Interview with Viktor Kozin – CEO of Becar Asset Management, a top Russian company in the FM sector

Unbelievable journey of 30 years. From real estate agency to setting up a property management company. From solving standard tasks to the implementation of complex creative projects. The desire to make a candy from a mismanaged object, win-win-win principle, striving to keep pace with the times and innovative technologies, creating a comfortable environment for company employees – all this helps companies to remain a leader in their field. For Internewx Viktor Kozin shares information about key values ​​and principles of Becar company, about the development of sharing projects (coworking, co-living, apart-hotels, living hotels) and, of course, about digitalization – such an important and integral part in the management of these facilities.

Viktor, we have a tradition to acquaint our readers with the history of the company. We know that every company has its unique and special history. Your company has been in the market for almost 30 years. Please, share your story about the establishment of Becar Company.

Alexander Sharapov established the company almost 30 years ago. At that time the company was operating like a real estate agency in St. Petersburg. But gradually the more real estate got into our portfolio, the more we understood that it was necessary to manage it. Soover time a management company was created, which eventually grew to its current size. Therefore, our growth is organic. We created new directions based on internal needs.

We can assume that the company, as a growing organism, is changing and by the age of 30 it can be transformed into something more mature, perfect and gaining new experience and knowledge. What distinguishes the current Becar company from the Becar that was at the start?

According to the theory of Ichak Adizes, the company goes through five stages of development. At the very beginning we had a stage called “come on”. During that period we tried to use any opportunity and took all the orders, first of all, trying to increase the turnover of the company. At that time we tracked the performance to a lesser extent. Now we have reached a certain level of development, so the quality comes first, and also an attentive attitude to the team is crucial. Our development focus now is to create a comfortable environment for staff within the company. We value the loyalty and satisfaction of our employees.

The second important issue for us is the development of a quality product line. We work with new creative products and try to compete in the market where we consider ourselves super-experts, we don’t take orders randomly now.

Today, we no longer just manage real estate, but also create new sharing projects. We have adopted the experience and implemented the best methods and ideas from the West. We were the first to develop co-working spaces, apart-hotels, co-living and lifestyle hotels in Russia. Could we have imagined for another 10 years that we would build cOasis digital city in St. Petersburg for 120,000 sq. meters? And now it’s reality!

As we know, Becar manages 25 customers from the top 100 largest corporations in Russia. And in the company’s portfolio there are thousands of projects. What projects in general were the most interesting, memorable, like, for example, Hard Candy Fitness, fitness centers network from Madonna? Can you name a few?

The most “delicious” and interesting projects are those that deal with the transformation of an object. In general, I think that the most interesting thing in our field today is working with distressed assets. For example, Moscow, 73. It was an unfinished office building, and today it is a thriving apart-hotel, which became the first in our Vertical apart-hotels network. Or the recently opened Vertical Boutique at Malye Kamenshchiki. To be honest this object was in an anti-social environment of dark alleys. And the atmosphere was not very good, and the owner was dissatisfied with the rental cash flow. It is clear that in the media space the object was absolutely not promoted in any way.

As a result it added up to a prosperous hotel network. To begin with, we revitalized the area around, made lighting and landscaping. Secondly, the object itself was transformed into a boutique hotel. We had already got almost 100% occupancy before we launched. There was a period when I even had to keep a waiting list. And few of the hotels, having just launched, already have a rating of more than 9.

Such complex creative projects, which require not just operation time spent on it, but some creative and non-standard solutions, can be called both the most interesting and the most memorable.

According to CBRE’s 2021 Survey, the global e-commerce market has grown from 8% since 2015 to 18% in 2020 and continues its rapid increase. Such objects of Becar as a network of three- and four-star hotels in St. Petersburg and Moscow – Vertical show an excellent example of using modern digital technologies to provide visitors with all kinds of services. As we know, Becar has been actively using automation and dispatching in practice for more than a year. Do you remember your first facility where you decided to implement a dispatching system?

At first, we had control rooms at each facility. Over time, we have grown to the level that we realized that we need to create a single dispatch center. Now we have a situational contact center that works with a completely different functionality. Not just dispatchers are sitting there, but engineers who are ready to give any advice to technicians and engineers at the facilities in real time. This is how we reduce our costs, because we hire not super-expensive specialists, but those people who can provide competent advice and support, being in a single situational contact center.

But the most interesting issue is that digital technology development opens up huge opportunities not only in the IT sphere, but also in real estate. Digital technologies contribute to automation, including controlling and planning. A few years ago, together with Miran Company, we began to create our own digital SaaS platform. At the same time, they acted as a kind of “testing ground” for adjusting their technologies. Today we already understand that it was not in vain that we relied on digitalization. For example, most of our planning is done digitally. We have automated virtually all process control through our Kaizen platform. The control room, of course, helps, but the program makes most of the control functions.

Moreover, the basis for the platform operation is the principle of “protection from a fool”. It is impossible not to do scheduled preventive work, because after loading data on engineering equipment into the system, the program itself generates tasks for performing scheduled maintenance work. In other words, as soon as we fill in the certification block, the system itself begins to stimulate us to carry out routine maintenance, controlling their timely implementation.

It is clear that it is impossible to guarantee 100% and there may be some kind of defect, but the automation of control is not the result, but the process itself, allows you to identify a bug in the system as early as possible so that the conveyor does not continue to replicate the defect. This approach reduces the risk of failures and low quality work. This is the key that we have contributed to the Kaizen product and ideology. Our platform differs precisely in the possibilities of these improvements.

