Internet and digital entertainment is an important part of our daily life. We are consuming digital goods from morning till evening with the help of smartphones, notebooks and tablets. As far as the Russian market is one of the most ambitious adopters of new technology, it is especially attractive for Western companies. Today I’m talking to Vlastimil Vodička, digital enthusiast, web evangelist and new media specialist from Czech Republic, who is right now on a very special mission in Russia, in order to intrude the new entertainment technology for Russian Railways.
Dear Vlastimil, you are right now in Russia in order to introduce and implement the new entertainment technology for Russian railways. Please tell some words about your person and what project are you actually working on in a beautiful city Saint Petersburg.
Thank you for your interest in me and in my activities on the Russian market. As you mentioned, I’m currently living in Saint Petersburg – the cultural capital of the Russian Federation. I visited this city two years ago and in that time participated in the Accounting and Analysis Sector of an International Students Olympiad. Despite the cold weather, I immediately fell in love with the city and promised myself to come back, to learn the language, and to stay here for a longer time.
At that time I had experience with studying and life in Switzerland and in Austria; where the people often perceived the Czech Republic as an eastern less developed country. In Russia it was absolutely the other way around. These facts led me to the idea to exploit the potential of the Czech nationality and become an imaginary bridge between the West and the East.
My new project that aims at Russian trains was introduced to me at the end of last year, during my cooperation with Techsquare (a business incubator in Prague) and at Europe’s biggest premium event for Entrepreneurship & Innovative Future Technologies, the Pioneers Festival in Vienna.
This product is a combination of HW and SW developed by a Czech company WDF. It´s engineers tailored their know-how into a board information system. This system goes much further beyond just entertainment for passengers. The prototype is already working on aboard Czech modern trains, as well as in a few long-distance buses across Europe.
Our technology focus on the growing trend of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) Which is basically described as a situation when a private phone, laptop or tablet connects to the Wi-Fi network (could also be used with an off-line network) in the area and drawn from its content.
What is the Unique Sales Proposition of your product?
With our technological solutions we are able to find out the customers location (with an accuracy of 2 meters), we know how they move and we are able to recognize their behaviours. Based on this information, we can provide users with personalised content or send them push- notifications about interesting offers connected to the actual location and exact situation. Example: Passenger is watching a movie, playing games, listening to the radio, reading e-books, etc. -> The train is approaching Moscow -> Passengers receive a push-up notification like taxi offer or tips for visiting (restaurants/concerts/exhibitions/museums/sport matches,..) with the possibility to buy tickets directly on the train.
Overall we are able to recognize individual preferences, find out what they could need right away and affect their shopping behaviour, as well as make their transportation service more interactive and amusing. Passengers could spare their time and money by making purchases via our system and travelling companies earn shares from sales or revenues or from advertisements.
Is there necessary infrastructure in Russia or Ukraine for launch of such an innovative product. As far as I know, the most trains in those countries didn’t get any upgrade since the Soviet times. And only few people can allow themselves to travel by modern machines. What did your market analysis show?
In order to analyse the Russian infrastructure I spent 14 days traveling by train across Russia, from Saint Petersburg across Siberia to Vladivostok. I went 10,000 Kilometers and crossed 7 time zones in the most inexpensive section, 3rd class. And what are my findings?
Trans Siberian Railway is a large market for our product. This source of transportation is the most affordable way, for local people, to travel between Russian cities. Furthermore, almost everybody is using at least one device (a phone, tablet, notebook) which could draw content from our boards Wi-Fi. The fact that the trains are very old is not a barrier for our technology. What we need is only a little bit of space for a small box including our system and electricity plug-ins, which perfectly fit into the room for steward (provodnik). It is suitable for any sort of train, bus, cruiser or other vehicle. The coverage of mobile internet connection in Siberia was very surprising. There is 3G or at least GPRS mobile internet near every town and WIFI in almost on every large train station- which is good enough for fast updates of our system.
The biggest challenge for us is the monopoly of Russian Railways. Anyway, our system is applicable on any kind of transportation. Therefore we are looking for local partners whom will help us with expansion here in Russia.
Another challenge is the low capacity of today’s batteries for mobile devices. We were concerned about the lack of energy for watching movies or reading books on such long distances. But people in Siberia are used to travelling many days and they have an easy solution. They take an extension cord with them and share public sockets in the wagons with other passengers. Another solution is an external USB electro databank, which are popular in Siberia.
Are there any local competitors for this service and what challenges do you have to consider while entering the market??
Well, most of the luxurious Russian trains already have some kind of board portal with movies, music or other sorts of entertainment. Therefore we aim for newer, bigger markets and offer added value to both, the passengers and the companies.
What are the next steps to implement for launch and product distribution? Are you going further to Ukraine, Belarus or Kazakhstan ?
Our logical future steps will be similar markets in Russia, where the public transportation has strong positions. Anyway, our system is not only for trains. We already have ideas for plenty of verification exhibition centres, shopping malls and other such locations.
Could you please give some tips and hints for Western brand, who are planning to accept the challenge of entering the Russian tech and digital business?
Go there, learn the language, speak with the people and find local partners! This is the only way how to understand the market works.
If you want to contact Vlastimil, please find his contact data below: