Gal Ehrlich, BETER: I have every confidence Ukraine will bounce back stronger than ever
With a large portion of the BETER team based in Ukraine, it was a top priority for CEO Gal Ehrlich to ensure that his employees were evacuated to safety. Preparations for this evacuation, he told SBC News, began months ago as the company enacted an ‘insurance’ strategy to make sure it was best prepared for any situation.
Ehrlich highlighted that employee safety remains a top priority for the company going forward, emphasising that he has every confidence that Ukraine will “bounce back stronger than ever”.
SBC: Given the current situation in Ukraine, how has BETER adapted its day-to-day operations in the face of these extraordinary circumstances?
GE: This unprecedented situation has required us to completely transform our day-to-day operations, and we’ve had to move fast to adapt.
First on the list when the war started was to ensure the safety of our team members in Ukraine. Many of them were living and working in Kyiv and had to evacuate. While we’ve had to scale back our content production coming out of Ukraine, the thought of restructuring our staff to adapt to the new reality will never come to our minds, as it’s essential for us to be there for our people and show that we’re in it together.
Given events, we also immediately took the decision to cease all cooperation with Russia-based brands and suppliers. It’s not hard to understand why. Looking at what our people on the ground are dealing with, it is a moral statement from our end.
Looking at the present, we’re a truly pan-European company – and our multinational presence across multiple locations is what gives us strength. All our employees are scattered across the continent to oversee operations, and we’ve already been used to this remote working environment given COVID.
When it comes to our Ukrainian team members, we are doing everything we can to remain flexible and ensure that our people can take care of their families and loved ones. I have been deeply impressed by the strength of spirit of our team – they’re doing everything they can to win this battle, and I have every confidence they’ll bounce back stronger than ever.
SBC: How far in advance have you been devising your contingency plans and how have they helped to maintain BETER’s quality of service and product delivery as much as possible?
GE: This was in many ways a spectre on the horizon for several months beforehand, so we began preparing for the possibility of war at least two months ago.
There were plenty of conflicting messages between the Ukrainian and Western media at the time, and as the saying goes, pray for peace, and prepare for war. We understood the need for a contingency plan and assumed events would result in the worst. Even if we didn’t require it – that is, after all, the point of insurance.
Thankfully, our foresight has ensured we’ve been able to adapt and upgrade. We’ve already expanded in neighbouring European countries, as well as overhauling our live studios in the Czech Republic, which means our partners are going to have a serious reboot of our content on offer within a few weeks. As well as this, our cloud-based network has ensured that we’ve been able to be incredibly robust in rerouting our service and remain unaffected by any closure of Ukrainian IT infrastructure. By the time the war officially started, we were immediately able to switch our network, while devoting our energy and resources to maintaining our continuity of service.
SBC: Going forward, how do you plan to scale BETER’s operations across the EU in light of the present situation in Ukraine?
GE: It’s full steam ahead. We’re in the final stages of launching two new studios in Europe – which means our operator partners are going to be able to revert to our 30,000 events per month in no time at all. The first site, which will be in Slovakia, will see the Setka Cup return in full force with table tennis, which is a very popular part of what we offer.
The second site will be based in Moldova, neighbouring Ukraine also – which will enable us to further boost our selection of content. On the Esports side, we’re also looking at EsportsBattle locations in Poland, and we’ll have more news on that front soon enough. This diversification strategy will no doubt pay off immediately, and in total we’ll be back stronger with an almost doubled capacity – making our products and services bigger and better than ever before.
SBC: In what ways are you adapting or boosting your content for the remainder of the year?
GE: With a total of four new locations opening, I’m sure we’ll have multiple opportunities to boost our content! I’m very proud of how proactive and resilient each of our teams have been during this terrible time. As mentioned, we’ve got a serious pipeline ready to switch on within the next few weeks and months, so now it’s all about putting the foundations in place to ensure we have a new operational dimension for 2022 and beyond.
Nothing is more important, however, for us right now, than to see these events stop. Ukraine is a wonderful country, and we have a great community of players and team members across the nation. We look forward to engaging and entertaining them again soon enough, and for a normal way of life to resume for all of us.
SBC: Is there a long-term plan in the face of such uncertainty or are you remaining agile to the changing conditions? Does BETER have plans to return operations to Ukraine as soon as it can?
GE: Our biggest challenge at the moment is the magnitude of variables and moving parts within this situation. It is extremely hard to predict how this ecosystem will evolve in a week, let alone in one month. There are a lot of questions that remain unanswered; therefore, the key is to move fast and be agile to adapt quickly. Our progress so far is a testament to our fantastic team in Ukraine – they are committed to ensuring that we can be fast and flexible.
When it comes to a return to normality, we’re doing everything we can to ensure the building blocks are in place for that already. Our leadership has enacted daily team meetings and twice weekly town halls to keep everyone abreast of the situation. We’ve also started regular newsletters and other internal comms that can ensure that everyone feels connected and able to react and adapt to anything we need to do.
Nothing is more important to us than to ensure our people feel like they remain part of the BETER community, whether they’re able to work or not. We are one organism, and I want to thank everyone at BETER for the part they have played in our survival and success despite these extreme conditions. Thanks to each one of our people, I’m sure that our goals, targets and revenue remain unchanged – we’re all looking forward to a brighter future and bouncing back stronger than ever.