Luc Chenier: The Franco-Canadian Pioneer in Ukraine

Luc Chenier

For more than eighteen years, Luc Chenier has soaked up the specifics of Ukrainian life and business community. In fact, the Franco-Canadian entrepreneur is behind the successful branding campaign 'Ukraine – Open for U', as well as viral vlogs during 2017 Eurovision. Nowadays Luc is partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture of Ukraine and expanding his own company in the United States. We talked Ukraine as a brand, its perspectives in business, tourism and international relations.

You might have noticed that numerous airlines launch more and more flights to and from Ukraine in the recent months. Among them is the long-awaited nonstop Kyiv-Toronto flight, which is a nice touch after the liberalization of the Canadian visa policy. Is Canada interested in further partnership or investing in Ukraine?

More flights and connections to Ukraine are always a good thing for business and for our economy as it helps connect potential investors as well as Ukrainian business people to go and create a business. The Kyiv-Toronto direct flight is a good thing, but as long as the service and price match it. While I believe we have a good airline, for Trans-Atlantic travel, Ukraine International Airlines still has some ways to go in order to deliver an experience that matches other more established airlines. It’s not only Ukrainians that are traveling, but also foreigners and potential investors. We have to learn to create and deliver the best possible first impression of Ukraine from the minute they purchase a ticket and this all comes down to impeccable service from the very start until they return to their homeland.

As to the question if Canada is interested in a further partnership with Ukraine…Let’s review the relationship between both countries. Canada was the first to recognize Ukrainian independence, it has one of the largest diasporas in the world (1.3 million), Canada supports Ukraine’s military with the training of soldiers at its military base in Lviv, the Free-Trade agreement which was signed last year, the recent investment in helping promote women in business, the recent mega investment for an IT Park in Lviv by a Canadian company, it’s very active Embassy in Ukraine, etc. Canada is very much interested in further developments with Ukraine and I believe that its well-documented support shows this clearly and will continue to grow for years to come.

Many experts argue that Ukraine's strongest investment areas are agriculture and IT sector. What are the current perspectives of both? Are there any wild cards that slip from the public eye? Luc Chenier with Viktor PinchukPhoto: Luc Chenier with Ukrainian businessman Victor Pinchuk

Yes, of course, IT and Agriculture are prime candidate sectors for all the obvious reasons, but we should keep pushing other sectors as well such as health tourism services, logistics and transport so that Ukraine can become a true hub due to its strategic location and cost factors.

We should also look at the creative industries such as film productions. Apple, Diesel, Coldplay, etc are all choosing Ukraine as a key filming location due to incredible low costs, talents and locations. With the proper investment in a western level studio, we could compete directly with neighboring countries for film projects that are already working with major Hollywood productions! The impact on our economy would have a trickle-down effect from large to small companies supplying these projects as well as helping to showcase our country in a positive way.

Recently Banda Agency has presented the new brand identity for Ukraine ("Ukraine. Now"). While many corporations supported the design, some people met it with criticism and disdain and even went so far as to hold their own contest for the "proper" branding. What is the main problem with Ukraine as a touristic and business brand nowadays?

As to the new branding campaign, I don’t believe the campaign itself is flawed, but more so its implementation on how it plans to be used. What I mean is that while it’s a nice campaign with some strong potential, where it seems to fail is that it has no clear strategic implementation within and across the government organism so that each can use it to their particular needs to the fullest. Or at least it has not been clearly communicated to the public on how it plans to use it and how it will potentially help Ukraine. The agency did a great job, but the implementation on how to use it and to clearly measure its ROI (Return On Investment) is practically non-existent which means we will never truly know its real impact.

Which brings us to the core issue with Ukraine…While being an incredible country with an untapped potential on all levels, it has a fatal flaw that eliminates all chances of success - it lacks the will and the knowledge of how to properly and consistently communicate its messages to the world. This confuses the world, hurts the perception of what is possible and helps those who wish to harm Ukraine’s images.

In your opinion, what is the most drastic change about Ukraine that happened over the eighteen years you've been here?Luc Chenier with OnukaPhoto: Luc Chenier with Ukrainian singer ONUKA

The 2 revolutions…it’s sad to say, but without the people standing up for their rights, not much would have changed and progress would not have happened. The revolutions forced changes that otherwise would not have been addressed. I believe that in the next few years another sort of revolution will happen, but it will be in another form which I hope it will not be a violent one, but a powerful peaceful movement. If you look at all successful nations, they at one point or another experienced revolutions in order to become who they are today… Ukraine is now experiencing theirs and this will help shape the country and its ideas for years to come until stability will finally find its place.

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What are the main difficulties and rewarding sides of being a businessman in Ukraine?

Like I always say in a loving way about Ukraine — NO SENSE, MAKES SENSE ;) If you can handle the constant changes that often don’t make much sense in the west, then you will do well in Ukraine. It’s all about understanding how things are done here and not trying to push another foreign system into the mix. What I find rewarding about doing business here is that you can create practically anything from scratch. Ukraine gives you the liberty to reinvent yourself or create something new and provides the tools and curiosity in order to attract other like-minded people to the project. From that, momentum steps in and it's up to you to make sure it stays on course and develops properly.

I know that you have taken part in promoting Leopolis Jazz Fest in Lviv. Do you have a preference when it comes to Ukrainian cities?Luc Chenier with Klitschko brothersPhoto: Luc Chenier with Klitschko brothers

Depends on my mood and needs. Kyiv is where I feel most at home as its always moving and energetic. I love the pace and access to the right people and opportunities. As to Lviv and Odesa, both these cities have their own special charm that lets me take a step back in order to give me the chance to focus on what is truly important in life and to recharge before coming back to Kyiv in order to deal with the realities of business.

Tell us about your current projects.

Plan C company bannerCurrently I am in full production for a new investment video for the Government of Ukraine specifically for the Ministry of Agriculture to promote Organic farming in Ukraine to the world. My company PLAN C is also looking to open a representative office in New York City as we are now expanding our business in the United States due to new business projects with North American clients.

Luc Chénier
Founder PLAN C
+380 68 303 21 60

Photos provided by Luc Chenier.


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