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Russia’s digital ‘Velveeta moment’

No Spam, Just Facts.

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A digital Slavic sigh of relief carried across both the Atlantic and Pacific. Those Russkies who were suffering as their sanctioned dreams were dashed while waiting for their “Velveeta moment”, or a Skippy slathered Spam sandwich, can now rest easy.

Even the redoubtable Hellman’s has seen its market share wither against a bevy of locally produced mayo’s. The fact is that many such items have already been replaced by Russian equivalents with a difference; they are all natural, with no additives or genetically modified anything. As I said, the food production boom in Russia is well known and is now yesterday’s news.

Moving on, the other day I was speaking “IT & stuff” with some geeky nerds on an island in the Moscow River where the old Red October candy factory used to churn out everything for the sweet tooth. It is now gentrified with condominium and co-op lofts in the old factory complex, very similar to what took place in Manhattan’s SoHo and is an e-everything community. Getting back to the geeks who were quaffing their Latte’s and Mojito’s with lip smacking digitized abandon, they were playing word scenarios starting with “What IF?”

The juiciest and longest word play was – What if Washington and its EU minions decide to somehow cleverly firewall or otherwise inhibit Russia’s access to the major software, programming and service providers? What if VPN’s are blocked and everyone has to store data in country or shut down? The speculation was both ridiculed and taken seriously at the same time. Once they got to talking it through, it looked like they suddenly woke up singing and crying all at once.

Unlikely as such a situation might be, strange things are becoming the new normal in these mentally challenged times. The kind-of conclusion these digital dreamers came to was – not to worry, we have most if not all these services localized and covered. I asked for a rundown of what replaces what, and the following was the feedback naming 100% Russia based providers and services (I mention costs in US$ for the readers visualization, but all billing is in Rubles):

Cloud storage – replacing Google Drive.

  • “Yandex.Disk ” provides a cloud storage for everyday files, photos and videos. Free use for up to 10 GB of information, and can expand the volume to 1 TB. The maximum file size is 10 GB. Two-stage authentication is also provided. The cost for maximum space is about $8 per month.
  • [email protected]”. You can store pictures, audio files, presentations, working documents and other data. The system guarantees the safety of stored data. The maximum storage capacity is 4000 GB, of which 25 GB is free of charge. Files of up to 32 GB can be uploaded in the cloud.

Replacing Google Docs and MS Office.

“OnlyOffice” is an open source office suite that includes document, project management, customer relationship management and e-mail management systems. The set consists of an online document editor, project management system, CRM, corporate social network, calendar and mail server.

“MyOffice” offers a set of office solutions for working with documents, text, tables, presentations and other information. Using this platform, you can work together on files, restrict user rights, and provide enhanced data protection.

Post services replacing MailChimp.

  • “UniSender” organizes mass email and SMS mailings. According to the project planners, it is possible to create a newsletter from scratch in 15 minutes. The service provides more than 100 templates, detailed statistics, allows you to configure automatic dispatch and segment an audience. Use is free provided not more than 1500 emails and 100 recipients. The charges thereafter are $0.005 per letter or $10 per month. For SMS – $0.03 per message.
  • “Sendsay” – a platform for sending emails and SMS. With the help of the system, you can create complex conversation chains, trigger mailings and evaluate their effectiveness.
  • “Yandex.Mail” The domain allows you to connect the needed number of mailboxes free, and set a company logo in the web interface of the system. Even inside the platform, you can keep a calendar, a schedule of meetings and a to-do list.
  • “Mail.Ru for business” – a set of services for start-ups and large companies. For example, a cloud for data and workgroups, mail for the domain, and store information about employees. In this system, there are also tools for site analytics, newsletters, SEO analysis, and computer vision technologies. All users of the platform get access to a loyalty club for business and discounts from partners. The cost depends on the set of tools chosen.

Analytics to replace SimilarWeb.

