Rustam Minnikhanov: ‘We have little money too but we have a lot of ideas’

Tatarstan is looking for a way to expand access of self-employed people to marketplaces, create a preferential logistic park and train staff for e-commerce

Amid a boom of e-commerce, Tatarstan entrepreneurs have joined a network of marketplaces but they don’t have enough warehouses, logistic capacities and staff. This was raised at a meeting of the republican president and e-commerce businesses. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent witnessed the talk. “We compared indicators for 5 months and 5 years: the number of sellers in some places has quadrupled,” Business Ombudsman Farid Abdulganiyev described the unprecedented dynamics. In reply, Rustam Minnikhanov tasked Ak Bars Bank with proving a logistic park with preferential rent terms in Zelenodolsk District, while head of Wildberries Tatiana Bakalchuk promised to launch exports from the current Russian warehouse in Zelenodolsk turning it into an international hub.

Nearly 8,000 online retail entrepreneurs

Tatarstan businesses have multiplied sales of goods in the Russian marketplace but they cannot do without expanding infrastructure. It was discussed how to solve problems in fast-growing e-commerce at a meeting with the republic’s president on 15 June. Rustam Minnikhanov met with entrepreneurs at E-com PORTAL logistic centre in Koshchakovo village, Pestretsy District. This is so far the first and only site in Tatarstan where entrepreneurs can have their goods promoted in the marketplace and warehouse operations and transport services integrated into one supply chain.

An exposition of e-commerce entrepreneurs’ products was set up at the centre. After looking it over, the audience started to talk about business. Tatarstan Business Ombudsman Farid Abdulganiyev and iWENGO e-commerce business school’s founder Yuliana Gordon became moderators of the dialogue.

Just six months ago, Rustam Minnikhanov listened to entrepreneurs’ proposals, but there are still problems. Before the beginning of the meeting, the business ombudsman reminded the audience that on the president’s instructions, there was made a number of decisions to promote Tatarstan manufacturers’ products, the E-Commerce Development Centre that almost manually helps businesses to enter the marketplace was created. “As a consequence, there is rapid growth. On the exhibition, we have compared indicators for 5 months and 5 years, so the number of sellers in the marketplace has doubled and quadrupled in some places,” he said.

According to the ombudsman for entrepreneurs’ rights, the amount of accounts of Tatarstan sellers in four leading places Wildberries, Ozon, KazanExpress and eBay has risen to 7,993. There is no other segment of the economy in the foreseeable future to have such growth potential. At the same time, there are a lot of unsolved problems, he claimed.

Why marketplace doesn’t “like” self-employed people

Entrepreneurs raised the issue of relationships between self-employed people and marketplaces, which concerns them, first. Why do Wildberries and AliExpress let them in whereas others don’t?

“I was self-employed myself when I started working with the marketplace,” entrepreneur Timur Khusniyarov who manufactures sportswear Tatkiem said. “I know what difficulties they have to face well. Unfortunately, not all marketplaces work with self-employed people. Since Wildberries and KazanExpress already work with self-employed people, we would like to be in other marketplaces such as Ozon, Yandex. Market, KazanExpress.”

However during his cooperation with them, production outstripped the target of 2,4 million rubles, this is why he changed his status and became a sole trader. Head of Wildberries Tatiana Bakalchuk confirmed that with Tatarstan’s assistance the company became one of the first to cooperate with this category of entrepreneurs. According to her, they quickly grow, but now there are 82 self-employed people from Tatarstan. One of the founders of KazanExpress Kevin Khanda replied to the Tatarstan businessman’s reproach.

“We were the first to start working with self-employed people. But at the moment we temporarily scrapped this activity but we will go back in the next two weeks,” he said and added that abuse of this status became the main reason for the shutdown. “We are addressing it. We launched additional moderation of the supplier to know what exactly he makes and if he really makes it. Secondly, not all banks are ready to work with self-employed people. For instance, our accounts have been repeatedly checked, blocked. When a lot of people withdraw money, money laundering is suspected.”

The Tatarstan president promised to solve this problem by turning to the Russian prime minister for support.

“There must be some regulation,” Minnikhanov replied. “I was ready to go to the government of the Russian Federation because the idea of self-employed people itself belongs to Mikhail Mishustin. And I think that the government will give corresponding signals to avoid such incidents. We must provide order. But I think that a bank can easily come and have a look. Secondly, we should start working with big players, stimulate them so that they can accept self-employed people.”

