当然，说俄罗斯面积广大无可辩驳。实际上，这是一个增长迅速的巨型市场，有1.42亿消费者（而且数量还在上升）。2012年加入世界贸易组织（World Trade Organization）后，俄罗斯已经成为全球第九大消费品市场。它有欧洲最大的手机用户群体。通信行业研究咨询机构ACM Consulting估算，目前俄罗斯正在使用的手机有2.60亿部。另外，数据统计网站Internet World Stats 在2012年发布的报告显示，俄罗斯有6800万网民。今年，在安永（Ernst & Young）的对外国直接投资吸引力排行榜上，俄罗斯名列全球第六。
Earlier this year, I encountered a Western journalist who was scouring the streets of Moscow looking for homeless people to film. He seemed disappointed when he was unable to find any to include in his footage, which was meant to depict the "real Russia."
I'm not sure what exactly he was expecting -- perhaps people swigging from vodka bottles astride bears in the middle of Red Square -- but his attitude is unfortunately typical of much of the Western media's approach to reporting on my adopted country.
Russia is more than vodka, cold temperatures, Pussy Riot, anti-gay legislation, squabbling oligarchs, and the occasional jailing of a prominent opponent to its President. You simply can't boil down such a vast, vibrant, and complex country to just a few talking points.
Not that they aren't legitimate topics for stories a free press should be reporting on, and one cannot deny that there are many questions about how personal freedoms and opposition to the Kremlin, among other issues, are handled in this country. But things aren't as bad here as Western media makes it seem, and the good outweighs the bad for foreigners looking to make investments in Russia.
As the CEO of Ozon, the largest e-commerce group in Russia, I've had many conversations with professional investors. A common sentiment that surfaces is the need to factor in a higher risk ratio when investing in Russia, compared to almost anywhere else in the world. When pressed for an explanation, the typical answer is that Russia is unfathomably vast and not a democracy -- and thus inherently risky.
It's hard to argue that Russia is anything but vast, of course. In fact, it's a rapidly developing mega-market of 142 million consumers (and counting). A member of the World Trade Organization since 2012, Russia has become the ninth-largest consumer market in the world. It is the biggest mobile phone market in Europe, with an estimated 260 million phones in use (according to ACM Consulting), and an online population of 68 million (according to a 2012 Internet World Stats report). And this year, Ernst & Young ranked Russia as the sixth most attractive region in the world for foreign direct investments.
We can keep digging up relevant numbers, such as Russia's historically low unemployment rate (5.4%), but the key message is that there's reason to be optimistic about the country's economy and growth prospects, especially in the digital realm.
As for some investors' stated problem with Russia not being a democracy, I'd argue that democracy and a stable business environment are two quite different things. Just look at what happened in the democratic republic of Cyprus, where the banking system collapsed seemingly overnight. Or the way investors have been pumping money into China for years, despite the fact that there's less freedom of expression -- or indeed, democracy, for that matter – there than in Russia.
And what to say about corruption, another thing often to be a reason for investors not to bother with looking at opportunities in Russia? As someone who has been running a large cross-border company with 2,000 employees across five businesses in Russia, I can comment based on personal experience. Ozon operates a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to any form of corruption and hasn't paid a single bribe in its 15 years of operation. We've managed to grow without money flowing through a shadowy culture of bribes, sweeteners, and pay-offs, which means others can, too.
Of course corruption occurs -- and I would argue it happens in a lot of countries, including many Western nations -- but the question is how prevalent it really is, and whether the effect on the stability of the business environment is as big as some media and investors make it out to be.