The private company “Skillful Hands” (”Umeliye Ruki”) decided to fill this gap. Furthermore, the firm is based on the idea of the client being able to receive the whole range of necessary services. Get a haircut or hair-do, get household equipment or shoes repaired, have outer clothing or curtains sewn, get duplicate keys made or have presents engraved, call out a plumber or electrician to the house, and even obtain legal advice when necessary. They can also be needed in domestic situations, for example, if there is flooding in the apartment above you…“All our services are provided in one place. A client who comes to us can have a whole series of problems solved”, says Petr YURPOLSKIY, Deputy Managing Director of the “Skillful Hands” company. “This is our indisputable advantage, which is directly linked to investment prospects in this field”.The fact that the prospects in this field are not illusory is well illustrated by the experience of the Englishman Donald Ryan, the founder of the Mister Minit company, a network of workshops for shoe repairs and key making. Ryan has built up an international business with multi-million turnovers on these services: 4,000 workshops in more than 20 countries of Europe and Asia!These services are very much in demand in Russia too.
“We are ready to work, it is only a matter of primary investments in our project”, Petr YURPOLSKIY continues. “The point of the project is to expand the range of domestic and communal services at one address. Older people will remember what the Soviet consumer services were like, with all services for the population gathered together. That is, you could go to one place to get a haircut, have keys made and hand your dirty washing in to a laundry. You didn’t have to run round different places…”.“Skillful Hands” will open the first such multiple service point in May. A pilot project will be put in hand in the Zapadnoye Degunino district in the North of Moscow. Plastic cards have already been made for them, to be issued to regular clients. An Internet site with a client base has been set up. By this means too, people will be able to obtain all the services in the range: for example, to arrange with the management of a single contractor for the water to be cut off at the required time, the fitting of water meters, air conditioning units and so on.Several leaders of districts in the capital have offered unconditional support to this project, declaring that the population has long been demanding such a service, says YURPOLSKIY. In the same Zapadnoye Degunino district, there is support and understanding on the part of the local authority for communal services. Incidentally, thanks to this, a variant will appear - social services for preferred categories of citizens: old people living on their own, large families and the like. It will be possible to utilize the funds which the city allocated for these purposes more rationally. It is simpler to deal with only one contractor, both on price and on services…
Petr YURPOLSKIY says that considerable assets have been invested in the “Skillful Hands” brand name. There are also thoughts of making it cover not only the whole of Moscow, but the whole of Russia. There are many small hairdressers or workshops in the regions, eking out a miserable existence, and in some cases going bankrupt. As a rule, they are sold together with their equipment at quite low prices, starting from 30,000 roubles. Most frequently, their former owners did not understand the state of the market, or did not have good relations with the authorities. And this is very important, the Deputy Managing Director of “Skillful Hands” thinks.“The Northern administrative region in Moscow is experimental,” he says. “All innovations connected with communal services and payments are being tested there. And we turned up with our idea at the right time and in the right place. The local authority was planning to modernize this field at this very time”.Then why are Western partners and investments needed? So that the project can cover all of Russia. Even now, there are proposals for opening “Skillful Hands” Smolensk, “Skillful Hands” Lipetsk and “Skillful Hands” Tambov. It will only cost trifling sums to develop these sites, according to Petr YURPOLSKIY. A sub-page will be opened on the main Internet site, and that’s it.The prices for services will naturally be less than in Moscow too.
“We shall not operate a unified tariff policy, because the standard of living varies between the Russian regions”, says P[iotr YURPOLSKIY. “In Lipetsk, for example, the price of a haircut will be no more than 80-100 roubles. In any case, the state of the market in the regions will have to be studied and assimilated. And in order to do this, we need investments. So far, we do not have enough money to make it a chain business covering all Moscow. But if the project covers the whole Federation, it will be considered specifically in terms of a franchise operation. Our prices will be different, but the quality control and staff training will be the same. Investment are necessary specifically for instructing the personnel, carrying out special training courses, teaching people to say the simple words ‘Thank you’ and ‘Please’ with a smile...”According to Petr YURPOLSKIY, the opening of 8-10 branches requires 350-400,000 dollars. There will be costs involved in moving into the regions, the leasing of premises and so on. Note that working with a franchise, it can be based on centralized supply, which considerably reduces prime cost and raises profitability.Whether in Moscow or in Lipetsk, the client must receive the same level of services, including legal services. Monitoring conducted by the “Skillful Hands” company has shown that they are in great demand.
“When we monitored the market, it turned out that the main problem was to give people some sort of more or less well-informed legal consultation”, Petr YURPOLSKIY comments. “Questions of conducting criminal cases are not decided in such places, of course. In effect, this will be legal first aid, expressed in the legally correct drawing up of documents: statements, authorizations (provided a notary public is not necessary), simple consultations on dividing up an inheritance. Legal advice will be available in the office every day, and once every seven or 14 days, a practising lawyer will offer it. We already have an understanding about this with one of the law agencies”.In Moscow, at the first stage, “Skillful Hands” intends to open three or four such multifunctional consumer service points. One of them will serve as a model, trying to connect with the people who live in the surrounding apartment blocks. The instruction of new staff will subsequently be based specifically on the basis of this. Petr YURPOLSKIY is not afraid of competitors in this field.“The whole point is to be comprehensive!” he says. “When you can obtain the full range of services in one place, it is an attraction. And people soon get used to good things...”
Furthermore, “Skillful Hands” does not intend to take on excessive numbers of staff. Initially, about ten people will work at one such point: it will have two female and two male hairdressers, two tailoring specialists, one shoe repairer, one for metal repairs, and also a lawyer, an administrator and a manager to take orders for plumbing and electrical jobs, who will also conduct further talks with the company management. A sort of co-ordinator. It is proposed to link them all together to form a single network under the programme. That is, a network programme will be created, which will be able to track the progress of orders. For the Russian communal services field as it is today, this will be practically a revolution!And for the client, there will be a real saving of time and nerves. In fact, that is what he is paying for.