I took over my father’s business in Moscow
Indian entrepreneur Piyush Gupta has been living and working in Moscow for 20 years. After graduating from MIIT, he didn’t want to go back to Delhi. The young man decided to stay in Russia and continue running a business his father started way back in the USSR. Piyush Gupta generously agreed to answer questions from Capital Ideas.
Recently, one of the major children’s libraries in Moscow celebrated the Year of Indian culture by hosting a special event under the slogan “Oh! India, you are the ornament of the planet!” Would you entertain the idea of the Moscow city government organizing and sponsoring a similar event highlighting the appealing features of the Russian capital in New Delhi?
Moscow is a very beautiful and comfortable city to live in. There have been noticeable improvements and it has become a true gem on our planet, especially in the past three years. I think it’s primarily the city’s government that is responsible for these changes. Moscow has become much cleaner and safer. Public transportation works well, and there are a lot of cabs. Traffic jams have eased up as well. And the parking situation is also being sorted out. International experience helped a lot in this respect. Service is now on a new level in terms of quality. This is because there is a lot of competition in the service sector.
The Internet works well in Moscow too. In other countries, people can only dream about having free Wi-Fi. Here, it’s available in the office, supermarkets, parks, even in the metro!
Believe me, I have a basis for comparison – I’ve been living and working in the Russian capital for 20 years now.
How did you like living in Moscow all these years?
Russians are friendly people. They’re always ready to help out. Though sometimes – and this is just my opinion – you’re a bit low on optimism and openness. I came from Deli when I was 17 to get into MIIT – Moscow State University of Railway Engineering. I didn’t speak a word of Russian then, and had to catch up quickly. After getting my economics degree, I never worked in transport. I followed in my Dad’s footsteps and started working for his business in Moscow. His company delivered precious and semiprecious stones from India, Thailand, and China to Russian jewelry factories. What we do now is basically the same. My father lives in Delhi now and I manage our family companies – SuperGems and Tourmalin.
So you sell diamonds, wholesale and retail?
We don’t trade. We don’t have jewelry stores. We purchase processed precious and semiprecious stones for Russian jewelry factories. So topaz, garnets, amethysts, emeralds, diamonds, sapphires, aquamarines. Here, jewelers make jewelry out of them and sell them to the public through established sales networks. Original pieces are especially valuable. But that’s not the business we’re in.
Let us in on a secret: are there a lot of employees in your Moscow office?
Only a few people in Moscow and another six people in our wholesale office in Kostroma.
What kinds of challenges does your business run into in Russia?
There’s not much to complain about. There are some technological challenges. For example, you need similar stones for women’s earrings. Finding that is incredibly difficult. Usually, experienced and professional jewelry experts help us out. So we resolve all of our problems fairly quickly. And then you have to pay 15 percent in state duties. But we have been working in Moscow since the Soviet era and are still going strong.
In your opinion, are there a lot of Indian businessmen staying to work in Moscow?
Right now there aren’t many. And you know why? It has nothing to do with politics. A lot of businessmen, especially from India, leave specially trained personnel in their Russian offices and manage the process online. Company owners do this often. And then they live somewhere like UAE.
There are a lot of tourists from India in Moscow now…
You’re right, Indian tourists have been getting to know the Russian capital over the past two years. But they usually come to see Moscow and Saint Petersburg. As if there is nothing else to see in Russia. Although a lot of people from India really like the Hermitage. They dream about seeing the Peterhof fountains and the Kremlin.
What do Indians know about Russia?
It’s more like we have associations, stereotypes. They read or heard something once. They associate Russia with Kalashnikovs, tanks, and maybe also with the Red Square and the Bolshoi Theatre.
You work with jewelers and probably make good money. Do you have a villa outside of Moscow?
I don’t have a villa. My wife and I rent an apartment in Moscow.
Do you have a big family in Moscow?
We have a three-year-old son, Vitesh. He goes to a British kindergarten. There are children from different countries there, and Russian children as well. The teachers only speak English. In the future, I hope my son learns my native Hindi and Russian, of course.
When Russians work abroad for a long time, they get nostalgic or homesick and end up going to the closest Russian restaurant. Do you ever get nostalgic?
Of course, we also miss home, parents, and friends. I sometimes go to the Indian restaurant Khajuraho on Shmidtovsky Proyezd.
It’s a very popular spot in Moscow. It’s the only place you can try exotic dishes from northern India. The climate here is better for more filling, hotter dishes that are cooked in a tandoor oven or over charcoal.
The restaurant’s chef is Indian and worked in many countries before coming to Russia, like in Kenya, Singapore, and the UAE.
By the way, Khajuraho is a famous Indian complex of temples, where the walls are completely covered with erotic sculptures. The restaurant’s guests especially enjoy a dish dedicated to the author of the Kama Sutra and, as it says in the menu, “his creative imagination.”
What kind of Russian food do you like? Probably borscht and dumplings…
Nope! I like bean soup and vinegret. I also like Tatar and Georgian dishes.
Do you visit Moscow parks with your family a lot?
Yes, we recently spent a whole day at Skazka Park in Krylatsky. My son was happy! My wife and I also liked it, there were a lot of rides.
We used to spend a lot of time at Timiryazevsky Park. I really like northern remote parts of the capital better than the city center. There are a lot of green spaces there and the air is cleaner.
Do you spend your vacation in Russia or go back to India?
We usually go see my parents back home, in Delhi. Though my wife and I have gone to Saint Petersburg, Suzdal, Rostov, and I’ve also been to Altai. When my son get a bit older, we want to show him Sochi.
You won’t miss the Russian winter in Delhi?
No, but I might miss early spring in Moscow and the short Russian summer…
This year is this publication’s five-year anniversary. Would you like to wish us anything?
I hope to see even more well-known, popular people from Moscow and abroad on your pages. It’s important that they share their impressions of beautiful Moscow.
I wish more optimism, success, and good health to all Capital Ideas readers. And I hope this journal is read by a lot of people!