  • “Pr-Cy” – helps to optimize sites, checks the download speed and finds errors. With the help of this service, you can find out what details to pay attention to and what needs to be corrected for effective website promotion.
  • “Roistat” collects data from the CRM system, advertising sites and the site itself. From this information, the service generates reports on key business indicators. With the help of this service, you can evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, funnel sales and other data. The cost is from $90 per month.
  • “Yandex.Metrika” helps to evaluate site traffic for free and analyze user behavior. With the help of this system, you can estimate the number and composition of visitors, transitions from competitors’ sites, popular pages, and time spent on site plus other indicators.
  • “AmoCRM” helps analyze sales. The system automatically takes into account email requests, phone, website and instant messengers. This service can integrate correspondence with customers and calls. Built-in messenger helps to communicate commands within the system.

CRM-systems, keeping customer activity records.

  • “Univle” – CRM-system for Instagram. This service helps receive and respond to all requests in Direct. With it, you can connect new managers, keep customer cards and track the sales funnel.
  • “Bitrix24” combines a task management system, projects, documents, social network, chat, video calls, document storage, calendar, mail and customer relationship management. With the help of this service, you can manage the customer base and mark all interaction points: calls, letters, and appointments. You can use it free or a commercially upgraded version at about $17 per month.
  • “Simple Business” helps to maintain a client base, store information about each customer, record and process calls. In addition, with the help of the platform, you can manage projects and personnel, conduct workflow, bookkeeping and manage the site. The cost is from $33 per month.
  • “LiveTex” provides digital channels for customer service: feedback widgets, instant messengers, social networks, email. With the help of the system, one can process calls in one interface or integrate into CRM-systems and chat-bots.

Accounting

“1C” is a set of software products for accounting, management and other types of reporting for small and medium sized businesses. The system is popular and used in construction, trade, education, medicine and other areas.

Project management and tools replacing Asana, Trello, Jira and others.

  • “Yandex.Tracker” helps to manage projects and organize work, allocate resources and monitor task fulfillment. Using this platform, you can track all the company’s processes and make them transparent for each participant. The cost is from $1.50 per person per month.
  • “Kaiten” helps manage complex processes on one board. For example, it suggests using a space on which several boards are in place. Within the project concept lies the use of both kanban and sram methodologies. All processes happening in the company can therefore be visualized. The cost is from $7 per person per month.
  • “Planiro” organizes collaboration work in the cloud: messages, discussions, archives, accounting of tasks and time, calendar, timing and budget planning, notifications, reports and tools for several management methods. The service helps monitor priority tasks, evaluate project progress and analyze costs. The cost is from $4 per person per month.
  • “Idea RealtimeBoard” – created a teamwork platform with cross-functional commands. This service helps to communicate with the team in one language, regardless of formats, work tools, geography or time zones. Each project participant can input new tasks or discuss existing ones for this endless board. The cost is from $40 per team per month.
  • “CrocoTime” automatically tracks working time at a computer and creates a digital photo of the working day; it helps keep records of meetings and calls. It analyzes the company’s business processes and helps to find and correct inefficient ones. From $5 a month per employee.
  • “Megaplan” is suited to organize work for a small or medium sized company. Helps to track business processes and manage employees. Among the features – billing, transaction control, task manager, file server, internal mail, transaction control and a module for working with personnel.
  • “PlanFix” helps organize joint work. In this system, you can set up an interface, and share user rights. The service can be used as a CRM-system, technical support, and with its help, you can assign and monitor tasks, conduct project activities, account for resources and plan finances.

Messengers and video communication to replace Slack.

  • “Dialog” offers a corporate messenger, which can be installed on the company’s internal server. Service meets the requirements of a single register of Russian programs and approved by state authorities. With the application, you can make audio and video calls, arrange video conferences and display a screen, share files, create personal and group chats. Among the possibilities of this service are audio messages, chat-bots, and channels. Using the service is free of charge; however, the paid company version is individually negotiated with each commercial user.
  • “TrueConf” – A service for organizing video communication on a local server or via the Internet. Communication is provided by UltraHD- quality and secure channels. You can deploy the system in a company of any size.

