The Edit

The Brains Behind A Brand: An Interview with Lydia Vladimirskaya

Lydia Vladimirskaya, founder of BRIC, the magazine aiming to overturn cultural stereotypes.

'I didn't expect to be here!' Those are Lydia Vladimirskaya's first words on meeting; she's travelling and the only way we're going to commune is on Skype, in the twenty minutes hiatus before her flight, in the executive lounge at Geneva Airport. An amorphous busy-ness in honour of the greater good, because we're here to discuss BRIC, the eponymous magazine intent on redefining the cultural stereotypes associated with the BRIC nations, Brazil, Russia, India and China; herein lies her niche; a media savvy former PR who is galvanised in a mission to make the entrepreneurs of the emerging markets better understood and ergo better known, to turn over (and to coin a phrase) the 'Abramovich syndrome' that has shackled them to outdated cultural stereotypes.

BRIC is about entrepreneurialism with gloss; the logo a gold embossed hexagon that belies a certain brand ethos; strength, grit, work hard, play hard but do it in style; luxury, lifestyle, but most of all business, a bold black monolith guiding you towards impressive targeted content, already distributed across a myriad of channels, most successfully via the hospitality industry; a miasma of high end hotels where the educated business centric reader is most likely to stumble across it.

Priyanka Chopra is on the cover of the current issue

So there's the pitch, but what makes Vldimirskaya well placed to execute? After a masters degree in finance and a postgraduate diploma in public relations, she worked across a myriad of media roles, even for a local politician in Australia. Then on her return to Europe, her focused PR experience led her to a lightbulb moment; 'I realised that the number of people I was dealing with; many of them are coming from BRIC countries - there is a sort of business niche in itself; Russians dealing with Chinese or Russians dealing with Indians - a fascinating gap in the market that was not really described. For example how the Russians and Indians are sharing the market in Africa. I thought - it's very good to build a brand around this.'

Vladimirskaya is amiable, an attractive woman, with a light friendly demeanour, belied by a certain steely resolve; there's a sense when talking to her of someone as equally determined as the entrepreneurs BRIC aims to profile. 'I'm kind of a perfectionist,' she laughs, 'you know if things aren't get perfect, I really suffer!'

'Suffering' ensured the first issue came to market in a ridiculously speedy month, now two issues later, she's facing 'huge demand for this publication... Especially from the high end market because today there are lots of BRIC clients who are major customers, especially in the luxury sector.' A niche seemingly that lies beyond the borders of the mainstream media. 'Lots and lots of media platforms are targeted to the US consumer and reader but today's situations are slightly changing, the world has become much more international and I think that the mainstream media is staying behind that.'

Investment came from 'private money' with the main revenue stream coming from advertising (it would have to as it retails at a staggering £12). This brings Vladimirskaya to her most pressing problem, distribution. 'There is an ideal world and there is a realistic world,' she laughs. 'We had to go location by location, talk to concierges, explain the concept and then convince them. There was a lot of footwork, but we were very lucky, we had a very low rejection rate, I think because of good presentation and quality content, correct brand association, positioning. But it's all a matter of how much time we're putting in. A couple of days ago I got a distribution sorted for St Tropez in the summer. I physically went there, spoke to concierges, to GMs in hotels, a few took it straight away, a few are not open yet but are considering. The same I have to do in Monaco, the same I have to do at airport lounges!'

Further development will come via an 'exciting IT platform,' one that's all about 'endorsing international inspiring ideas, achievements and creativity,' highlighting individuals with high popularity online and bringing to the fore their 'most outstanding achievements.' Travel then is key; 'It really helps me engage with precise editorial, I meet lots and lots of interesting people, we get to know lots of interesting detail and it also helps me broadcast the exact angles on lifestyle and luxury, but I don't want to make it like this shallow, weird thing; I want to make it something that would inspire people to do.' And 'do' of course is the operative word because; 'the unique thing about people from BRIC is that it's not really family money, generally they are self-made and to each person that we're covering today, there are a hundred more behind them that we would like to cover.'

It is of course an 'emotional experience; engaging with entrepreneurs, many of whom have previous eschewed traditional publicity, which makes Vladirskaya well placed to isolate what makes the successful, well successful. 'I have heard lots of success stories,' she smiles, 'and I have also heard that most of these success stories are composed not only by achievement, but mainly by how people deal with difficulty - nobody's life is really perfect.' The successful, she infers are those that could 'take hardship, but somehow adopt it and turn it to their benefit, and the benefit of their friends as well, and of course they're not 100% likeable! They're not 100% nice people; they had to compromise here and there, but in the long run they created some kind of substance.'

'It takes a certain type of character,' Vadimirskaya continues, 'it's not that you have to be very clever, intellectually or academically, it's not that you have to be harsh or soft, it's some kind of combination of the two. I've found that a lot of the time success is composed from the desire to help somebody. For example, if it's a woman then very often there is a child behind it, or if it is a man who is very successful and self-made then usually there is a family behind it; many people are kind of externally motivated to their success.'

'Streetlife' in Vladimirskaya's opinion is the university from which many of the most successful entrepreneurs have graduated. 'People who manage to get through it, can also do very well in their buisness life, as well, they're grounded, they have common sense and an ability to read and deal with people and sell. I can say that myself personally, as a teenager I went through it. I have to say that when it comes to business the rules are pretty much, more or less the same.'

Challenges have come surprisingly not from editorial. 'I was expecting it to be, because I was very lucky with our editors, I have to say I hardly touch editorial at all.' The magazine is co-founded by Ankit Love, an Indian born recording artist who says, 'We work hard to uncover the great cases of humanity in BRIC countries, as their fast paced economic and social climates contain so much expression, aspiration and possibility.'

The pair are are nothing if not on brand, as are their team. 'We chose personalities that we considered acceptable, that had acquired a bit of depth and discipline and organisation. We were not aiming for any celebrity editors... I believe we were very lucky; everyone in our company is very passionate about the publication. We have had lots of people who have never agreed to give any interviews, but they accept being published in our magazine.'

Vadimirskaya is full of inspirational rhetoric. 'In Europe one of my inspirational characters is Graff; if you read his biography he had five different bankruptcies before he was 22, he started working when he was fourteen and every single business he touched before the age of 22 went broke.' Of course the rest is history, but the name is telling because it's aspirational brands that Vladimirskaya cites when looking to the future. 'In a year's time I would like to have a very clear brand awareness. I would like people to understand the buisness and cultural aspect of BRIC countries. In five years time I would like the magazine to have the popularity of Vanity Fair or Forbes.'

This brings us full circle back to the 'generic derogatory cultural standard' begging to be reframed.'The amount I am personally asked about Abramovich?' Vladimirskaya laughs. 'Like if I know him personally? No I don't know him personally! Actually I know people who are wealthier than him, more successful than him...' Of that I don't doubt her for a second.' Who are they? Damn, the tannoy goes, the flight's boarding; 'I have to go,' Vladimirskaya waves me off Paris bound, that warm amiable grin still in evidence; 'I have to get on the plane!'

1 May 2014