God Nisanov is a prominent real estate investor and developer, known for regularly appearing on Forbes lists (#617 for the Billionaires of 2019). Along with Zarakh Iliev, Nisanov owns Kievskaya Ploshchad Group of companies that is ranked #74 of the top 100 private companies in Russia by the Forbes with such projects as largest wholesale distribution center Food City in Russia, largest food mall in Europe, multiple hotels, Radisson Flotilla and many other. According to the CEOWORLD magazine, God Nisanov’s net worth reached $3.5 billion in 2019. Nisanov is also known for his philanthropic efforts and is Vice President of the World Jewish Congress.
Q: What has inspired you in your business career?
A: ‘Allow me to preface my answer by saying that making money in and of itself is not the be-all and end-all. I am passionate about what I do, and whenever I put my mind to something, the end product must be the creme de la creme. I’m driven by the projects that I put my mind to, and it’s important to complete projects that serve a purpose and fulfill a need in society. Creating value propositions for people in the city of Moscow is of paramount importance.’
Q: What commercial activities are you engaged in right now?
A: ‘Since 1992, our group of companies Kievskaya Ploshchad has been realizing their strategic objectives, becoming the largest privately held companies in Russia. Over the past financial year, the group has generated revenue of $1.75 billion. Our companies are engaged in multiple projects, each of them unique and exciting. As a case in point, we have developed the Europeiskiy shopping center – the largest of its kind in Europe. It is second only to the Dubai Mall in terms of sheer size.
More recently, we completed construction of Depo, Europe’s largest food mall. It opened in March 2019, in downtown Moscow. It now sits on the site of the Miussky Tram Depot. Since inception, this eclectic combination of gastronomic delights has been a smash-hit sensation among Muscovites. It is a popular venue and we anticipated an estimated 3,000 visitors daily, and 10,000 visitors on weekends. The runaway success of this development exceeded our modest expectations and by May 2019, the weekend tally of visitors numbered 30,000 people, and by August we counted 35,000 visitors on weekdays.
Truth be told, we relied heavily on the innovative ideas and dynamism of our younger tenants. These folks think outside of the box, and that’s precisely why their businesses became successful. At Depo, you can indulge your fantasies and shop at the market. There are also plenty of other facilities for families to enjoy including a children’s playground, music clubs, and sports clubs. Souvenir shops add intrinsic value to the Depo, and this venue is frequented by plenty of tourists. Depo represents the best of Moscow, and it’s a part of the capital city’s identity. Locals and tourists frequently flock to Depo to enjoy all of its attractions. At 25,000 m², this gastronomic enclave is the largest in Europe, featuring 75 restaurants which can accommodate up to 2,200 people.
Another exciting landmark project is our world-class transport hub situated at Nagatinskaya. This facility features 228,000 m² of office buildings and retail space – a veritable juggernaut of a project. The guiding principle we used when designing the centre was based on ‘Keeping your feet dry’ so that commuters could easily transfer buses without having to go outside in the rain, snow, sleet, or ice.
Perhaps our most ambitious project yet is Food City-2. This wholesale and retail food centre is located in Khimki on the site of the Left Bank Market. Our companies have purchased 40 ha of land and we are actively engaged in the design and development process for a new facility which will span an area of 350,000 m² +. Food City-2 will be sharing tenants with our other centre – Food City. Muscovites have heaped praise upon Food City in the south of Moscow. As it stands, it remains the only agricultural cluster in Russia.
We are equally excited about a Food City-style project in Abu Dhabi. Currently, we’re in consultations with the UAE Minister of State for Food Security for a massive food hub in the UAE. The Emirates is a hive of activity with plenty of tourism and commercial activity. The desert environment of the UAE is not conducive to agricultural production, and the country imports up to 90% of its produce from abroad. A big project with the UAE is certainly an exciting proposition for us.
Our companies are also interested in developing the territory of the demolished Emeral market located on the 25th km of the Moscow Ring Road. Consultations are ongoing, and we are considering our options regarding building one of our projects at this location. Perhaps a Ferrari World Park along the lines of the one in Abu Dhabi – we will be looking carefully at all options for this development.
Our companies are also invested in the construction of an aquarium in Saint Petersburg. This is currently in the design stage. A Singaporean company has drawn up plans for this development, proposed by the city government. Moscow’s Oceanarium – an anchor project at the Exhibition of Achievements of National Economy is truly unique; landlocked from oceans and seas, yet majestic in its beauty and teeming with marine life.
I’m also working in tandem with my business partners to develop a network of premium-grade hotels. These include the Radisson Collection, and Radisson Slavyanskaya Hotel & Business Center. We have reached agreement on the construction and development of a hotel and apartment complex which will fall under the Raffles brand in Zaryadye Park alongside the Kremlin and Red Square.’
Q: Is there something you would have done differently?
A: ‘I truly believe that things unfold as they are supposed to. Reflection and sentiment are not constructive in that sense. I believe that every project we undertake must be seen through to completion. We could only have achieved what we did through the tactics and strategies that we have employed over the years.’
Q: How are these massive projects financed?
A: ‘We develop most of our projects at our own expense. Naturally, we rely on financial partners and lines of credit to finance our largest projects. As an example, we are currently invested in the reconstruction of the Olimpiyskiy Sports Complex in partnership with Sberbank. We do a lot of other work with other banks too. For example, Gazprombank is a partner in the reconstruction of the Shchelkovo bus station – the largest bus station in Russia and Europe. Once it is completed in 2020, it will be a multifunctional, ultramodern transportation hub.’
Q: What business style best describes how you do things?
A: ‘Believe it or not, my business partner and I base many of our decisions on our gut feel. Of course, it’s important to prepare sensible business plans for all strategic decision-making processes. In my opinion, there is no other way to get things done.’
Q: Who do you admire professionally?
A: ‘Talented people. I think highly of professionals, and these are the people I associate with and partner with. Andrew Winch is a classic example of somebody whom I admire. He’s a British designer who creates unique projects every time. His work is masterful, and he designs everything using just a pencil and a sheet of paper. Take the luxury hotel complex in Zaryadye as a case in point. It’s elegantly designed and unique in every sense of the word.’
Q: What advice do you give to entrepreneurs for and start-ups?
A: ‘Go for it! Mistakes will happen – that’s a natural consequence of business ventures. Learn from them. There are cyclical patterns in business activity; that’s the way it goes. Learn to think. Learn to adapt to change. Learn to navigate obstacles and seize on opportunities. This is the self-same advice that I give to my children. It seems a little harsh, but I am of the opinion that you cannot simply give everything to children on a silver platter. It’s important for people to learn about the way things work, why things work, and how best to get things done. Whatever business venture you put your mind to, see it through to completion. This includes everything along the value chain, from buying products to hiring and training personnel. There’s an old saying that goes something like this: ‘If parents work and their children enjoy the fruits of their labour, then their grandchildren will be beggars!’ Not on my watch. I’ve already told my sons: ‘Take the initiative and do it yourselves. We will be supportive of you.’
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