Tools for working with social networks, replacing HubSpot and HootSuite.

  • “Amplifer” automatically publishes records in social networks, collects statistics on them and counts clicks. Based on the statistics, the service prompts the time, in which it is better to publish the records. There is a weekly and monthly reporting format. This service is about $5 per page monthly.
  • “Babkee” tracks mentions in social networks and the media. This service helps to track user needs and conduct competitor analysis. With its help, you can also evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. Use is free of charge.
  • “SMMplanner” helps manage publications on social networks and create pending records. With the help of the service, you can create auto-deletion records, publish “Stories” and customize UTM-labels. The cost is from $7 per month, depending on the number of connected pages.
  • “Brand Analytics” is a system for analyzing social networks and the media. The service tracks the company’s references, determines the tone of messages, highlights important topics and finds trends.

Design and layout

  • “Readymag” helps transform design into code. Using this platform, you can create presentations, prepare stories and make logs. Interactive web projects can be created without developer participation. The service includes an editor, a preview and a platform for publication of the project. The cost is from $16 per month.
  • “Tilda Publishing” – A site builder. You can work free, but not more than one site and a limited set of templates. The price for the full shebang is from $8.50 per month, depending on the number of sites you are doing.

Notes – replacing Evernote and Google Keep.

  • “Nimbus Note” – with the help of this service you can save information from sites, write notes and important thoughts. The application has shared access for folders and notes. Storage of information is organized in a multi-level structure. The service positions itself as an alternative to Evernote. Use is free with a limit on the size of notes and attached files. The commercial fee is about $2 per month.

Since 2014 Russia has invested over 600 billion rubles ($10 billion) in accelerating import substitution, of which 120 billion rubles ($2 billion) were government funds, the rest private investments. This has helped start-up just over 1,200 import substitution projects, from peanut butter and cheeses to the digital realm. The focus however is not so much short term local substitution, but to refine and develop cost and quality effective export products and services for jobs creation, tax revenues and to diversify Russia’s long term economic matrix.

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Multipolar World Order in the Making: Qatar Dumps OPEC

Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The decision by Qatar to abandon OPEC threatens to redefine the global energy market, especially in light of Saudi Arabia’s growing difficulties and the growing influence of the Russian Federation in the OPEC+ mechanism.

In a surprising statement, Qatari energy minister Saad al-Kaabi warned OPEC on Monday December 3 that his country had sent all the necessary documentation to start the country’s withdrawal from the oil organization in January 2019. Al-Kaabi stressed that the decision had nothing to do with recent conflicts with Riyadh but was rather a strategic choice by Doha to focus on the production of LNG, which Qatar, together with the Russian Federation, is one of the largest global exporters of. Despite an annual oil extraction rate of only 1.8% of the total of OPEC countries (about 600,000 barrels a day), Qatar is one of the founding members of the organization and has always had a strong political influence on the governance of the organization. In a global context where international relations are entering a multipolar phase, things like cooperation and development become fundamental; so it should not surprise that Doha has decide to abandon OPEC. OPEC is one of the few unipolar organizations that no longer has a meaningful purpose in 2018, given the new realities governing international relations and the importance of the Russian Federation in the oil market.

Besides that, Saudi Arabia requires the organization to maintain a high level of oil production due to pressure coming from Washington to achieve a very low cost per barrel of oil. The US energy strategy targets Iranian and Russian revenue from oil exports, but it also aims to give the US a speedy economic boost. Trump often talks about the price of oil falling as his personal victory. The US imports about 10 million barrels of oil a day, which is why Trump wrongly believes that a decrease in the cost per barrel could favor a boost to the US economy. The economic reality shows a strong correlation between the price of oil and the financial growth of a country, with low prices of crude oil often synonymous of a slowing down in the economy.

