Business in the Pandemic

X- market , Vadim Khimich , coronavirus

Vadim Khimich, X-market’s CEO, spoke about how the company lives and works during the Coronavirus crisis.


© Vadim Khimich

Russian version

We were somewhat lucky. Our friends living abroad warned us about possible actions of the authorities. About masks, fines for leaving the house, and possible closings of retail stores. Therefore, we partially managed to prepare. The only thing that could not be predicted was the long weekend at the expense of business. This is certainly our fault. To our friends in Switzerland, the state immediately after the announcement of the pandemic transferred 10% of their annual turnover to their current account. Just in case they need money. No, we didn't expect it to be like in Switzerland. At my university I had an “A” in Socialist Realism. I was firmly convinced that it would be exactly NOT like in Switzerland. But the fact that of all possible measures to support entrepreneurship it was prayer that we were offered was a surprise even for me.

This measure, to be honest, I used. But otherwise I еhad to get out myself.

The first thing we did was writing letters to our respected landlords. Like, “Hard times are coming. Let's decide how we will live. Those who were smarter arranged a deal with us. The rest simply stopped being paid”.

At the same time, we placed a large order for antiseptics and purchased vodka in bulk. Because firstly, there were persistent rumors about the possible introduction of Prohibition. And secondly, a very well-known alcohol-producing brand (its products are widely represented in a high price segment) made an offer that could not be refused. Vodka in five-liter cans and without excise tax. Nine hundred rubles for a canister. We ordered a great deal of surface wiping tissues.

The masks were donated by our partners from China. Knowing the Russian realities, they also offered toilet paper, but we politely declined. I didn't want to spoil the image of the great superpower.

On April 28, 2020, the retail trade froze. All shops had to be closed. Only offices in three cities remained working: in Moscow, in St. Petersburg and in Rostov-on-Don. And also warehouses in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Offices soon switched to "remote-mode", and warehouses for all the days of the pandemic continued to work as usual.

The most interesting, as we expected, happened in Rostov. There, the order for a special regime came out late at night. For a long time in the high office, the lone light of a green lamp did not go out... And in the early morning under the doors of the shops there gathered fines-collectors. They scraped their nails against the glass, howling with impotence. The night-shifters, mostly students, did not open the door for them. They simply overslept. In all universities it was the time of sessions.

Always a wholesale company, we have never been strong in online retail. And in this sense, the crisis has not changed us. We decided that the best anti-crisis measure was to just do our main job well. Ensure uninterrupted supply to those who do e-commerce. Despite electronic passes and police cordons.

And here again Rostov did not disappoint. There they could not fail to perform the sacramental: “Online registration can be completed in office six.” Initially, they even planned to give electronic passes for enterprises to directors personally during a visit to the city administration house.

The scariest were the first two weeks of April with the first full payment of salaries. The income was simply equal to zero. The courts stopped working, but the tax-collectors became even more active.

It got a little better since mid-April. The wholesale turnover remained, although it decreased by about a half. Due to this, we were able to pay salaries in retail (Russians do not abandon their own in the war) and start paying manufacturers in equal shares. Realizing that it is not easy for them now either. From the same money, funds were transferred to doctors through the Pravmir Foundation. Also at the expense of salaries. At that time, I appreciated my team’s attitude – not one refused to do it, although the salaries were already cut. With such people we can survive anything.

During that period, we abandoned only one partner. A condoms supplier. God knows how I disliked the idea of working with this trademark. No turnover, no extra charge, only joy – the name is well-known. They persuaded me eventually. We tell them: the shops do not work, everything is isolated, even the goods cannot be taken from the network, please increase the delay. And in response to us – “penalties under the contract”. Well, it’s just fantastic.

We are ready to leave the isolation at any time. The whole team is sау. No one is sick. So, to go out we simply need to polish our shoes. So, this is the way we will come out – unshaved and with undyed hair. But persistent and stubborn like weeds.

With faith and hope for the best.