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In a country where virtually everything has changed over the past 20 years, the two-decade long success story that is Lenrianta is remarkable.
The joint venture between Aer Rianta International and Pulkovo Airport Authority was formed in 1989, the second of ARI’s Russian JVs after Aerofirst/Moscow Duty Free. At the time, duty free was a virtually unknown concept in the country – and companies such as Lenrianta brought western retailing methods to Russia for the first time.
Today, Lenrianta is the only one of ARI’s original joint ventures in Russia to retain the same shareholding structure as it first did – a testament to the partnership between ARI and its local partner.
Over lunch at the beautiful Old Tower restaurant in Pushkin, close to St. Petersburg, Lenrianta Director General Anatoly Shashin tells me: “We had sales of US$0.5 million in the first half-year when we began trading, and US$4 million in 1990, the first full year of trading. The business grew strongly until it was hit by the crisis of 1998, but since 2001 has had annual growth of 15-20%, which is exceptional.
“That growth tells you how strong the partnership between ARI and Pulkovo Airport has been over the years. We have a very experienced team, and there are people who have been involved for many years who know the business inside out. In Russia you never know what will happen tomorrow. With the new airport development coming [a Fraport-led consortium has just won the rights to build the new T3, and will be given control of the airport’s revenues – Ed] there is uncertainty, but we will work hard to ensure Lenrianta is as much as part of the airport’s future as it has been over the past 20 years.”
And Shashin’s role in the joint venture has earned him personal recognition, of which he is rightly proud too. “The Irish government made me their Honorary Consul to St. Petersburg and the North-Western region of Russia,” he says. “It’s a measure of how deep relations are between the two companies, and the two countries.”
General Manager Liam Flood (pictured above right with Shashin, centre, and Commercial Director Alexander Kosovsky, left), leaves Lenrianta shortly for a new role with ARI at Moscow Domodedovo. He has seen those deep relations grow in his seven years at GM, and though he relsishes the challenge ahead in Moscow, he’ll treaure the memories of his time here.
“One thing that stands out is the great team of people we have. Most evenings I leave here with a spring in my step and that’s because of the people who work here. I have found them amazingly responsive to new ideas, and they – especially the younger generation on the shop floor – bring many new ideas to the table themselves. What we have tried to do is to empower and reward them, and it’s a positive sign that most of our managers in the shop have come through the ranks. That’s important too – this is a people business at the end of the day.”
Even at a time when air travel and spends are depressed through the global recession – which has hit Russia hard – Lenrianta is determined to stay true to the principles of passion and pride in its people that have sustained it for so long – and which give it every chance of thriving for another 20 years.