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How the largest exporter of Pridnestrovie feels in the context of the restrictions imposed around the world due to the spread of COVID-19, and how Tirotex is coping with this, is revealed by the general director of the enterprise, Andrei Mezhinsky.

- Andrey Viktorovich, a year has passed since all the countries of the world united in the fight against COVID-19, and today one of the most discussed issues in all sectors of the economy is how to survive during this pandemic. How does Tirotex cope with this task?

- Indeed, many businesses were damaged. We, like many others, faced challenges, but almost immediately we adapted our production and foreign economic activity to the changing market conditions. We responded immediately, because flexibility and adaptability to new conditions is very important from the very first days. The crisis is a time of new opportunities, therefore new tasks have come to the fore - a change of priorities, a quick response to new challenges and market demands, prompt adoption and implementation of decisions. We started to work more actively, shortened the terms of production and optimized our actions.

- Tell us how the pandemic affected the work of the team? Has the administration developed a set of measures aimed at preventing the spread of infection among employees?

- Of course, from the very first day, emergency measures were aimed primarily at preserving the health of our team. In addition to general recommendations, we provided each employee with protective masks, purchased and installed thermovision cameras, recirculators and much more. The undisputed priority for us during the pandemic was the safety and well-being of our staff. I believe that employees will not be able to work effectively if they themselves and their families are at risk. And since Tirotex is a socially oriented enterprise, which is confirmed by numerous international certificates of our compliance with the Code of Conduct, we have provided for many important aspects, including the development of a set of measures aimed at preventing the spread of the virus.

- Please tell us more about the certification you mentioned.

- The doors of the enterprise are always wide open for various social international audits. To date, we have successfully passed the BSCI audit for business and human rights, as well as social audits for compliance with the Code of Conduct of such media companies as Walt Disney and NBC Universal, which subsequently allow their licensed drawings to be printed at our production facilities. It is also about our responsibility to our employees, which is of great importance. It resulted in successfully passed audits (by the way, not everyone succeeds to pass them). Not for the sake of a catchphrase, I would like to note that six months ago this news was spread not only by our Pridnestrovian media, but also Moldovan and even Russian ones. This is truly a reason for pride.

- How did this affect the volume of orders?

- According to sociological polls, during the pandemic we cut down our expenses on everything except children. And, as you know, kids are big fans not only of cartoon films of the Universal film company (for example, "How to Train Your Dragon", "The Secret Life of Pets", etc.), but of the Walt Disney film studio too. For example, last year the volume of orders for the Russian market alone amounted to about 130 thousand linear meters of fabric with cartoon characters. And according to our practice, interest in these designs is steadily growing, because already in the first quarter of this year we delivered more than 200 thousand meters to the Russian Federation and Italy. These are such cartoon characters as "Mickey Mouse", "The Little Mermaid Ariel", "Princesses", "Cars", "Spiderman" and the heroes of the well-known saga "The Avengers" - Captain America, Hulk and Iron Man.

- What are the relationships with your regular customers in such a difficult time?

- Healthy competition is always an incentive for development and self-improvement. We really appreciate the fruitful cooperation with our regular customers. We have business approximately with 30 countries of the world, which is almost 150 companies. For many years they have been cooperating with us and continue to consider the product of Tirotex as still relevant and of high quality. In addition, I think 7 new business partners acquired yet in the first quarter of 2021 (from Sweden, France, Russia and other neighboring countries) is a fact that speaks volumes. There are many offers on the world market now, and the client always looks at two things: price and quality. We all understand that one is most often a detriment to the other. If the price of the product is low, it can affect the quality, and vice versa. It is very difficult, but we successfully manage to hold the bar offering high quality at reasonable prices.

- Apart from the clients themselves, who evaluates the quality of Tirotex products?

- First of all, these are international experts. For example, we have a fruitful long-term cooperation with the German Institute of Hohenstein, which thoroughly tests samples of our products and carries out an independent check on various parameters, including the content of harmful substances. Since 2005, on the basis of laboratory studies, the institute annually issues the OEKO-TEX 100 Certificate, which guarantees the safety of Tirotex textile products for adults and for the health of children from their very birth. Since the pandemic is causing changes, I am confident that those who identified and assessed risks honestly were the most prepared for them. The introduction and use of a quality management system provided a reserve of sustainability to us. By the way, we were the first on the territory of Pridnestrovie to receive the latest version of ISO 9001-2015, and recently we have successfully passed an inspection audit. To develop market relations in the European market, Tirotex received a prestigious membership in BCI - this international organization for better cotton, which guarantees control over the use of environmentally friendly cotton at all stages of production - from its cultivation to processing into finished products. The use of better cotton allowed us to retain customers in the Scandinavian market, start cooperation with new companies and increase our sales. Yet at the beginning of this year, we got 2 new clients from Sweden. The fact is that since last year all companies from this country have switched to purchasing goods made exclusively from BCI cotton. The interest of Swedes in cooperation with our company keeps growing. So, at the beginning of this year, the volume of orders we received for BCI products was already two times bigger than we had received during the whole last year.

- Foreign economic activity in the European and American markets is certainly impressive, but what about the post-Soviet space?

- Despite some objective difficulties, we still consider the Russian market to be promising. And for the development of market relations with this country, we have successfully passed the audit for certification of production in accordance with the Technical Regulations of the Customs Union, which allows exporting bed linen and table linen for adults and children produced by Tirotex. Our potential for cooperation with Russia is enormous, because we have the main thing for this – our production capacities that can be used to satisfy the specific demands of the customers from this country. And of course, this was reflected in the volume of orders received from the Russian market. Thus, the volume of deliveries in the first quarter of 2021 increased by 30% compared to the same period of the last year, when, by the way, the pandemic had not yet had time to affect the market.

- In conclusion, what would you like to add about production activity during such a difficult period?

- For us, the pandemic has become a test, on the one hand, and, on the other hand, a serious incentive for updating the strategy. Thanks to this, Tirotex demonstrated sufficient anti-crisis stability, since it was able not only to maintain volumes, but also to show confident growth in some fields. Now we continue to work on updating the strategy and have already outlined a number of new directions. Of course, they are a continuation of those projects that are already being implemented within the framework of the social-economic development of our enterprise - the locomotive of the light industry of the entire Pridnestrovie. And this is not only a high reputation, but also a great burden of responsibility, with which we successfully cope. I hope this will continue. And in conclusion, I would like to wish everyone good health, first of all.

- Thank you for the interview, Andrey Viktorovich, and we wish you to achieve your goals.