

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