Russia embraces online shopping revolution
Aljosa Milenkovic
In a country as vast as Russia, shopping can sometimes be very time-consuming. Buying goods online is becoming a booming business, luring some world heavyweights to grab a slice of that market.
China's Ali Express at this moment holds almost two-thirds of the entire Russian market. But now local tech giant Yandex is stepping up to challenge the e-commerce competitor. The reason for the "clash of the online titans" is the Internet online shopping revolution that has come to Russia and started shaking its traditional retail businesses. 
China's e-commerce giant Alibaba entered the Russian market a few years ago, and the locals now are trying to reclaim back at least a piece of it. Beru aims to spearhead that thrust. It is a joint venture of two Russian corporate giants. 
One is Yandex – which many here refer to as the "Google of Russia," which is "the brains" of the project, and Sberbank, which is the financial muscle behind Beru. Sberbank invested half a billion U.S. dollars in this venture, hoping not for a quick return on the money, but in time to grab a big share of the expanding market.
 Beru sticker in the headquarters office in Moscow. /CGTN Photo

 Beru sticker in the headquarters office in Moscow. /CGTN Photo

In Beru's headquarters, which is located in the old factory buildings at the outskirts of Moscow, we met Alex Vassiliev, Chief International Officer of the Yandex Market. He emphasized those competitive advantages that Beru has over the main competitors of the Russian market. 
They are offering merchandise from all over the world, and not just from Russia or China, which is now the case for their competition.
"We have thousands of merchants from Turkey right now, we have merchants from South Korea, we have merchants from Germany, etc. So, that's the idea. We want to build a truly global platform which will allow Russian buy from abroad but at the same time, we are also targeting the global expansion as well," said Alex Vassiliev.
Alex Vassiliev, Chief International Officer, Yandex Market. /CGTN Photo

Alex Vassiliev, Chief International Officer, Yandex Market. /CGTN Photo

Shoppers – the biggest winners in 'the market wars'
In the shop where Beru users can pick up their orders, we met student Valeriya Ledeneva. For her, this is the usual way of picking up goods she purchased online. She is picking up goods she purchased the day before from an automated delivery box. It is the fastest way for her to shop.
"I study and also work. So I'm on the computer and mobile phone a lot. That makes it easy for me to compare the products and choose the one with the best price," said Valeriya. "For me, Beru is most convenient, because the purchase is delivered the next day or I can pick it up here."
Valeriya is just one out of millions online shoppers in Russia. According to the investment bank Morgan Stanley, Russia's online shopping market will rise three-fold in the next four years, reaching an annual level of 52 billion U.S. dollars. 
Valeriya Ledeneva, at the Beru shop in Moscow. /CGTN Photo

Valeriya Ledeneva, at the Beru shop in Moscow. /CGTN Photo

In an environment where Chinese Ali Express rules the Russian market, Beru hopes to use its indigenous platform as a competitive advantage, as Anna Nesterova from the Global Rus Trade claims.
"Beru is a national brand created by Russian producers for Russian buyers. Both sides intuitively know how to interact on the platform, how the platform works, how to return merchandise, how to communicate, what to do in the case of returned goods or complaints. It is all intuitive for us," said Anna.
In the looming battle over the Russian market among the online shopping giants, it is the buyer that is most likely to emerge as the winner in the end.