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Can business develop during the war, how to motivate personnel under challenging conditions and establish logistics chains, says Eduard Lozovskyi, general industrial, commercial manager in the field of public catering of the company “Astreya,” which specializes in bottling Carpathian spring water under the brands VODA UA and “Karpatska high mountain.”
Eduard, from the first month of the armed aggression against Ukraine, your company began to assist the country and certain sections of the population…
We were up and running within days. To be precise, four days after the start of the full-scale offensive, we opened our warehouses to those who needed clean drinking water. We shipped boxes of products ordered by the Armed Forces, territorial defense, and volunteer organizations for the needs of bomb shelters, medical institutions, orphanages, etc. As of today, we have provided over 4.5 million UAH worth of products free of charge.
How did you manage to set up processes during the war?
Our primary production is located in the West of Ukraine, far from infrastructure and military facilities. Conducted no military operations on this territory; it was not occupied or cut off. We are lucky. In addition, we did not experience a shortage of workers since it was in western Ukraine that internally displaced persons found temporary shelter. Accordingly, nothing prevented our production facilities from working at total capacity. Yes, we had temporary difficulties with product delivery. However, we solved this issue already in two weeks. Our company was one of the first to establish logistics in the Kyiv and Vinnytsia regions. Let me remind you that at that time, there was an occupying army near Kyiv.
Do you supply water to occupied settlements where there are problems with water supply?
There is no technical possibility of delivering anything to the occupied settlements. It is dangerous, even if there is no fighting going on in this place right now. The safety of our employees is a priority for us. We do not put people at risk. On the contrary, we have provided the opportunity to work remotely to everyone whose functional duties allow it. Also, no matter how hard we try, the supply of bottled water cannot provide the volume that the water supply provides. It is simply impossible to do within the limits of the entire settlement. Within the boundaries of the refugee assistance center or asylum – yes. But not the whole city.
In your opinion, is it possible to develop business during the war?
It’s not just possible but necessary. We are now as if in a Lewis Carroll fairy tale, where you need to stay in place and run with all your might. We are currently seeing a decline in consumer sentiment. This applies not only to Ukraine but also to Europe. We are trying to compensate for this by increasing our presence at points of sale and working on activating imports. However, I must note a decrease in volumes compared to the same period in 2021. To save jobs, pay taxes to the budget, and help the army and the population, we must find opportunities for business development. And export is one of the elements of solving the problem.
Is it possible to export your product?
Since we are 150 km from the nearest border, we are actively working on this possibility. Of course, land logistics are more expensive than shipping by sea, which is currently impossible due to blocking Ukrainian ports. For such a heavy product as water, the logistics cost is almost 50% of the cost of production. However, we work with what we have. Currently, we have focused our attention on the countries of Eastern and Central Europe and are actively working on entering these markets.
How can you motivate staff to work effectively under such circumstances?
We don’t feel any need for any special motivational measures. Our task is to prevent staff burnout. After all, riding endlessly on an adrenaline rush is impossible. The extraordinary circumstances we are all in have brought the team together. We all understand why we do what we do. This understanding gives strength to move forward even when it is difficult. Everyone in their place realizes how vital our work is for the present and future of Ukraine. Therefore, internal motivation is colossal.