Personal views of Miikka Vahtera who has been working with Latvian business for over six years. He is the founder of Riga based Sia Kauss Agency which is a part of Business Finland Talent Network. He is the Deputy Chairman of Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Latvia, and a Board Member of Finnish Latvian Trade Association in Helsinki.
1. Why is Latvia a great destination for Finnish companies?
Latvians value and respect Finns and Finnish quality.
Riga is closer than Kuopio from Helsinki. Before Covid-19 times it served about ten daily flights from Helsinki, Turku, and Tampere. The freight connections on Via Baltic are fast, frequent and low-cost.
Latvians have enjoyed fastest mobile networks of the world for years - they are open for various digital solutions.
Latvian companies and people are international. They want to explore business opportunities overseas to create market space beyond their borders. All white-collar workers speak fluent English, albeit Russian is spoken widely too.
Each Baltic State is small but together they are bigger than Finland. Finnish companies should increasingly see these countries as one market to get the highest return on marketing and sales investments. Each market requires a local touch and translation, and pan-Baltic approach creates value for all. Riga is a great hub to manage Finnish export business in all Baltic States and beyond.
2. Appealing industries for Finnish companies in Latvia
Traditionally Finns have exported to Latvia oil and chemicals. Neste has a major role in all three Baltic countries.
Vehicle export from Finland to Latvia has been significantly high in the past years.
I see potential in many other sectors for business between Finland and Latvia.
2.1 Growing industries in Latvia
Investment and Development Agency of Latvia (LIAA) has listed potentially most lucrative industries in Latvia. There is some overlapping with Finnish export – that should be seen as an advantage.
Information Technology (including global business services)
Metal working and mechanical engineering
Transport and storage
From this list I will highlight a few from a Finnish respective.
2.2 Finnish Healthcare companies
One of the key focus markets of Latvia is Medical Tourism.
Latvia has state of the art medical clinics which serve wealthy clients from Russia, the UK, Germany, the US and Nordics. Clinics invest in high-end equipment to upgrade their expertise – a great opportunity for Finnish medical innovations.
Currently Riga is the main hub for Finnish medical students to receive their education. When you combine this Finnish asset with Latvia's great IT expertise an opportunity arises: hospital districts in Finland and Sweden will offer an increasing number of e-consulting services for patients. Riga is a great location to produce high quality e-consulting in Finnish / Swedish language to serve customers in those countries. This is only one example of a possible joint venture between a Latvian and a Finnish company.
Finnish medical companies should recognize the potential in medical sector and already start to build networks within it.
2.3 Transport and logistics
Latvia was a trade gateway in Hanseatic League times. Transport still is and will be one of the biggest industries in Latvia. Traditionally it was road and rail, but airBaltic has made Riga an important air hub for freight and passengers.
Travel industry can be seen as a part of transport.
Latvians love Alpine skiing, but country's ski resorts are very small - Latvia is a flat country. Many years finals of Baltic Cup (Baltics Alpine Championships) are organized at Pyhä. That week is one of the busiest weeks of the resort.
Finnish ski resorts can be reached easily from Latvia by car. Many Latvian families already go direction North instead of South to enjoy ski experience.
Latvia, like all Baltic countries, should be the new focus for Finnish ski resorts. After Covid-19 people will prefer destinations reachable by land instead of air transport.
Helsinki and Finnish archipelago offer appealing elements to Latvians, such as holiday breaks with easy access.
Finnish service providers must recognize that Latvians are used to receive high quality service with reasonable pricing.
3. Major Live Events in Latvia
Covid-19 will decrease the interest in MICE industry, but live meetings will be needed in the future too. Latvia took strong action against Covid-19, and hopefully 2022 will create excellent opportunities for live events at the key capital of New Nordics.
Riga Dynamo plays KHL. Jokerit Helsinki visits Riga a couple of times per season. Skybox rentals and catering pricing are reasonable.
ATTA Centre is a brand new venue in Riga. ATTA will showcase various events and provide a great place to host your own marketing events. ATTA is the most modern and international convention centre in Baltics.
For marketing and tech experts I advise to visit the following events, held in English:
Digital Freedom Festival
4. Nordic Chambers and other networks
For many years Finnish companies operating in Latvia have been fortunate to have a great business-minded Embassy to support their operations.
Finnish Chamber of Commerce in Latvia has a full time Executive Director and an active Board. All Nordic countries have their own Chambers in Latvia. Nordic Chambers work closely to create appealing content and opportunities for its members.
Finnish Latvian Trade Association operates in Finland to increase market connections between the countries.
Let’s cooperate to create more and more business opportunities for Finnish companies in and via Latvia.