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Renowned Strategy Expert to Speak on the Making of Champions at April Conference

Hermann Simon, chairman of Simon-Kucher & Partners Strategy & Marketing Consultants, will present at the upcoming XVIII April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development in Moscow. His presentation, entitled ‘Hidden Champions – the Vanguard of Globalia’, will be held during the Firms and Markets section on Tuesday, April 11.

An expert in strategy, marketing and pricing, Dr. Simon was previously a professor of business administration and marketing at the Universities of Mainz (1989-1995) and Bielefeld (1979-1989). He has also served as a visiting professor at Harvard Business School, Stanford, London Business School, INSEAD, Keio University in Tokyo and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of more than 30 books, including the most recent ‘Confessions of the Pricing Man, Hidden Champions of the 21st Century’.

Dr. Simon spoke to the HSE News Service ahead of this year’s April Conference about several of the themes he plans to cover in his presentation.

— Your presentation at the conference will be called 'Hidden Champions - The Vanguard of Globalia' and will centre on ambitions and being ambitious, among other things. How can one grow and develop ambitions, if that’s even possible?

— Ambition resides in the entrepreneur. Is ambition genetic or socially induced? Probably both. But it’s not enough if an entrepreneur has strong ambitions. To paraphrase St. Augustine, he must ignite the flame which burns in him in others. Becoming a hidden champion is not a one-person endeavour but a team exercise.

— Having a good understanding of your unique target audience is one path to achieving success. How would you describe a winning team for a start-up, for example?

— I see focus as absolutely essential. Only focus leads to world-class. The most difficult challenge with innovation is to integrate technology and customer needs. Hidden Champions are very good at that, because their biggest strength is their closeness to customers. ARRI, the global leader in professional film cameras, not only has the best digital camera, but it also knows all famous film directors and their preferences better than anybody else. 

— Will you talk about the Russian market and its champions, if there are any?

— I will mention some, for example Kasperky in the IT-security sector, or Grishko, the global leader in ballet shoes, a typical niche player. While Russia has five Fortune Global 500 companies the number of Hidden Champions from Russia is small. 

— What would you recommend that young people read, study and do to achieve success?

— The most important aspect is to gain international experience. To prepare yourself for Globalia, you must experience Globalia. That can only be achieved if you spend time abroad on school exchanges, studies, internships, etc. My company, Simon-Kucher & Partners, rarely hires anybody who doesn’t have some foreign experience. As I can tell from my own experience, reading is not enough. I read a lot about Japan. But that gave me nothing compared to the semester I lived in Japan in 1983. And openness to the world remains a major weakness of Russia. 

— Have you been to Moscow before? Are there certain places of interest you would like to see during your visit to Russia?

— I have been in Moscow many times. My last visit was in December 2016. I took an hour to stroll across the Red Square and to do some shopping in GUM. I was touched by the wintery atmosphere, the illuminations, the people hurrying through the city (much faster than during my first visit in 1971). I stayed in the Metropol hotel, again after 45 years. Beyond my business with Raiffeisenbank it was a very emotional visit.

In April, I am afraid, I will have little time. My visit will be short. Besides the conference activities, I will meet my publisher and a long-time Russian friend and maybe give an interview or two.

Anna Chermyakhovskaya, specially for HSE News service 

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