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Egor Lavrov
In this day and age, it�s hard to imagine going without sushi, laptops and stereo equipment. But when Egor Lavrov, a young entrepreneur and native Russian arrived in the Dominican Republic, he encountered exactly that. From his early teens, Lavrov demonstrated a knack for developing new businesses, and has been equally successful in his new environment, turning a profit doing exactly what he wants to do.

Egor�s history in his home country is well-known. Raised in Moscow�s wealthy Rublevskoe neighborhood, and later in Prague, he came back to Russia at the height of the Internet boom. Armed with a degree from the Plekhanov Russian Academy of Economics, Lavrov�s first business, the Russian Internet magazine Planeta Internet was sold to Smolensky Bank for several million dollars when he was just sixteen years old. He went on to create a number of other Internet projects, including �oborenzie.ru� and an infamous counterculture website that inspired other young people like him. Not exactly the same type of light-hearted endeavors that many fortunate teens occupy their time with. At nineteen he became head of the election campaign for Umar Dzhabrailov, which let to Internet efforts in support of Putin�s campaign. Egor had to make a decision and a short while later, he did � he left Russia. But since leaving, his former partner Konstantin Rykov has taken over their political projects.

In his early twenties, his reputation was solidified by his Internet and political PR success. Egor founded the online forum �luxury.ru,� which chronicled his and his peers� growing fascination with luxury goods. He and his wife, Russian-Dominican model Lourdes Espinal, maintained blogs chronicling their purchases, which were extremely popular among young, wealthy Russians. Now a trendsetter in an area outside of politics, Egor had proven that he would most likely experience success in anything for which he showed passion. Since moving to the Dominican Republic, however, he has evolved his interest in luxury goods from a hobby to a business � one that has visited multiple plateaus of success.
He founded Grupo Lavroff in 2000, and it has since grown into a collection of companies operating in the US, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Ecuador, Peru and Russia. The move to Latin America freed him to create this company; one that mirrors his international identity. �Not many Russians live in Latin America, so there is no formed image of Russians here. Most Russians who live abroad are integrated into Russian-speaking communities. Since there is no such thing here I had to change myself, to adapt to local realities, to get this �Latin touch�� he says, explaining some of the challenges of moving to Santo Domingo.

�Coming from Russia, a country that made me addicted to the luxury lifestyle, when I came to Latin America I didn't find anything I was used to, so I decided to build things for myself. Santo Domingo is a first country in the Americas, the capital of the country, the world�s best beaches, and there was no good sushi around. I opened a Japanese restaurant to eat sushi myself and soon it became the best sushi bar in the Caribbean.� No longer just a restaurant, the internationally known brand has expanded into Pravda Express, Pravda Catering, Pravda Entertainment, Pravda Delivery and Pravda Beach, an upcoming hotel and club project. It is a perfect example of the irony between skills and circumstance.

He has had a similar experience with brands like Apple Computer. While not a luxury brand in the typical sense, it was much more upscale than anything available at the time in Latin America. �I bought a laptop for myself and accidentally broke it on the following day, and it took a whole year for a local authorized technician to fix it,� he says, and he saw an opportunity in a market where there was no competition. Grupo Lavroff became a distributor of Apple products in Latin American, and the company is currently responsible for 80% of Apple�s sales and service in the region.

Yet another example of this kind of thinking arose when Lavrov bought a villa in the famous La Romana Casa de Campo golf resort. �I found no professionals to bring and install Bang & Olufsen audio/video equipment for a reasonable price. So my company became Bang & Olufsen distributor and more than doubled their sales here.� Certainly sweet music to our ears.

Grupo Lavroff continues to expand and seek new opportunities, but Egor himself has had to adjust personally as well. �In the beginning I was mad at Latin Americans for being lazy and slow in everything, but I adapted to local time, I live a very relaxed life, I�m not in a hurry anymore. Here in Latin America you have to understand that no matter how hard you push, it's not going to be done when you originally planned it. When you accept it your life becomes easier.� Despite his new personal outlook, his role in the company is as important as ever: �My main involvement in daily operations are global strategy, finance and international negotiations. I�m also the face of my company, when I�m entering new markets everybody thinks about brands I represent here.�

These responsibilities keep him on the move, between the Dominican Republic, Russia, and beyond. �It�s difficult to say where I'm based; I feel like I live in the air, I�m always traveling. I have three houses, two in the Caribbean and one in Miami, Florida.� But it�s not all work and no play for Egor, who is still in his twenties and energetic as ever.

�I usually travel for business, but my business is fun, so I don�t really distinguish anymore. If I�m sitting in front of the Caribbean Sea, working with documents, it�s fun for me. When I need some other type of fun I go clubbing to New York, Miami or Europe,� a habit he adopted while living in Moscow. His interest in traveling, though, has recently turned towards home again. �Now that I�ve been practically all over the world, I feel sorry that I left Moscow without visiting places in Asian part of Russia. Now I�m really interested in visiting ex-Soviet republics like Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, and Armenia, and I�m looking forward to finding time to go there.�

The kind of products around which Egor has centered his business are the same products that populate his lifestyle � the top echelon of luxury goods. His company is an exclusive distributor of Vertu cellphones, a high-end customizable phone renowned for its crystal-clear service, and he uses their products personally, currently the Ascent motor-sport Limited Edition. He feels that �the luxury market for phones is just in the first stage, and Vertu is its pioneer. A luxury segment of any industry is about 1% of the total. It�s known how many mobile phones are manufactured a year, so it�s easy to calculate how big the market is for luxury phones. Calculating potential markets is not something Egor has ever had a problem with. People understand that the phone is actually an important daily device.� As he points out, �I don�t need a camera or full-sized keyboard on my phone, because I have a good camera to take pictures and a computer to work with documents.� This is what he understands so perfectly; the very best of everything. The difference between need, and want.

He is as involved as ever in accumulating for his own purposes. �I�m collecting watches � my favorite brand is Audemars Piguet. I love Dolce & Gabbana clothes and their favorite boutique is in Bal Harbour in Miami. I think their clothes are perfect for people my age. I like vehicles, but the car I really want to have has not been made yet; I dream of having an all-electric SUV with the same luxury styling as Fisker�s Karma. I own several cars, but mainly the more expensive and exclusive the car is, the more technical problems it brings. So far I�ve found Porsche is the most reliable luxury vehicle for everyday use.� I think it�s fair to say that when it comes to success and the enjoyment it brings, Egor is about as reliable as we have found.