It must be remembered that to keep oil prices low, OPEC countries are required to maintain a high rate of production, doubling the damage to themselves. Firstly, they take less income than expected and, secondly, they deplete their oil reserves to favor the strategy imposed by Saudi Arabia on OPEC to please the White House. It is clearly a strategy that for a country like Qatar (and perhaps Venezuela and Iran in the near future) makes little sense, given the diplomatic and commercial rupture with Riyadh stemming from tensions between the Gulf countries.

In contrast, the OPEC+ organization, which also includes other countries like the Russian Federation, Mexico and Kazakhstan, seems to now to determine oil and its cost per barrel. At the moment, OPEC and Russia have agreed to cut production by 1.2 million barrels per day, contradicting Trump’s desire for high oil output.

With this last choice Qatar sends a clear signal to the region and to traditional allies, moving to the side of OPEC+ and bringing its interests closer in line with those of the Russian Federation and its all-encompassing oil and gas strategy, two sectors in which Qatar and Russia dominate market share.

In addition, Russia and Qatar’s global strategy also brings together and includes partners like Turkey (a future energy hub connecting east and west as well as north and south) and Venezuela. In this sense, the meeting between Maduro and Erdogan seems to be a prelude to further reorganization of OPEC and its members.

The declining leadership role of Saudi Arabia in the oil and financial market goes hand in hand with the increase of power that countries like Qatar and Russia in the energy sectors are enjoying. The realignment of energy and finance signals the evident decline of the Israel-US-Saudi Arabia partnership. Not a day goes by without corruption scandals in Israel, accusations against the Saudis over Khashoggi or Yemen, and Trump’s unsuccessful strategies in the commercial, financial or energy arenas. The path this doomed

trio is taking will only procure less influence and power, isolating them more and more from their opponents and even historical allies.

Moscow, Beijing and New Delhi, the Eurasian powerhouses, seem to have every intention, as seen at the trilateral summit in Buenos Aires, of developing the ideal multipolar frameworks to avoid continued US dominance of the oil market through shale revenues or submissive allies as Saudi Arabia, even though the latest spike in production is a clear signal from Riyadh to the USA. In this sense, Qatar’s decision to abandon OPEC and start a complex and historical discussion with Moscow on LNG in the format of an enlarged OPEC marks the definitive decline of Saudi Arabia as a global energy power, to be replaced by Moscow and Doha as the main players in the energy market.

Qatar’s decision is, officially speaking, unconnected to the feud triggered by Saudi Arabia against the small emirate. However, it is evident that a host of factors has led to this historic decision. The unsuccessful military campaign in Yemen has weakened Saudi Arabia on all fronts, especially militarily and economically. The self-inflicted fall in the price of oil is rapidly consuming Saudi currency reserves, now at a new low of less than 500 billion dollars. Events related to Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) have de-legitimized the role of Riyadh in the world as a reliable diplomatic interlocutor. The internal and external repression by the Kingdom has provoked NGOs and governments like Canada’s to issue public rebukes that have done little to help MBS’s precarious position.

In Syria, the victory of Damascus and her allies has consolidated the role of Moscow in the region, increased Iranian influence, and brought Turkey and Qatar to the multipolar side, with Tehran and Moscow now the main players in the Middle East. In terms of military dominance, there has been a clear regional shift from Washington to Moscow; and from an energy perspective, Doha and Moscow are turning out to be the winners, with Riyadh once again on the losing side.

As long as the Saudi royal family continues to please Donald Trump, who is prone to catering to Israeli interests in the region, the situation of the Kingdom will only get worse. The latest agreement on oil production between Moscow and Riyad signals that someone in the Saudi royal family has probably figured this out.