Ministry of Labour is tasked with training needlewomen and account managers

Yelena Batayeva who makes children’s clothing named Balabay tabled the problem of a shortage of needlewomen.

“We came across an unexpected problem — demand outgrows our capacities. 10 needlewomen work with us now, while we need 35. In other words, we are ready to employ another 25 needlewomen now. But neither Naberezhnye Chelny nor the closest municipalities have educational establishments to train such specialists,” she complained.

Entrepreneur from Bugulma Timur Bulushev also complained about a shortage of staff: “In fact, we need to train online sales departments from scratch. Now the labour market doesn’t have specialists with such knowledge. Can we consider the possibility of organising training for account managers for companies, including medium-sized businesses? It seems to us that this profession will be in very high demand in the next years.”

The president of the republic tasked the Tatarstan Ministry of Labour with collecting data and developing a training programme for a necessary specialist in short-term courses in resource centres.

AliExpress: bring your felt boots!

Entrepreneur from Kukmor Almaz Gibatullin making felt shoes complained six months ago that working with marketplaces was worse than with functionaries. But on 15 June, he looked happy and content. In 2020, his revenue was 15 million rubles, while in 5 years, Gibatullin plans to reach 100 million rubles. This time he also had some proposals.

“Mr Minnikhanov, I usually speak Tatar, but felt boots are associated with Russian... I will be speaking Russian,” he claimed when he was given a microphone. In the end, he switched to his mother tongue.

“Now goods can be sold in Europe and the USA via Wildberries. But purchasers from other countries see only remnants of felt shoes in the warehouses that are located in Koledino, Moscow Oblast. Wildberries also has a big warehouse in Zelenodolsk industrial park. Is there any possibility of making it international? So purchasers abroad could also see goods in this warehouse,” he asked trying to make Kukmor an international centre of felt shoes. By the way, there is no translation for the shoes in English, they are named valenki.

Tatiana Bakalchuk promised to consider this idea.

“At the moment, goods for the countries that aren’t Customs Union members can be exported only from the warehouses in Moscow Oblast,” she agreed. “But the Zelenodolsk warehouse daily receives about 600,000 goods, approximately the same amount is shipped.”

In turn, Director of Public Relations with State Agencies of AliExpress Russia Sergey Lebedev decided to help the Tatarstan entrepreneur to promote the Kukmor felt shoes. “One just needs to sign up in the marketplace without registering a legal entity in a foreign country, and confirm a zero VAT rate via B2C. Goods can be sold in all countries of the world this way,” he found a simple solution for the Kukmor businessman.

Give preferential logistic warehouse

Founder of the republic’s first marketplace of medical goods Vadim Fyodorov complained about high rent rates in warehouses and a deficit of good areas. He asked the Tatarstan president to develop support measures for young businessmen like preferential rent by opening a logistic incubator. According to him, entrepreneurs could rent an area in such a warehouse “from five square metres” at a preferential rate, for instance, during the first three years with a gradual rise in the rent.”

In answer, Rustam Minnikhanov offered to consider the warehouse in Zelenodolsk District, which belongs to Ak Bars Bank, for the logistic park.

“KazanExpress is moving out now, and if it moves out, make small areas for novices. Some concessions can be made,” the president set a task.

He says that it is planned nowadays to build industrial sites in Laishevo, Pestretsy, Vysokaya Gora where “there will certainly be a logistic component”, while the authorities will try to “provide good terms”.

E-com PORTAL’s Director General Maria Abdullina supported the topic of the shortage of warehouses.

“We have almost run out of these warehouse capacities,” she complained. “By our estimates, about 12,000 companies in Tatarstan already need such services, consequently, the market volume in this type of services is measured in tens of billions of rubles. The absence of available logistic capacities is a deterrent here. This is why we based in Pestretsy, because there aren’t such centres. We need warehouses near Ozon and Wildberries. We offer to create an e-commerce centre in Tatarstan that, first of all, will have available warehouses and provide entrepreneurs with all services. But we don’t have enough money and land.”

“We have little money too but we have a lot of ideas,” the president replied jokingly but set a task of addressing this issue.

By Luiza Ignatyeva. Photo: