Solution 15:31 07 Nov 2022

Business without electricity: how does it work?

How coffee shops, restaurants, banks, co-working spaces, and beauty salons have adapted to fan blackouts: practical solutions for Ukrainians.

What is the problem?

Until recently, it seemed impossible to work without electricity. But for almost a month, Ukraine has been living in conditions of electricity shortage. The collapse that russia hoped for did not happen. Like no one else, Ukrainians know how to make the impossible possible — eight months ago, many people thought that war with russia was also something of the unbelievable category. Even now, during a full-scale invasion and constant attacks by a terrorist country on Ukraine's energy facilities, we feel more confident than twenty years ago, when everything froze and stopped during fan blackouts.

What is the solution?

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Here, in Ukraine, we still have some light from rays of hope, but nothing good is shining for the russians in general. The entire civilized world has turned its back on terrorists; sanctions are gaining momentum, and foreign partners are leaving the country. And our entrepreneurs develop and work despite everything. They change their consciousness to autonomy, find solutions to make money, and provide services in conditions of total electricity savings.

Is it challenging? Yes. But were there times in business without challenges?

How does it work?

Coffee shops and restaurants

Cafes and restaurants probably began to adapt to the new conditions faster than anyone else. Two years of the pandemic and eight months of protracted air raid sirens have hardened the restaurant business to such an extent that now there is little to shock Ukrainian restaurateurs.

Many restaurants have significantly reduced their menus and, accordingly, their food stocks so that they do not spoil during outages. Now, everything on the menu is fresh — products are brought, prepared, and sold immediately.

Some coffee shops were equipped with diesel generators (including those for rent), kerosene coffee makers, and thermoses. Others offer filter coffee or coffee in a coffee pot on the sand.

Barbecue-equipped restaurants continue working. The barbecue menu was popular even before the electricity problems, and now it is a real hit. Meat, fish, vegetables, and shawarma on the grill are in great demand.

And for example, the Pestocafe chain has developed a separate special menu in case of a long-term power outage. It has a variety of salads, meat and cheese sets, pies and cheesecakes, and hot tea — while the thermal pot is warm. A similar "candlelight menu" can be found in other cities.

Institutions can become hubs for citizens during power outages. For example, Peron No. 7 jazz club-theater in Odesa purchased a generator, stocked 1,000 liters of water, and purchased a spare gas stove and "a bunch of other things" so that Odesa residents could use it for free during blackouts. Soon the club will open its doors to those who need it.

київський аудіобар GRAM

And the Kyiv audio bar GRAM recently boasted an autonomous backup source of electricity. Moreover, they admitted that they had already begun to miss the candlelight parties that the bar used to organize before purchasing the generator. GRAM is confident that this lifted the spirits of visitors amid blackouts and alarms.

"The candlelit hall of the restaurant is a magical place that attracts visitors. And here, the lack of light is even an advantage, Olha Nasonova, director of the Analytical Center "Restaurants of Ukraine," confirms on her Facebook page. "In such an atmosphere, alcohol sales increase significantly, even twice as much in some establishments. As you know, people drink more in the dark. Therefore, bars, especially those located in basements, can survive without light at all."

Unfortunately, terminals without electricity work very rarely, so those who want to eat well and spend time in a restaurant or cafe should have a supply of cash.

Shops and shopping centers

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That's how, with flashlights, without light, but with confidence and faith in victory, COMFY chain stores continue to work. Shopping assistants have not only lanterns but also a special smartphone application with complete information about the product and its availability. And if the client has a store application, it allows them to place an order and pay for it by card. COMFY Delivery works 24/7. They even bring the order to the apartment for free if there is no electricity in the buyer's house and the elevator is not working!

In general, most large shopping centers and supermarkets are closed during the power outage. Customers are asked to leave unpaid goods and go outside until the electricity supply is restored; in some places, they allow paying in cash. But they are also gradually introducing alternative power sources.

For example, during a power outage, the Kyiv shopping center Lavina constantly runs from a powerful generator. More than 100 shops and service points located in the center continue their work.

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Unlike supermarkets, most small shops and pharmacies continue to operate even when the lights are out. But they only accept cash.

On the other hand, in the zones close to hostilities, entrepreneurs are already used to working without electricity. For example, in the Kharkiv region, every large supermarket and many small shops have generators, so even when there is no electricity, the terminals remain connected, and you can pay by card. However, recently the failures have been so large-scale that the banking system "lays down" for a while.

Coworking spaces and event spaces

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Creative Quarter, a network of co-working and event spaces, has uninterrupted internet (internet aggregated from 10 different internet providers), heat from autonomous boilers, coffee, and even sleeping pods and showers for business clients and employees. The Creative Quarter Gulliver location is equipped with a diesel generator and operates even during complete blackouts. In other locations, diesel generators are planned to be connected in mid-November.

Lviv Territory Coworking works without interruption because it has two backup power supply networks. If one is turned off, they switch to the other. And in case the lights are turned off simultaneously on two lines, there is a powerful generator. The Internet issue is a little more complicated — the provider guarantees a 50/50 supply. However, they do everything to ensure that the Internet works stably.

The Workit Space (Kyiv) co-working space also continues to work during the blackout. "We are actively looking for a generator, which will appear soon. During a blackout, the Internet does not disappear thanks to Starlink, and our restaurant continues to operate, where you can order grilled dishes or desserts," the company says.

Banks, gas stations, mobile operators

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The publication enkorr surveyed the leading fuel operators and found out that all of them have installed generators at gas stations that will allow them to work even in the event of a power outage. In the OKKO network, for example, diesel generators are installed at 261 gas stations. Another 43 are waiting to be connected. There are solar batteries on the roofs of 65 gas stations, which generate electricity for the gas station's needs during daylight hours.

