World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum to be held in Australia

The Australian Latvian 56th Arts Festival will be held in Melbourne this year. During the Festival another event – the World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum is scheduled for 29th and 30th December. Latvians Online spoke to the coordinator of the forum, Kristīne Saulīte.

What do you aim to achieve with this forum – to be held in Australia, so far away from Latvia?

Firstly, I’d like to mention that the President of Latvia, Mr. Raimonds Vējonis, is patron of this event and the forum is being organised in conjunction with the Latvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia. This is a jointly organised forum, as the Latvian government understands the desirability for Latvia to find new export markets outside Europe. The event has also been officially announced as one of Latvia’s centenary events (Latvia will be celebrating 100 years in 2018).

There are two main aims of the forum. Firstly, the interaction of the Latvian government with our diaspora has, until now, mainly been in the cultural arena and very little collaboration has taken place in the economic sphere — either in export, investment or sharing of expertise and knowledge. It’s time for those Latvians living outside of Latvia to share their experiences with Latvian-based entrepreneurs.

I mean this in a practical sense: for instance, what are the expectations if you wish to conduct business in Australia or other countries in this region? What are market realities, what is the business climate like and what are the business etiquettes in this region? It’s important to realise that you can’t conduct business in other countries relying on the business standards and practices of your own country. In order to be able to successfully develop an export business, you need to understand the business culture of the market that you are entering. You need to conduct market research, make contacts with others in the industry, research the best way to promote your product, and many other tasks associated with export.

The second aim is to attract business leaders of Latvian heritage living in the Asia/Pacific region, entrepreneurs or other business specialists interested in developing contacts and/or business projects in Latvia and to give them the opportunity to network with like-minded people.

Australia was chosen for the 2016 Forum as it is a stable, economically developed and mature country in the region with longstanding business connections in the strategically important countries of the region. Also, it is a particularly significant time at the moment, as the European Union is actively working towards establishing free trade agreements with Australia, New Zealand and other ASEAN countries. This could be a very appropriate time for Latvian businesses with a view to export to explore this region, and the intention is that our forum might better equip them to enter these markets.

This networking opportunity will give Australian and Latvian businesses a chance to meet, exchange ideas, provide a forum to learn about the Australian markets and business culture. There is no guarantee for anyone that this forum will lead to the signing of business deals, yet the personal connections participants will make will be invaluable and could serve as a springboard for further collaboration between businesses.

The previous World Latvian Economics and Innovations Forum was held in 2015. This next one is being organised only a year later. Why so?

The two year gap between the first and second forums held in Rīga highlighted a certain loss of momentum by not having an annual event. Introducing a regional forum outside of Latvia on the “off years” that the Riga forum is not being held, will not only enhance continuity, but will also expand the quality of interactions available. With this in mind, the next regional forum outside of Latvia is anticipated to be held in the United States.

Have any participants from Latvia already confirmed they will be attending?

The opening session will be dedicated to Latvia’s vision for growth and building ties with Asia Pacific region. Participants in this session will be Dace Melbārde (Latvian Minister for Culture), Egīls Levits, (Judge at the Court of Justice of the European Union), and a Latvian Ambassador from the Asia Pacific Region. Other confirmed participants include Lāsma Līdaka from LIAA (Investment and Development Agency of Latvia) and Jānis Endziņš, representing LTRK (Latvian Chamber of Commerce and Industry).

A number of Latvian business owners are planning to attend – representatives from Latvijas Finieris (a large Latvian plywood company), Jānis Ošlejs, owner of Primex (industrial concrete floor construction), Arnis Petrānis from Peruza (customised production equipment), owner of translation services company Linearis – Voldemārs Brēdiķis and Jānis Jenzis, owner of a number of wine bars and restaurants in Rīga. Some of our ex-diaspora Latvians now living in Latvia will also be in Melbourne – Krišjānis Putniņš, owner of popular folk club ALA Pagrabs in Vecrīga, Pēteris Stupāns, Founder and Managing Director at Nordplay SIA, and Arnis Kākulis, Regional Director of AECOM (engineering design firm) and President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia.

