We talked to Mher Avetyan, Founder and CEO of WholesGame, a platform for wholesalers of video games.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Mher Avetyan: We are good, thank you for asking! The pandemic has presented many challenges for everybody, and we were not an exception. We were lucky, though, to stay safe so far.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded WholesGame.
Mher Avetyan: I have a bachelor’s degree in physics and computer science, a master’s in business administration, and Business Leadership training from the University of Cambridge. I’ve worked at various organizations in different capacities, including management positions, such as CEO, commercial director, head of marketing, and others. This experience has prepared me to start my own business. I’ve started a company in London, which got engaged in various online commercial projects. Among other projects, we operate the WholesGame video game business platform, which helps wholesalers, distributors, and retailers of video games to find suppliers and customers. The platform also operates a wholesale marketplace, which allows wholesalers and retailers of video games to buy and sell game-related products for commercial purposes.
How does WholesGame innovate?
Mher Avetyan: We constantly search for ways to innovate our platform, including the algorithms and the technologies used. The more we grow, the more resources we can spend on improving technology in our business. We have recently started to utilize AI and machine learning technologies to get more focus on providing the best user experience. We learn a lot from operating the current project and prepare ourselves to start a new, more universal project soon, a wholesale marketplace that will cover a broader range of business sectors.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Mher Avetyan: Our company operates an online platform and was mostly remote even before the pandemic started. After the lockdown, we became fully remote and continued our operations. Our customers are video game companies. Some of them have seen a considerable spike in their sales since the lockdown, as more and more people started to use indoor entertainment rather than going out. However, this was somehow balanced by a drop in sales of those game companies who relied on sales of physical units. Overall, the sales of our company remained stable throughout 2020 and early 2021. We are now expecting a more quiet period as many people might rush out for outdoor activities as soon as the lockdown is eased in the Summer of 2021. This is a good time for us to concentrate on some strategic initiatives and concentrate most of our efforts on taking our company to the next level.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Mher Avetyan: We haven’t experienced any noticeable drop in sales, and for that reason or financials have remained strong throughout the pandemic. The difficulties were more related to organizational and administrative activities, e.g., how to organize the communication and interaction between people during the lockdown. Since the company was already mostly remote, we already had a working business model of how to organize it, and we just had to make a shift to the 100% remote. Luckily we did not have to let any employees go, and we were able to go through the difficult times together and remain strong.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Mher Avetyan: Email is the most common tool for our communication within the company. The majority of messages, file transfers and sharing, and joint discussions are carried through email. We use Google’s G Suite, which provides most of the tools that we need. We use Zoom and Skype for meetings.
Communication for most organizations is one of the key things, regardless if there is a lockdown or not. Because of the nature of our activities we are well aware of the business of our customers. We have also noticed this on the example of our customers that their employees communicate to each other mostly through emails and electronic messaging, not only now but also in the past. This was true even though they might have been sitting in the same office, on the same floor, or even in neighboring cubicles. I’d say not much changed on that for game-related companies during the lockdown. It’s just some of the things that were just convenient in the past have become a necessity nowadays.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Mher Avetyan: WholesGame is a platform specializing in the wholesale video games business. Our Wholesale Video Games Marketplace is currently unique in the market. We are currently preparing to get to the next level and launch a new platform involving a wider range of other business sectors. We will then start facing competition from a number of well-established online wholesale platforms. The business model that we utilize in the current platform is different though, it varies from our competition, and so far, it has proved to be viable.
Your final thoughts?
Mher Avetyan: The pandemic forced many companies to change the way they operate day-to-day. Those who could shift to remote did so. Those who had to continue working in their usual workplaces, such as manufacturing, or organizations that have to physically interact with people, such as doctors, have had more challenging times. For those companies who have already experienced at least partly the remote business model, the shift to remote during pandemic went relatively easy.
There was a big group of companies, who for the first time in their work history, utilized the remote on a mass scale, i.e., for most of their employees. And it seemed that after successfully doing it, many of these companies initially appreciated the benefits of the remote. With time, though, many of them realized that the remote has a lot of limitations, and in many cases, it cannot be a full substitute to the traditional office, classroom, or production-based environment. For example, many education organizations, which completely shifted to remote during the pandemic, admit now that it is not even close to the experience that the students get in classrooms. Many company managers realize that they want their employees physically present in the office, within a physical reach. And, of course, production and manufacturing have had a lot of challenges. For example, the new generation of game consoles, PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S, were planned for launch in 2020, and their manufacturing has been cursed with a lot of problems because of the pandemic. It was mainly connected with the shortage of electronic components caused by the lockdown of factories in China. As a result, this has created great shortages of the newly manufactured consoles for months after their launch, as factories were not able to manufacture the necessary quantities to satisfy the demand.
Overall, I think many companies came to an understanding that even though the remote was a good solution for them, it’s probably not the best option at normal times. After the pandemic is over, it seems most companies will come back to their usual way of doing business, as they did before the pandemic. We learned many lessons during this period, but life continues, the pandemic will hopefully be soon gone, and people will mostly come back to business as usual.
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