ProstoPay 2

ProstoPay: The Story of Ukraine’s Leading Provider of Telemetry and Cashless Payment Services

ProstoPay : The Story of Ukraine’s Leading Provider of Telemetry and Cashless Payment Services

Part Two: From the Dark Days of March 2022, to Active Development in 2023

ProstoPay Co-Founder Ivan Makushenko shares his personal recollections of the outbreak of war, the struggle to survive and his hopes for the future.

ProstoPay
Ivan Makushenko

Hello, my name is Ivan Makushenko and I am co-Founder and CEO of ProstoPay. We’re a Ukrainian company and our products support telemetry and cashless payments for coffee, snack, water, food, toys, car washes and other vending machines. In Part One of our story, you can discover how we started our business, and how we grew rapidly to become market leaders in our country.

In Part Two, I want to share with you how Russia’s invasion of Ukraine impacted on the business and some of the decisions we were forced to make to ensure that ProstoPay survived and began to thrive.

Like many Ukrainians, we at ProstoPay could hardly imagine a full-scale invasion. We thought such talk was madness. Since the annexation of Crimea and the invasion of Donbas in 2014, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) had been transformed into a genuine military force. Militarily, we were no pushover.

On January 1st, 2022 the Ukrainian Government introduced a roll-out of the fiscalisation of sales, that’s to say the real-time registration of sales with the tax authorities. This applied to all branches of retailing, including vending. The whole team was actively involved in solving this challenge for our partners in Ukraine. We were so busy in fact that we missed our regular strategic session. It’s normally held in December, on the brink of the coming year.

It was February before we finally got together and when we did, our discussions were focussed on our activities in the export market. But after a long debate, we decided to concentrate on product development within our home territory, on the proviso that we’d resume our foreign activities by the end of the year.

As I said, rumours of an imminent invasion seemed ridiculous and I didn’t really take them seriously. As a company, our only acknowledgement of the situation was a decision we took that, in the face of any increased risk, key personnel should be ready to move at short notice to the West of Ukraine.

‘Early in morning of February 24th, I was woken up by the sounds of explosions.’

What did I know? Within a few days, early in morning of February 24th, I was woken up by the sounds of explosions. My family lived in the north-western part of Kyiv, close to Hostomel airport, where the Russian invaders were planning to land advanced forces with orders to seize the capital. We could hear the fighting. It lasted for the whole day. Despite the fact that I had a small daughter and a pregnant wife, I went to the office to issue instructions to the team.

It was an epic day and as it ended, we’d come to the following resolutions. First and foremost, we informed the team that their, and their families’ safety, should be their number one priority. We told them, basically, that for the time being, they should forget about work. We arranged the advance payment of salaries for the month of February and confirmed that the team would, as agreed, reassemble in western Ukraine.

It was hard to make promises given the state of total uncertainty in which we’d found ourselves, but we reassured everyone that, as a company, we’d do our very best to support them and their families.

Our colleagues reacted differently when it became clear that we were facing a full-scale invasion. Those with families wanted to get out of the city. Some decided to stay in Kyiv, whatever happened. The bravest of us applied to join the AFU or the territorial defence forces; the majority of us moved to the city of Chernivtsi, on the Romanian border. (Our head office was to be located there for six months).

By early March, Kyiv was at risk of encirclement. We succeeded in transferring our key equipment from Kyiv to Chernivtsi and by the end of March, we were back to developing our embedded and software solutions. During this transition period, we did not stop supporting our partners in Ukraine and abroad, in Georgia and Kazakhstan. Hats off to our support team for that.

March 2022 was the darkest month for ProstoPay and indeed the whole country. Historically, a huge part of our business was located in Kyiv and to the North and East of Ukraine. All those territories were now either under Russian occupation, or on the front line with fighting going on around them. It looked like it might be the end for us; in March 2022 we sold just a handful of devices where in the past, we’d deliver hundreds, month after month.

We hung on; and by the end of April, ProstoPay was on the road to recovery.

2023 was a much brighter year for us.  We’d been trialling a limited number of devices over a considerable period of time, in partnership with one of the region’s biggest coffee suppliers; but it was in 2023 that our client announced their satisfaction with the reliability, scalability, and efficiency of our solutions.

ProstoPay was selected as a key supplier of telemetry and payment solutions for the region, with thousands of our devices to be rolled out. Today, we’re ahead of schedule: we successfully delivered the majority of the devices last year and this year, we’ll fulfil the rest of the orders, which mainly involve installations in neighbouring countries. The main focus of this project is our state-of-the-art telemetry solution for a variety of OCS machines (both automated and manual professional machines used in HoReCa) to work on a huge scale. However, ProstoPay provides payment solutions in the niche of access cards (RFID cards), QR receipts, web payments, and integrations with POS terminals.

ProstoPay
Ivan Makushenko

In 2023, we also accomplished two other milestones. First came the launch of a feedback service, a supplement to our telemetry solutions. User feedback from coffee or snack machines enriches the data that operators can work with regarding the quality of the service they’re offering – and by that I mean drink and product taste, freshness, cleanliness of the site, and so on.

Secondly, we concluded our project in Ukraine to enable the fiscalisation of all revenue streams. Right now, we’re actively developing solutions for professional manual coffee machines that use Machine Learning techniques.

The sheer tragedy of the invasion pushed us to rethink every decision we’d ever made as a business. The recovery of the business was our priority, and getting as many of our team members back as possible was an important part of that. There was a feeling that we needed to put the band back together, if you like.

The war also revealed to us the importance of diversifying our business, so we invested our resources in analysing other markets, to understand their needs and requirements, and to see what opportunities they may offer ProstoPay.

We brought in Rahul Kak to head-up this task. Rahul is a retail pro who was working successfully in electronic device sales when the rest of us were still in school!  He joined us in September 2022 to take responsibility for the further development of our presence in a bigger EU and UK business family of vending and coffee industries.

We’re hoping that he becomes a familiar face on the UK’s vending scene; he’ll be at Vendex Midlands with a wallet full of business cards.

To sum up: it’s business as usual here at ProstoPay and we’re looking forward to building strategic partnerships with some of the country’s leading operators.

Thanks for reading
Ivan

NEXT TIME..

Rahul Kak outlines ProstoPay’s products and services – and how they can benefit the UK’s automated retail operators now, and in the future.

PART ONE : ‘From the Beginning to the Bombing’, is HERE
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About the author

The Editor

Planet Vending’s Editor is Ian Reynolds-Young and it’s Ian’s unique writing talent that has made PV what it is today – the best read (red) vending blog in the world, and vending’s best read (reed). Ian ‘tripped and fell into vending’, in the capacity of PR executive, before launching a specialist agency, ‘reynoldscopy’, dedicated to the UK Vending business. The company continues to represent the interests of many of the sector’s leading brands.

‘It’s all about telling stories’, he says. ‘We want to make every visit to PV a rewarding experience. By celebrating the achievements of the UK’s operating companies, we’re on a mission to debunk the idea that vending is retailing’s poor relation.’

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