05 October 2018, 12:26
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Robert Bassili: In search of new business opportunities in Armenia

Businessman, investor and philanthropist Roberts Bassili shares his thoughts on new business opportunities in Armenia and his personal interests.

-As I know, this isn’t your first time here in Armenia. How do you feel being here every time and what is the purpose of your visits?  

-I first came to Armenia in February 2018. This is my fifth trip during these 7 months, so I am here quite often. And I am here for investigating opportunities, searching new spheres to invest and understanding the market. My grandmother and mother are Armenians, so they told me a lot about Armenia. And because there was the revolution, I am looking for more opportunities to do business here. But I was looking for new opportunities before the revolution, it just strengthened my motivation to come here.  


-What are the potential spheres in Armenia you are thinking to invest in?

-I am still looking for opportunities. Actually I don’t invest money into startups. In general, I am interested in existing businesses having lots of problems, in businesses, which are undervalued trying to reconstruct them. Armenian companies, the ones I am interested in, have lots of problems, which is why I feel very passionate about investigating them. For example, my interests could be in energy and IT spheres.  Despite this, I am spending a lot of time with the startup community, helping them to develop, teaching them, but not investing.

-Most of the people who come to Armenia appreciate food, various dishes they try here, what about you?

-The food is great here, I also feel comfortable with the weather conditions. In contrastto Kiev, where I live most of the year, Yerevan and Armenia are very sunny. I also like the churches, I try to visit them, feel their warmness. Everything is so spiritual in Armenia.  


-You have worked in different fields, starting from banking sphere to IT, from sports to media. How do you feel about changing your field of activity every time?  

-It is quite interesting to me, because when I achieve something big, I feel very comfortable, but I know that feeling comfortable is very dangerous. So I try to change things to start from the very beginning and achieve new goals.

-On what ideas and principles do you build your businesses?

-Fundamentally, any business is based on building people, connecting them with each other, it is a pretty simple idea. If you want to build a business from $0 to $100.000.000, you need to build people. But to build them, you need to understand people, and I think that is the thing that I do very well. I have built businesses in Ukraine, in Asia, in Egypt, they have different religions, different temperaments, but as soon as you understand them, you will have great success.


-From this point of you, what type of country Armenia is? How do you feel dealing with people here? Do you understand them?

-It is very difficult, of course, but I am very passionate about that, this is a challenge that makes me comfortable. Even if my mother is Armenian, I am spending a lot of time trying to understand the culture, because I have never been here before February 2018. And it would be a great mistake to bring western logic to Armenia and do business with it. Every day I spend hours to speak with people and most of them are very friendly trying to help me in my initiatives. I am trying to educate myself to understand what works here.

-During this trip, you meet young Armenian entrepreneurs and startuppers, with people who are just starting their path in business, what is your key message to them?

-The key message is this “Do what you are great at, not what you like”.


-Even doing things they don’t like at all ?

-Yes. Some years ago, I was a financial sponsor of a famous football team in Australia. There were many successful superstars in that team, but 90 percent of the players didn’t like to play football. You will be shocked, but they are doing it because they are great at their profession. They would rather doing something else, but they follow the idea I suggest everyone, and they have success.

-After the revolution in Armenia, officials, businessmen and ordinary people speak about new investments, colossal business projects that could be possible to be done. What are the best and prospective fields in Armenia to invest money in today?

-I think one of the first spheres is IT. You have many successful  IT companies and many other potential bars that could be reached in that field,  but this field is still undervalued. I think any project in IT and robotics can be fertile land for potential investors. This sphere is also interesting because of the geographical isolation of Armenia. IT has no borders and that is a great privilege. I think that chemical business, real estate, road construction businesses could be interesting as well. For me, solar energy is also a great field to invest, weather is very suitable to build solar farms, and I think government should pay attention to this kind of projects by helping them to build business.

-Let's imagine someone is coming to you with a business plan asking you to invest money. Where is the key, what are your standards and  requirements? How much time do you need to understand whether it is a good idea or not?

-I divide this process into different stages. The first and most important stage is just the pitch, it will take about 4-5 minutes to make the first decision. If someone manages to explain me the business within 5 minutes, then I will switch to next stage.

 

-Let's end the interview with startups, I know that you have a unique attitude to them,  you avoid investing in small, growing startups. But there are so many success stories in this field, we know companies, that reach financial peaks starting from scratch. Why do you avoid startups?

-Because the companies you mention are exceptions. We know that hundreds of thousands of startups failed around the world, most of them are failing, billions of dollars are wasted on them with no profit. Investing in startups is like playing in casino: you will never know if it will be ф justified investment or not. If someone comes to me with a startup idea, I talk to him/her, give my thoughts, even give money for starting, but I never invest in them and wait for income, never.

Robert Bassili is an Australian businessman, investor, philanthropist with a focus on business interests in Ukraine. Bassili is the founder and the member of the board of directors of Ramsis Capital LLC .  Ramsis Capital is a full service integrated investment / management company that focuses on underperforming and undervalued companies with the focus to provide value to shareholders, employees, clients and stakeholders.

To read more about Robert Bassili’s activities visit his official website.

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