Countries like Turkey, India, China, Russia and Iran understand the advantages of belonging to a multipolar world, thereby providing a collective geopolitical ballast that is mutually beneficial. The energy alignment between Qatar and the Russian Federation seems to support this general direction, a sort of G2 of LNG gas that will only strengthen the position of Moscow on the global chessboard, while guaranteeing a formidable military umbrella for Doha in case of a further worsening of relations between Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

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Constantinople: Ukrainian Church leader is now uncanonical

October 12 letter proclaims Metropolitan Onuphry as uncanonical and tries to strong-arm him into acquiescing through bribery and force.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The pressure in Ukraine kept ratcheting up over the last few days, with a big revelation today that Patriarch Bartholomew now considers Metropolitan Onuphy “uncanonical.” This news was published on 6 December by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (running under the Moscow Patriarchate).

This assessment marks a complete 180-degree turn by the leader of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople, and it further embitters the split that has developed to quite a major row between this church’s leadership and the Moscow Patriarchate.

OrthoChristian reported this today (we have added emphasis):

A letter of Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople to His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine was published yesterday by a hierarch of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in which the Patriarch informed the Metropolitan that his title and position is, in fact, uncanonical.

This assertion represents a negation of the position held by Pat. Bartholomew himself until April of this year, when the latest stage in the Ukrainian crisis began…

The same letter was independently published by the Greek news agency Romfea today as well.

It is dated October 12, meaning it was written just one day after Constantinople made its historic decision to rehabilitate the Ukrainian schismatics and rescind the 1686 document whereby the Kiev Metropolitanate was transferred to the Russian Orthodox Church, thereby, in Constantinople’s view, taking full control of Ukraine.

In the letter, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that after the council, currently scheduled for December 15, he will no longer be able to carry his current title of “Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine.”

The Patriarch immediately opens his letter with Constantinople’s newly-developed historical claim about the jurisdictional alignment of Kiev: “You know from history and from indisputable archival documents that the holy Metropolitanate of Kiev has always belonged to the jurisdiction of the Mother Church of Constantinople…”

Constantinople has done an about-face on its position regarding Ukraine in recent months, given that it had previously always recognized the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church-Moscow Patriarchate as the sole canonical primate in Ukraine.

…The bulk of the Patriarch’s letter is a rehash of Constantinople’s historical and canonical arguments, which have already been laid out and discussed elsewhere. (See also here and here). Pat. Bartholomew also writes that Constantinople stepped into the Ukrainian ecclesiastical sphere as the Russian Church had not managed to overcome the schisms that have persisted for 30 years.

It should be noted that the schisms began and have persisted precisely as anti-Russian movements and thus the relevant groups refused to accept union with the Russian Church.

Continuing, Pat. Bartholomew informs Met. Onuphry that his position and title are uncanonical:

Addressing you as ‘Your Eminence the Metropolitan of Kiev’ as a form of economia [indulgence/condescension—OC] and mercy, we inform you that after the elections for the primate of the Ukrainian Church by a body that will consist of clergy and laity, you will not be able ecclesiologically and canonically to bear the title of Metropolitan of Kiev, which, in any case, you now bear in violation of the described conditions of the official documents of 1686.

He also entreats Met. Onuphry to “promptly and in a spirit of harmony and unity” participate, with the other hierarchs of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in the founding council of the new Ukrainian church that Constantinople is planning to create, and in the election of its primate.

The Constantinople head also writes that he “allows” Met. Onuphry to be a candidate for the position of primate.

He further implores Met. Onuphry and the UOC hierarchy to communicate with Philaret Denisenko, the former Metropolitan of Kiev, and Makary Maletich, the heads of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” and the schismatic “Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church” respectively—both of which have been subsumed into Constantinople—but whose canonical condemnations remain in force for the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

The hierarchs of the Serbian and Polish Churches have also officially rejected the rehabilitation of the Ukrainian schismatics.

Pat. Bartholomew concludes expressing his confidence that Met. Onuphry will decide to heal the schism through the creation of a new church in Ukraine.

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church under Metropolitan Onuphry’s leadership is recognized as the sole canonical Orthodox jurisdiction in Ukraine by just about every other canonical Orthodox Jurisdiction besides Constantinople. Even NATO member Albania, whose expressed reaction was “both sides are wrong for recent actions” still does not accept the canonicity of the “restored hierarchs.”

