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Alexey Shemetov, the vice-prezident for production at ECO-Culture holding, responded to questions from the BOSS Magazine

The Russian leading business magazine, Boss, organized a large-scale project involving senior executives of major Russian companies who answered a number of questions from the media on how to adapt their businesses to the new economic reality.

Directors, presidents, founders, as well as top managers of companies from a wide range of domestic business sectors took part in the project. In particular, ECO-Culture agricultural holding was represented by Alexey Shemetov, the Vice-President for Production.

The first question has set the general theme of the whole project – what weaknesses of business have been revealed by the crisis associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and what measures have been taken to eliminate the consequences? According to Alexey Shemetov, the situation affected consumer tastes and priorities only in the first couple of weeks after the restrictive measures were introduced. After a temporary reorientation of buyers to canned meat and buckwheat, the demand for healthy vegetable products has returned to the previous levels. Production departments of the company continued to work in the normal mode (taking into account the new sanitary norms), except for office employees who switched over to remote offices. There were also some temporary difficulties in relocating greenhouse employees from other regions, but these problems were soon resolved.

Further questions proceeded with the theme initiated – were any new niches being developed to preserve the company’s profitability, and were any temporary measures taken to reduce costs? The Vice President for Production gave a negative answer to this question as well – apparently, there were no changes in the functioning of the agricultural holding. All projects have been and are being implemented according to the previously approved investment plans, with new areas being developed just like they were before.

Answering a question about new trends that emerged due to the epidemiological situation in consumer relations, Alexey Shemetov answered that the number of contactless operations had increased but the main forms of relations with partners and customers, which were practiced before the pandemic, remained the same.

The next question was about cost optimization – whether such measures were implemented and what areas were affected. According to Alexey, the greenhouses, being full-service enterprises, continued their work according to the same algorithm, with changes affecting only the office work. However, back in 2019, a large-scale digitalization of all internal processes of the enterprise began. Just in the middle of 2020, the company managed to integrate electronic document management into a single system, which significantly accelerated decision-making and other processes. This was a scheduled optimization that just happened to coincide with coronavirus restrictions.

As for the human resources policy, which was the next question, it also remained unchanged. The holding not only retained the same number of employees but also continued to provide new jobs in the regions of its presence.

In response to the last question of the magazine – what mistakes should companies avoid when adapting their work to new conditions, Alexey Shemetov said that the most important thing is to timely consider all possible economic risks, constantly monitor the market, and be ready for changes. An important role in overcoming difficulties is played by a close-knit team. It is the well-coordinated work in all regions that allowed the company to avoid losses during the pandemic and to keep production indicators on the same level.

For the full text of the article and answers of other respondents, please read the Boss magazine.