Last week, the World Health Organisation classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic. As a public company with assets operating throughout Russia and the world, Sistema has been closely monitoring the situation with the COVID-19.
Many Sistema companies are industry leaders in their respective sectors. As Sistema’s footprint spans such varied sectors as healthcare, retail, telecommunications and e-commerce, Sistema assets each carry responsibility for ensuring that the quality and availability of their products and services is maintained during this period. Having experienced different financial crises in the past, each asset should also show some degree of operational resilience.
In recent weeks, Sistema and its companies have employed a number of measures to prepare for the anticipated consequences of the pandemic on their respective markets and customers.
Sistema is employing measures to provide for safety of its employees and partners, including maintaining dialogue with the staff at the Corporate Centre and Sistema companies around the world to ensure their safety. Sistema continues to monitor announcements made by the authorities at jurisdictions, within which its companies operate. Current measures also include timely information to staff and partners, disinfectants provided at offices, quarantine of employees arriving from affected countries, transitioning to remote access and online meetings, when possible.
Sistema-Biotech, Sistema’s biotech laboratory, has developed an express test detecting the COVID-19 in under two hours. We are now looking to register the test with the Russian Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Well-Being (Rospotrebnadzor) for eventual widespread usage. Sistema sees the test rather as public service and will be selling it virtually at cost to ensure it is accessible to everyone. Once regulatory approval is obtained, the test will be available at both state and private healthcare facilities, including Medsi clinics, throughout Russia.
Sistema company and Russia’s leading private healthcare provider Medsi has noted increased usage of its telemedicine service SmartMed (developed jointly with MTS, a key Sistema asset and Russia’s largest telecommunications and digital services firm). Russia is now moving towards adopting regulations allowing for doctors to remotely diagnose and assign needed therapy via telemedicine services, which could greatly increase the public’s access to quality and timely healthcare. Aside from the obvious positive effects of these measures on tracking the coronavirus pandemic and future public health issues, the regulations could boost the sector and enable stakeholders to gather valuable statistics.
Ozon, another Sistema asset and leading multi-category online retailer in Russia, has announced that the company is prepared to start delivering OTC drugs as soon as necessary regulation is adopted in Russia. The company has already conducted testing on all delivery-associated processes. Ozon has seen a drastic (2x-3x) rise in demand for everyday goods, while the demand for personal hygiene products increased threefold or more. The company is now working with its marketplace vendors to maintain current price levels.
MTS said it would be transitioning its corporate office employees to home offices to ensure their safety. MTS is seeing a ramp up in data usage in Moscow’s residential areas and is adjusting to provide for optimal browsing speeds. Calls to MTS’s contact center and data for browsing the company’s website remain free of charge for subscribers in international roaming areas.
MTS is also joining the Folding@Home global project engaged in the study of COVID-19. #CloudMTS allocated cloud resources for computer simulation of the mechanism of the new virus and the search for therapeutic agents.
MTS’s accelerator, MTS Startup Hub, is also transitioning its current residents to online platforms and has launched an online acceleration program targeting startups from abroad. Selected startups can work on their demos remotely and showcase their products at the accelerator’s Demo Day online.
Sistema asset Detsky Mir, a multi-format retailer and Russia’s largest specialized children’s goods retailer, is seeing a 45% increase in sales in recent days as well as a major increase in demand for basic goods. Despite having enough stock to meet the demand, the retailer emphasized it is ramping up its inventory in anticipation of increased demand across the most essential categories.