Diesel generators power base stations of mobile operators. However, mobile Internet often disappears during power outages. Mobile operators explained why this is happening: when the electricity in the houses is turned off, the base stations of mobile operators nearby are also partially cut off. And those that are further cannot cope with the mobile traffic of people who used to use Wi-Fi networks. Lifecell explains: it is difficult to ensure the operation of all equipment during large-scale blackouts. Vodafone is expanding the network's capacity but admits that in large cities, it is sometimes impossible to install additional base stations due to the overlap of radio signals. And in Kyivstar, priority is given to technologies for making calls.

Banks have their own history. "So far, we are not that successful in adapting to fan outages because most often they are not fan outages, but emergency ones, that is, the declared time of outage is not observed," says Oksana, the head of a department of one of the capital's banks. "Most of our employees work remotely — this decision was made to ensure greater personal safety. On the one hand, it is convenient because everyone lives in different areas of the city; that is, outages occur at different times, and someone is always "on duty." On the other hand, many processes are interconnected and require constant communication between employees. These tasks put everything on pause for an indefinite period —one does not have electricity, then the other. So far, we can't solve some tasks, but we are working on it."

Concord Bank employees work on a similar principle: they insure each other during a power outage.

Post offices

"Ukrposhta" will continue service even without electricity and communication. The company is already using generators, has received a Starlink array, and purchased the first batch of lanterns.

"Ukrposhta" knew how to work without electricity and computers when it was not yet mainstream. Therefore, we are returning to some procedures in the absence of electricity… and we do not plan to stop work," commented the general director of the postal operator Ihor Smilyanskyi.

"Nova Poshta" is also one of the most prepared: here, the client can create a parcel in the New Poshta application and send it independently from the self-service points or at the post office. This does not require operators, and post offices and self-service points work without light, autonomously from batteries and via mobile devices.

Musicians and carpenters

Many businesses adapt to the new reality by shifting their electricity consumption peaks. Someone goes to work on the night shift; someone works according to the fact: if there is electricity – they work; if there is no electricity — they do not. Uninterruptible generators are also installed to provide electricity. "We talked to the guys and decided to work at night temporarily," Oleksandr, a small carpentry business owner, told one of the media outlets. "For now, we are adjusting since we cannot sleep during the day, and by midnight we are in the middle of the working day. We also bought a generator just in case."

Plumbers and locksmiths use headlamps.

Without electricity, the Lviv clothing brand continues to perform processes that do not require it. Other work is stopped. In addition, they ordered generators, and while the generators were on the way, they were joking: if we had a bomb shelter in the workshop and the generator, then it would be possible not to suspend anything at all. "Actually, these are the new realities of our lives," says Taras Maselko, PR director of the holding.

Classical candlelight concerts are held in the Architect's House in Kyiv:

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Teachers, photographers, psychologists


Foreign language tutor Anna Pohorila from Bila Tserkva has a busy schedule of 6-8 lessons every day. Therefore, she had to reformat the educational process. She shared: if there is no light  — she switches to mobile Internet. If there is a problem with this, they use another messenger, not Zoom. They turn off the camera and use only sound. If learning platforms browse – work with them, not – speak English/Spanish.

Olena Vedmid, photographer: "The work is a little more difficult without electricity. But I look for and find opportunities to work. Now I'm making several photo books."

Kyiv psychological center ALTERA also continues to work without electricity. "We have candles, wireless lamps, and charged power banks. There is a parking lot in the neighboring building, which is used as a bomb shelter," the center optimistically writes on its Facebook page. And adds that, by the way, after the experience with candles, some clients ask to hold sessions in this format in the future.

Beauty salons and hairdressers

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They also found a way out in beauty salons and hairdressers — they bought tools that do not require electricity. "We purchased equipment that works without electricity according to the principle of a mobile phone – it can be charged. Flashlights allow you to work without lighting. But, unfortunately, it is cold in the studio; we warn customers about this," shares the owner of one of the beauty studios in the Kharkiv region.

At the Kosmed cosmetology center in Bucha, customers are warned: in the absence of electricity, the institution may cancel some procedures on the day of the visit and even on the spot. But there is a list of procedures that can be performed thanks to the available alternative lighting: dermatologist consultations, beauty injections, some facial cleansing, massages, and removal of blood vessels and papillomas.

Anna Myronova from Khmelnytskyi, a tattoo artist, also sets a good example: "Girls who are afraid to sign up for procedures due to power outages, don't worry, I won't let you go with one eyebrow, I've prepared myself – a wireless machine, rechargeable lighting, a power bank – everything is there!".

Alankosmetiks shop-workshop of natural cosmetics answers the customer's question, "How are you working now?": "Yes, like most Ukrainian businesses — we quickly adapt to new conditions, change current plans, and do not build global ones. We can make a batch of cream for two days when there is light. We bring the texture of the cream to perfection, regardless of the circumstances. We stock up on battery-powered lamps, hand mixers, and gas stoves. We work to the maximum during those hours as long as there is light, and we keep our assortment, creating beauty for you. We will create beauty for our women, pay taxes, and support the Armed Forces and the country's economy even without electricity. 

And really. Ukrainians continue to work and find solutions in any circumstances. And this is our strength.

This material was created by the online media outlet Rubryka within the framework of the "Ukrainian Rapid Response Fund" program, implemented by IREX, with the support of the US State Department. The content is the sole responsibility of the Rubryka online media outlet and does not necessarily reflect the views of IREX or the US State Department.



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