How did you learn about the Volunteer Center’s initiative?
I was contacted by Andrey Zlenko (head of ITMO University’s Department for the Development of Student Initiatives – ed. note), who told me that they assembled a team of volunteers for helping self-isolating university staff. But this required some means of transportation so that the volunteers could get about the city in a quick and safe way. On my part, I could offer electric scooters which my company rents. At that point, our equipment had already been used by the volunteers of the Red Cross, and their experience proved the effectiveness of this solution.
Is this an indefinite lease for the duration of the pandemic?
Yes, we’ll be equipping the volunteers for as long as it’s necessary.
Why did you decide to participate in this volunteer effort?
I believe that the volunteers are doing fantastic work that nobody else can do apart from them. I was pleased to learn that the results of the first pilot day proved the scooters’ effectiveness: the speed of delivery increased fivefold, and the volunteers could take on more addresses to deliver to.
Could you tell us what your company does?
We rent out electric scooters. Just like in carsharing, we have a mobile app which has a map with hundreds of scooters, a user can choose the closest one, book it and rent it. Our service is a last service transportation one, when your destination is too near to reach by car but too far to go on foot. Electric scooter rental has been successfully in operation in Europe from 2017 and in Russia from 2018. Last year, Moscow got a new kicksharing called Whoosh, and my company, Electrosharing, became this service’s partner in St. Petersburg.
Are you still renting e-scooters out now, or this work has been put on hold by the pandemic?
The company is continuing its activities. Scooters are used by those who are forced to carry on their work even while most people are self-isolating, to keep the city going and ensure comfortable conditions for the majority of citizens who are at home. The service is also actively used by delivery workers and volunteers. We want to support all these people and offer an alternative to public transport. Whoosh is a remote service that keeps social contact to a minimum. Users don’t have any face-to-face communication with our staff and can keep a distance from other citizens while moving.
How do you sanitize the vehicles?
After washing the scooters the usual way, we treat them with a disinfectant. Our staff work in gloves and masks.
There are general rules for everyone who goes outside, and they also apply to e-scooter users. Before your commute, you have to wipe the handlebars, gas and brakes levers, and the lock button with a disinfectant cloth or an antiseptic. During your commute, we recommend you use single-use gloves and avoid touching your face and hair with your hands. After using the scooter, we ask you to thoroughly wash your hands and clean your phone with an antiseptic.
Have you previously collaborated with the university or is this the first time that you are doing so?
This is the first time with this business. Before, I had a chain of anti-cafés I started developing back in my second year at university. From around my third year, I established a partnership with the university by providing prizes and certificates to the finalists of the Miss ITMO and Mr ITMO competitions.
Were these joint projects your own initiative, or were you being approached by someone else?
In previous years, I was always the first to offer my help. My last business was closer to students, and so I had an understanding of how I could contribute to the university life. Now I’m fully immersed in my work, my social circle and interests have changed, and it so happens that the university is the one to reach out. But this is great, because as a student it was my dream to be useful to others. I wanted my business to be useful to others without my reminding them about it. It did pan out that way – others remember me and reach out to me, and that makes me very glad.
When did you study at ITMO University?
I enrolled in 2013 and stopped my studies in 2017. I didn’t graduate but rather left on my own volition.
Just when you were almost finishing?
Yes, I think I only had one year to go. Some may say that this is stupid of me. But I’m a huge workaholic, and work has always been my number-one priority. I started doing business in my student years and gradually started to dedicate more and more time to it. When I realized that work got the upper hand over my studies, I decided that it was time to go.
Nevertheless, you still have a warm attitude towards the university. Why do you want to stay in touch?
Because ITMO is the only university I studied at, and there are a lot of things that connect me to it. What I consider to be its big advantage is the spirit of togetherness and that the students have the opportunity for all-round self-development: creative activities, studies, business – you’ll be supported in everything. The university had given me friends that later became my business partners, and we’re keeping in touch and running joint projects up to this day. I’m grateful to ITMO for the network of people I now have with me, it’s with them that I achieved success in what I do, so to some degree I owe it to the university because it all started there.