Why is the forum being held during the Latvian Arts festival (Kultūras dienas)?

As there will be a large concentration of Latvians in one place, similar to the Latvian “Dziesmu Svētki” (Latvian National Song Festival, held every five years) we thought this the perfect time to organise this event. The forum has been coordinated with the Latvian Arts Festival organising committee and we have scheduled not to overlap with major festival events, but rather to complement their offering.

Where will the event be held?

In the centre of Melbourne – at the Rydges Hotel, Exhibition Street.

What will be the format of the event?

The first day (29th December) will be devoted to panel discussions related to Latvia building ties with the Asia Pacific region both from a visionary perspective as well as the practical side of conducting business in this region and 30th December will comprise a day of technical tours. These will be visits to various local businesses outside of Melbourne to see how they operate. This will also provide the opportunity for people to meet and network in a less formal environment.

What will be the working language of the event?

The event will be held in English, to maximize accessibility and reach out to as many interested participants as possible.

For more information have a look at the PLEIF website or the PLEIF LinkedIn page or Facebook page.




Daina Gross is editor of Latvians Online. An Australian-Latvian she is also a member of the Education Board of the World Federation of Free Latvians and the translator into English of various books on industrial history in Latvia.

Webcams in the Baltics – what can you see?

Webcams are an interesting way of catching a glimpse of what goes on in a country — from afar. You won’t see the main sights but you may see some interesting goings-on in the city or town you may be interested in visiting. Some of the main tourist towns and cities in Latvia now have live-streaming webcams installed. Latvians Online interviewed Antons Mironovs, PR Manager of Baltic Live Cam. 

When did you start installing webcams in Rīga and Jūrmala?

We have been installing the webcams since 2011, but we have recently started to expand our collection and, with webcams in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, are aiming at Scandinavian countries, with our most recent webcam installed in the capital of Finland – Helsinki.

What was the purpose of installing the webcams?

In order to increase the people’s interest of Rīga and Jūrmala and to show the most noticeable moments in the life of these two cities. Then, we have noticed that there is beauty in all parts of the Baltic region and in 2015 we started to expand further into the Baltics and installed a webcam in Tallinn. Right now, the purpose of the streams has slightly shifted to a more practical use, but a lot of people are still fascinated by the unique atmosphere of our featured locations and practically flood our website when certain events are captured by our webcams.

Which webcams are favorite among the internet users?

The people that watch the streams do it for three different reasons: check the current weather conditions, see various different locations across the Baltics and watch an event they cannot or decided not to attend. Concerning the weather, almost every camera is useful, as they show crucial places for weather observation, be it a city skyline, a panorama, a beach, etc. I personally have found out that some of my friends, without knowing that I work here, actively use our webcams in Old Rīga every day before going to work, the typical weather forecast is useful, but seeing how people are dressed on the live stream helps better than any weather report. In case of weather, as it has been said, the most popular are in Old Rīga, especially Freedom Monument Square and Livu Square. Also, the Vanšu Bridge over the river Daugava, which is also useful for seeing how intense the traffic is. The Majori Beach and Jomas Street in Jūrmala are incredibly popular, as the city is favorite among Riga citizens to go to for a weekend.

There are also a few sightseeing locations captured by our live stream webcams. We have a webcam in Narva that is pointed at the two medieval castles – Narva Castle and the Ivangorod Fortress that stand next to each other on the opposite banks of the Narva River. On top of that, one castle is located in Estonia and the other one – in Russia. You can actually see the border of the two countries, which at the same time is the border of Russia and the EU! Needless to say, the view is always fascinating, also considering that there is a crowded beach in the foreground.

Which interesting and unique incidents have been caught on camera? Perhaps, for example, the police was able to catch a thief thanks to your camera?

We have never been asked by the police or any authorities to assist them, largely due to the fact that we are not allowed to record anywhere we want. That is because some of our webcams are situated in the places that concern national or even international security.