In fact, about the only people in this dispute that seem to be in support of the “restored” hierarchs, Filaret and Makary, are President Poroshenko, Patriarch Bartholomew, Filaret and Makary… and NATO.

While this letter was released to the public eye yesterday, the nearly two months that Metropolitan Onuphry has had to comply with it have not been helped in any way by the actions of both the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Ukrainian government.

Priests of the Canonical Church in Ukraine awaiting interrogation by the State authorities

For example, in parallel reports released on December 6th, the government is reportedly accusing canonical priests in Ukraine of treason because they are carrying and distributing a brochure entitled (in English): The Ukrainian Orthodox Church: Relations with the State. The Attitude Towards the Conflict in Donbass and to the Church Schism. Questions and Answers.

In a manner that would do any American liberal proud, these priests are being accused of inciting religious hatred, though really all they are doing is offering an explanation for the situation in Ukraine as it exists.

A further piece also released yesterday notes that the Ukrainian government rehabilitated an old Soviet-style technique of performing “inspections of church artifacts” at the Pochaev Lavra. This move appears to be both intended to intimidate the monastics who are living there now, who are members of the canonical Church, as well as preparation for an expected forcible takeover by the new “united Church” that is under creation. The brotherhood characterized the inspections in this way:

The brotherhood of the Pochaev Lavra previously characterized the state’s actions as communist methods of putting pressure on the monastery and aimed at destroying monasticism.

Commenting on the situation with the Pochaev Lavra, His Eminence Archbishop Clement of Nizhyn and Prilusk, the head of the Ukrainian Church’s Information-Education Department, noted:

This is a formal raiding, because no reserve ever built the Pochaev Lavra, and no Ministry of Culture ever invested a single penny to restoring the Lavra, and the state has done nothing to preserve the Lavra in its modern form. The state destroyed the Lavra, turned it into a psychiatric hospital, a hospital for infectious diseases, and so on—the state has done nothing more. And now it just declares that it all belongs to the state. No one asked the Church, the people that built it. When did the Lavra and the land become state property? They belonged to the Church from time immemorial.

With the massive pressure both geopolitically and ecclesiastically building in Ukraine almost by the day, it is anyone’s guess what will happen next.

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Ukrainian leadership is a party of war, and it will continue as long as they’re in power – Putin

“We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

RT

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Via RT…


Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has branded the Ukrainian leadership a “party of war” which would continue fueling conflicts while they stay in power, giving the recent Kerch Strait incident as an example.

“When I look at this latest incident in the Black Sea, all what’s happening in Donbass – everything indicates that the current Ukrainian leadership is not interested in resolving this situation at all, especially in a peaceful way,” Putin told reporters during a media conference in the aftermath of the G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This is a party of war and as long as they stay in power, all such tragedies, all this war will go on.

The Kiev authorities are craving war primarily for two reasons – to rip profits from it, and to blame all their own domestic failures on it and actions of some sort of “aggressors.”

“As they say, for one it’s war, for other – it’s mother. That’s reason number one why the Ukrainian government is not interested in a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Putin stated.

Second, you can always use war to justify your failures in economy, social policy. You can always blame things on an aggressor.

This approach to statecraft by the Ukrainian authorities deeply concerns Russia’s President. “We care about Ukraine because Ukraine is our neighbor,” Putin said.

Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been soaring after the incident in the Kerch Strait. Last weekend three Ukrainian Navy ships tried to break through the strait without seeking the proper permission from Russia. Following a tense stand-off and altercation with Russia’s border guard, the vessels were seized and their crews detained over their violation of the country’s border.

While Kiev branded the incident an act of “aggression” on Moscow’s part, Russia believes the whole Kerch affair to be a deliberate “provocation” which allowed Kiev to declare a so-called “partial” martial law ahead of Ukraine’s presidential election.

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