Interview with Artem Driga (S2B chain of stores): an interesting case, how a hookah store can help hookah masters from lounges.

The head of the Hookah Battle – Stanislav Medkov, interviewed the head of the Russian chain of hookah stores S2B Artem Driga.

Stanislav Medkov:
Hi Artem! Please tell us about yourself and your chain of stores: how long have you opened the first store and how many do you have now?

  • Artyom Driga:
    Hi Stas! The first store we opened in 2014, when the industry (in Russia) took its first steps in development. Then you, Stas Medkov, were still a young guy. Today you are already the grandfather of the industry 😂 And today we have 34 stores in 11 cities of Russia, and 4 more are preparing for opening – 2 in St. Petersburg, one each in Ufa and Kazan.

s2B

Stanislav Medkov:
What changes did you notice in sales after the occurrence of well-known events with covid19?

  • Artyom Driga:
    We noticed seemingly obvious changes. People began to sit at home. They are bored. They entertain themselves. Hookah is one of the main entertainment for many. Therefore, demand has grown slightly offline. Strongly increased demand in online sales. We were ready for this, understanding in advance that something would need to entertain people during the period of self-isolation.

Stanislav Medkov:
Did you notice that some new type of people come to your stores (or order online) who previously did not have a hookah at home and smoked only in hookah lounges?

  • Artyom Driga:
    In St. Petersburg, the government allowed us to work tobacco retail stores, so people come to us in stores and order online. Online, of course, more. People finally began to realize that getting delivery from a hookah shop is convenient. We bring the order within a few hours by courier with a wide smile (behind the mask, of course), and previously competent managers can arrange it by phone. I think that a new consumer habit is now forming – ordering delivery of hookah products.
    As to whether the new customers are the people who used to smoke only at the hookah lounges, I can’t say. We did not conduct market research. I don’t want to tell nonproof facts 🙂

s2b

Stanislav Medkov:
What do you think about closed hookah lounges and a lot of hookah workers left without work? We saw that you launched interesting support mechanics for such guys, could you tell us in detail how this works and what exactly you did?

  • Artyom Driga:
    The closure of hookah lounges, like many other companies from everyday life, is, of course, a few steps back for the development of our industry and the economy as a whole. But it makes no sense to discuss it. Already happened. People need to change and look for ways to solve problems. Indeed, now there are many hookah workers left without work. I am sure that most of them are not paid by the employer. Not even because he is greedy. He simply has nothing to pay. Although Putin doesn’t think so 😂 (In Russia blocked in quarantine companies are obligated to pay salaries to staff from own finance) We are sure that you need to be able to give when you have the opportunity. Then good things will be back at the right time to you. This is how the world works. Therefore, we tried to provide at least some income to as many people as we had enough resources from the company’s charity fund. To some of the hookah workers, we gave work as couriers, to some storekeepers, someone conducts live broadcasts on our Instagram and transfers the experience to our customers. And for some of the guys, we suggested holding individual video consultations for our customers for a fixed fee (worker from hookah lounge makes consultation of shop customer -> shop pays for this consultation around $10). If our customer wants to get a consultation from pro – it is enough to place a delivery order for any amount, and we will pay for training from the best masters of St. Petersburg city. And this works great. We have connected people who are bored with self-isolation and unemployed hookah masters from lounges. By the way, to media people in the industry, we offer to take live broadcasts from us on Instagram in exchange for helping their staff. I actually offer you personally to participate in this program, people would be interested to listen, for example, about how people smoke in different countries. You have something to tell.

Stanislav Medkov:
What is the timing of consultation between hookah lounge master and the store buyer? If now some hookah master from Russia is reading this text, can he fit into this program for you? Or is it only for those to whom you have proposed it personally?
Regarding my performance in your Instagram account in exchange for financial help to my lounge staff, I’m interested, tell me more about how it works.

  • Artyom Driga:
    We regulate the duration of the consultation no more than an hour. But the hookah workers we collaborate are the great guys. Therefore, they never refuse customers. There were cases when they talked for 2 hours.
    We cannot help all hookah masters, unfortunately, therefore, only for those to whom we offered it privately from selected lounges.

About the live broadcast. We give you live broadcast on our Instagram. We give access (login and pass), you just come in and broadcast at the agreed time. You only need to provide an interesting story for our subscribers. I’m sure that the topic “features of smoking in different countries” or something like that will be interesting. 100% there are many unusual cultural features that our countrymen would be interested in.
In exchange for ether, we pay 15,000 rubles ($210), which you have to distribute between your hookah lounge staff.

Stanislav Medkov:
Very cool! Thank you for the offer, I will agree to it with pleasure, I will make a presentation and send money to support the staff of my hookah lounge “Diskette Lounge”

Stanislav Medkov:
Do you think that hookah retailers in other countries (for example, in the USA, Brazil or Germany) can support hookah workers in their countries in the same way? Or is this method suitable only for Russia?

  • Artyom Driga:
    To be honest, I am not familiar with the current demand from retailers in other countries. But if their activities are not suspended, and they have at least a tiny free financial fund, then all of them can do that. We can have different business processes taking into account country differences. But we are all human. Regardless of location. We all people. And they must be able to give when others need it.

Stanislav Medkov:
What do you think about our new project – Hookah Head Hunt hookah recruitment service https://hhh.hookahbattle.com/en/? You posted a vacancy there for a store sales assistant, how many people turned to you with a job request?

  • Artyom Driga:
    I really liked the project. The more fame he gets, the more benefits everyone will gain. Any employer wants to simplify the search for staff. And many people want to work in our industry because for them it is including a hobby. You have found a common and connected two needs. I have no data on the number of responses. Today we do not analyze the effectiveness of such a new website. But we’ll fix it, I promise 🙂

Stanislav Medkov:
Thank you, Artem for your great deals for our industry and for this interview!

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