However, we have been asked by some people to provide the footage of the previously mentioned Narva and Ivangorod Castles, after a child almost drowned near the beach and people wanted to know what exactly happened. Unfortunately, this particular webcam we were not allowed to record for sure, as this is the one that concerns international security. Thankfully, the child was okay and if we could, we would definitely help and provide the recording.

What percentage of people realise that there is a webcam while passing by and start attracting attention?

Not many, even though there is a sign underneath each webcam where people’s faces can be seen (we are obliged to do that by law), there are so many cameras everywhere nowadays – no one sees the difference between the ordinary security cameras and live stream webcams.

However, if people already know about the webcam, they usually try to figure out where it is and play with it in some way. A lot of Facebook users from Daugavpils upon seeing the webcam from their Central Square have written to their friends and relatives to come there and wave. Some even sent screenshots from their phones with themselves on some of the webcams, but usually, people stick to just watching the streams and that’s all.

How many webcams are there in, for instance, the Old Town that are installed for security’s sake?

Actually, none of them are essentially for security, as security footage is not allowed to be viewed publicly like our webcams. Although some of the owners of the places where our webcams are installed, like the cafe near the beach in Narva-Joesuu, Estonia, can definitely use the streams for security purposes.

Which webcams are the most interesting for tourists?

When it comes to tourists, they usually check our webcams in order to compare views of different cities and countries to decide where they would want to go. As different views provide different perspectives, tourists watch all of them, but in essence, they find the panoramic views and the views of beaches to be the most interesting.

Most of the people from abroad like to watch our webcams just for the sake of enjoyment. They often like to watch the events or just the buzz of day-to-day city life.

In which part of the day is it most interesting to watch what is happening through the webcam? During the day or the night?

It depends on the location. Mostly, it is most interesting during the day, especially during the evening, when the people are free from work and are just taking a stroll. Summer provides a chance to observe the coastlines of several beaches, which is probably one of the most beautiful things that you can get out of our website. Sometimes, it’s really fun to look at the morning rush in the crowded transportation knots and some places become truly alive only after dusk – especially in the Old Town of Rīga. Certain events obviously attract a huge amount of people – some of our followers from abroad usually eagerly express their envy in our Facebook comment section (in a good way, no trolling).

Concerning this very moment, in the recent Pokémon GO craze, it is extremely interesting to check any webcam of the Old Town or Jomas street in Jūrmala either for checking where the most people go to find more Pokémon or Pokestops or just watch the people play – there are swarms of gamers practically everywhere.


FOTO: Filips Birzulis

Uzņēmējs Krišjānis Putniņš: Latvijā uzsākt pirmo biznesu vieglāk nekā Austrālijā

Tuvojoties Pasaules latviešu ekonomikas un inovāciju foruma (PLEIF) norisei Austrālijā šī gada nogalē, Austrālijā dzimušais Krišjānis Putniņš, kurš pirms astoņiem gadiem pārcēlies uz Latviju un Rīgā atvēris pirmo folkklubu „ALA pagrabs“, dalās pieredzē par uzņēmējdarbības iespējām Latvijā.

„Kad es pirmo reizi Rīgā atvēru folkklubu, tad Latvijā vēl nebija tāda tautiskā kustība, kāda tagad ir, kad visiem ir telefonu vāciņi ar latviešu rakstiem un šalles ar Lielvārdes jostas rakstiem. Latviešu folklora nebija vēl tik populāra. Tā ļoti nosacīti eksistēja tikai starp tiem, kuri ar to nodarbojās folkloras kopās un atsevišķos pasākumos,“ skaidro K. Putniņš, kura vadītais klubs šobrīd ik dienas pulcē ap 1000 apmeklētāju. „Man personīgi ir tāda sajūta, ka esmu piedalījies folkloras kustībā un to daļēji arī palīdzējis popularizēt,“ uzskata uzņēmējs.

