First Imax in Central Africa? Yes, call in Eastern Europeans to launch it well

by Andy Kozlov

Back in October 2011, The Hollywood Reporter announced that giant screen exhibitor Imax Corp. has inked a deal with Blue Sky World Entertainment to install a digital IMAX® theatre system at the 20th Century Plaza in Nairobi, Kenya.

Director of IMAX Kenya at the time of the launch of the first IMAX system in Central Africa back in March 2012 was Ms Anna Ratnikova, a Moscow University civil law graduate.

Over the past weekend, I had a chance to ask Anna –whose CV lists stints as a fitness instructor in Ukraine and manager at a scrap metal company — a number of questions about her experience of Africa.

Your facebook page says “Based in Nairobi.” Do you get to travel around the continent? Describe your most pleasant and most frustrating travel experience in Africa?

Yes, correct “Based in Nairobi”, my FB page is not lying to you. To be honest, I cannot say I have travelled a lot across Kenya. The first six months in Nairobi required me to be involved in the work process 24/7.

So far, I haven’t had any frustrating travel experience.

Speaking of a very nice travel, it was a journey to Lamu, a small town on Lamu Island and  a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with some of my colleagues and friends.

The experience was awesome, looking forward to get back there maybe with some of my friends. Well, the Coast as Mombasa, Diani, Malindi can be very nice and worth to travel to. Ocean, heat and humidity lovers should try the place out.

People like Nikolai Bazanov of the Ukrainian team behind the first Ukrainian-Nigerian feature film Feathered Dreams cite lack of reliable media data/stats as a significant hurdle for developing international film co-productions with Africa. How did you deal with the challenge? By relying on local consultants? Name two-three reliable companies to go to when launching a media venture in Kenya.

Let’s look at this problem “lack of reliable media data/stats etc.” from a different angle….

My opinion is that if you want to start a business in Kenya, regardless of industry, you should settle down in this country before taking any steps and making any decisions. Or, as an option, you should get a representative who will gather all necessary data, information, act on your behalf, advise what direction you should move in etc. This is how you can minimize the risks of failure.

Thereby I believe once Nikolai gets a representative in Kenya, most likely the person he knows quite well, it will help to break down all the obstacles and get the right connections.

Challenge – very interesting question. We always managed to find a way out, there are no unsolvable problems. You begin to rely on your own acquired experience, knowledge, and understanding of mentality, sometimes you get advice, “tips” obtained from different sources. In the end, you are the one who will be taking risks and bearing all responsibility for the decisions that you have made.

Two-three companies to go to…..Prefer not to name any, for some political reasons. We work with people on a daily basis and it doesn’t really matter what company they work for. It can be an international unit but the staff work very unprofessionally because of poor skills of the personnel. Or it can be a 100% Kenyan organization with strong work ethic, wise leadership and doing their best.

In an interview for the Business Daily Africa you mentioned that you travel a lot. Where else in Sub-Saharan Africa have you been? You have also mentioned in some of your previous interviews that many African business people are not honest. Are women more honest than men? How does an international media business deal with such kind of HR problems?

After a successful launch of first IMAX in Central Africa, Anna Ratnikova remains in Nairobi looking for her next exciting project

Yes, I’ve mentioned that I travel a lot, but I didn’t mean Africa. On this continent, I have only been to Uganda and Tunisia.

Honesty in business – hard core question. I prefer not to connect it with gender or nationality…. And actually, in this particular interview you’ve mentioned above, I didn’t say it in a way the guy who interviewed me has presented it, in the end.

In fact it had brought me a lot of headache, essentially, at some stage, I accused all of my partners of dishonesty regardless of how well they’d performed. Of course if you are a new person or company in the market somebody will try to get advantage of you, overcharge you, or get you an information feed or pricing which has nothing to do with reality.

By the way, you will hardly ever come across a price list here. Meaning: from suppliers of building materials or on the street markets. Here, everything is in your hands and depends on how good you can negotiate to get a bargain and how lucky you are. Color of your skin makes a difference.

An international media business doesn’t normally get involved in this kind of problems. There are some institution which you can normally ask for assistence. Lawyers for example.

Did you invite to Kenya any of Ukrainian colleagues from your previous projects, someone you could rely on?

Yes, we did, actually they were hired by the shareholders. In total, five managers from Ukraine. For all of us it was absolutely new, a start-up project. We have never been involved in cinema business before. All the supervising work has been done from Ukraine by people who are more familiar with this business in general.

Is there any Eastern European expat operating in Africa that inspires you or that the world should know about because of her/his business ethics and visionary leadership?

Well, never thought about it….But I do know one woman from the Czech Republic. She is a former CEO of the KenyaBuzz magazine. She managed to run the company and raise four kids at the same time.

Is there life after a successful launch of IMAX in Kenya? What direction do you plan to give to your future projects based on the IMAX experience?

Well, the advantage I get out of IMAX experience is a wide network of people and a good reputation which hopefully will help in my future projects. Which I guess will have nothing to do with cinemas. But who knows! Meanwhile, I remain in Nairobi and I am open to new project offers.

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