Using the latest technologies on a property, what advantages does an investor get, and what bonuses does a hotel guest or a coliving resident get?

In general, we can say that we have three focuses for digital implementation. First, of course, we are focused on the end user. If we understand that an innovation does not benefit the end user, we do not promote these developments further. Secondly, the benefit should be to the one who pays money. One might ask, “What’s the difference?” If the end user is, for example, a resident of a co-working space and he is satisfied, then he will continue to rent it. If the resident of the house is satisfied, he will retain his management company. If a hotel visitor is satisfied, he will return again.

The second focus is on the owner. It is clear that if he understands the value for the end user, then his object will be successful. And if we also give the opportunity to receive real-time feedback on all processes, and give access to the “upload” of all processes in the “dashboard”, then everyone will be happy.

Well, the third focus – if our employees understand the value and benefits of this software product, then they will not sabotage the process of its implementation.

We would like to highlight a very interesting fact about Becar: you have developed 10 of your own IT products! We are eager to know more about them. Can you tell us what these products are? Whom are they targeted at and what is their purpose?

Kaizen is, of course, our main product. But there are several other more utilitarian products for our specific needs. For example, “investor’s account”. We use it only for interaction with investors who, through their personal account and in real time, can see the efficiency of the facility. We have the Vertical program, which was specifically set for the hotel segment. There are a lot of similar programs, but all of them are applied and have specific feature sets. Kaizen is a multifunctional platform that can be integrated with any external software. We are currently working on the possibility of such integration.

In the article for the General Director magazine in 2016, you have noted that the company is going to provide cleaning services. Please tell us how many years Becar Company has been providing cleaning services? As we know, DAKO is a cleaning contractor, and it is a part of the Becar Asset Management group of companies. How long have you been cooperating with DAKO?

We decided that it is better to develop cleaning through a partner network that we have been creating together with DAKO since 2018.

What online solutions are used in cleaning services? How do digital technologies assist in the organization and optimization of cleaning processes, surely you have something to be proud of?

As for the software, there is a separate module for cleaning in Kaizen. It is possible to monitor the part of cleaning requirements through the application, for example, machines transportation on the site. But I must say that it makes no sense to develop some of the modules on your own, it is much easier to take ready-to-use solutions, since there are a lot of them. Nowadays almost all the machines are sold already with application programs, for example, Karcher. One shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. There are other interesting solutions as well. We constantly look at the best market practices and test them in order to be conscious of the growth area of our software and the possibilities of integration with others. We want to create open systems, with growth opportunities through collaborations with other developers.

Viktor, You are an active participant in the discussion at various conferences on the issue of changes in public procurement in the FM sector. What can you say about the public sector of the building maintenance and operation market? Can you tell us about changes? And where the industry is heading?

Until federal laws are changed, FL-223 and FL-44 particularly, the level of services in the state segment will be like in the Stone Age, since the price policy will continue to be the key choice. And you always have to make a choice between the term, quality and money, and only 2 out of 3. No one will invest, when the price is the only criteria.

As we understand, win-win is the main principle in your business. Rapid development, expanding the boundaries of Becar and entering the international market, the annual growth rate is 30% and this is the result of a win-win approach to negotiation, isn’t it? But we also understand that this approach is not the only one! What other principles and views does your company apply for customers?

Our main principle, which we always use, is win-win-win. Win the customer, win the investor and win our management company. We are customer-oriented, but we do not forget about ourselves. Any initiative and any development is launched by us only if we understand that some specific principle works, and some specific development gives added value to both the investor, the customer, and us. If it is useless for someone, then we do not implement this initiative.

It seems that here he is a clear example, here he is the next key to success, whether in FM, the cleaning sector or any other business area … Does everyone know about this culture of business negotiations or do they not know, and therefore they do not practice? Viktor, in your opinion, what do companies lack for successful business in Russia, and what is a certain plus?

First of all, there is a lack of a well-developed legislative framework. There is a lot of talk and puffing, but the most of the market is tendered under FL 44. Unfortunately, many developments are not moving forward with us, because they do not have time to pay off for the year that the contract is in effect. For comparison, the term of most of the contracts that are concluded with state agencies abroad is 3-5 years. There are precedents when the state concludes them for 10 years. What for? To make companies feel responsible for how they serve municipal property.

In this case, companies can spend money, counting on a long payback period. And if the contract is only for a year, then no one will simply invest in technology. That is why the main principle of the contractors in the state segment is to finish the year and leave. Or you can simply close the company after the end of the contract and open a new one. This is how the public sector works now. Therefore, our investments directly depend on the long-term contract. If the state stimulated these initiatives, it would be much easier.

Returning to the question about the company “now” and “at the beginning of its foundation”. What plans do you have in the coming years? And, let’s fantasize a little: what kind of “Becar of the future” do you see in 15-20 years?

Unfortunately, I do not know what can happen in 3-5 years, because there are too many “black swans” that affect our lives and our business. No one could have predicted the consequences of digitalization and the pandemic in our lives. The innovations associated with digitalization are turning many businesses upside down. The second is the speed with which digitalization is changing our lives. Now these changes are taking place on the horizon of the year. It’s hard to imagine what will happen next.

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