Putniņš atzīst, ka procesā esot nācies pielaist daudz kļūdu un gūt smagas mācības, bet tas viņu nav atturējis turpināt. „Ir jāmācās un jāpieļauj tās kļūdas, bet galvenais nepadoties. Iespēja augt te tomēr ir krietni lielāka nekā Austrālijā vai Amerikā vai vēl kaut kur. Te tirgus ir mazāks. Te ir arī krietni mazāk līdzekļu vajadzīgs, lai uzsāktu pirmo biznesu. Un te arī ir ļoti daudz ideju, kas vēl nav realizētas, un līdz ar to te, savā ziņā, ir atvērts tirgus,“ uzskata K. Putniņš. „Ja tu nāc no ārzemēm ar godīgu, pozitīvu un strādīgu attieksmi, kādu es redzu ārzemju latviešu jauniešos, tad tādiem cilvēkiem ir visas iespējas kaut ko sasniegt,“ piebilst uzņēmējs.

Lai veicinātu ārpus Latvijas dzīvojošo latviešu uzņēmēju un biznesa līderu interesi par ekonomisko sadarbību un ieguldīšanu Latvijā, kā arī lai iepazīstinātu Latvijas uzņēmējus ar biznesa iespējām Klusā okeāna un Āzijas reģionā, šī gada 29. un 30. decembrī notiks Pasaules latviešu ekonomikas un inovāciju foruma pirmais reģionālais pasākums ārpus Latvijas ar skatu uz Klusā okeāna un Āzijas reģionu.

„Kopš Latvijas neatkarības atjaunošanas uz Latviju ir pārcēlušies un savu uzņēmējdarbību ir uzsākuši vairāki Austrālijas latvieši, kuri, atverot savus uzņēmumus, algojot darbiniekus un maksājot nodokļus Latvijā, sniedz nozīmīgu ieguldījumu Latvijas tautsaimniecības izaugsmes veicināšanā,“ skaidro Kristīne Saulīte, Pasaules Brīvo latviešu apvienības priekšsēža vietniece un PLEIF 2016 koordinatore. „Rīkojot Pasaules latviešu ekonomikas un inovāciju forumu Melburnā, Austrālijā, vēlamies ne vien iepazīstināt Latvijas uzņēmējus ar eksporta iespējām Klusā okeāna un Āzijas reģionā, bet arī ieinteresēt Austrālijas latviešus ieguldīt Latvijā,“ piebilst K. Saulīte.

Pasaules latviešu ekonomikas un inovāciju forums ir Pasaules Brīvo latviešu apvienības sadarbībā ar Latvijas Republikas Ārlietu ministriju attīstīta iniciatīva, kuras mērķis ir Latvijas ekonomiskās izaugsmes veicināšanas nolūkā stiprināt sadarbību starp dažādās uzņēmējdarbības nozarēs strādājošiem profesionāļiem Latvijā un pasaulē, veicināt zināšanu pārnesi un finanšu kapitāla piesaisti Latvijai. Pirmais šāds forums notika Rīgā 2013. gada vasarā, bet otrais – 2015. gada vasarā, pulcējot vairākus simtus augsta līmeņa uzņēmējus un dažādu nozaru speciālistus no pāri par 25 valstīm. 29. un 30.decembrī PLEIF ietvaros Melburnā, Austrālijā notiks pirmais reģionālais pasākums ar skatu uz Klusā okeāna un Āzijas reģionu, kurā tiks diskutēts par Latvijas uzņēmēju iespējām darboties Austrālijas, Jaunzēlandes un Āzijas tirgos un par šā reģiona uzņēmēju investīciju iespējām Latvijā.

Interviju ar Krišjāni Putniņu:

Ilze Garoza, Pasaules Brīvo latviešu apvienības ģenerālsekretāre, Mob. tālr. 29123329

Ilze Garoza is a diaspora researcher. She has a Master's degree in Education Leadership and Administration from the University of Minnesota. She has received scholarships from the American Latvian Association and the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies.She is currently Secretary General of the World Federation of Free Latvians (PBLA).