The pandemic has shown the importance of developing online services for businesses in a variety of areas. How big are the differences between digital and traditional companies? And do they see each other as partners or opponents? And what are the prospects for development? This was discussed at the session "Infrastructure vs Digital Companies. The Battle for the Customer in the Face of Transformation".

Maxim Akimov, Russian Post CEO, called coronavirus "a powerful promoter of all online business models". According to him, during the pandemic, virtual reality and physically tangible things converged to the level of confusion. "This is a shift in the consumer's mind, blurring of boundaries between worlds. A highly symptomatic phenomenon is the rise of hyperlocal delivery. The consumer thinks something like this: "If this thing exists, it is definitely online, and if it is online, then why not near me? If I can get it, I will certainly do it". The pandemic has greatly raised the level of demand for the quality of logistics," stressed Maxim Akimov.

"It is not necessary to do everything on your own, if there is an opportunity to find partners, said Dmitry Sergeev, CEO of AliExpress Russia: "We fundamentally believe in partnership in logistics. This is the sector where e-commerce exists in the physical world. Moreover, the scale of the country is such that it is reasonable to have partners. By the way, for us Russian Post is a key partner". Dmitry Sergeev called the courier the main but not appreciated hero of the pandemic period as a person who physically connects the online and offline realities.

In the modern world, it makes no sense to divide companies into digital and non-digital, said Tigran Khudaverdyan, Yandex Managing Director: "Probably a hundred years ago people also discussed whether to use electricity and whether electrified companies should cooperate with those who use steam or horse power". Of course, YouTube and TikTok are primarily online services, but in general they have no differences from other companies, he said. "The question is what physical processes in the offline world you can do better. Launched in 2006, Yandex.Traffic has changed people's lives".

In the banking sector, the collision of the physical and digital worlds is not a challenge, but natural working conditions, said Sergey Bezbogov, VTB Senior Vice President. There are a number of functions that cannot be switched to online, in particular, cashiers, ATM servicing and refilling specialists are needed to handle cash.

"The physical world is allocated throughout the country, tens of thousands of people work at the point of sale, and the only way to improve the quality of offline communications is to develop their culture. For us, omnichannel is about making the connection between the digital and physical worlds seamless. So that the client does not notice the difference between service through a physical office, a call center or an online bank, so that it goes in an unbroken chain," said Sergey Bezbogov.

However, the ability to interact "face to face" in many issues remains fundamentally important — in particular, for making financial decisions. "We want to feel the people we invest in, and it's hard to do this online. In 2020, we made three investments — all in people we have seen before," said Aleksandr Galitsky, Managing Partner of Almaz Capital Partners.

Initially, non-digital companies find change more difficult: the task is not to introduce the technology, but also to restructure the entire corporate culture. "IT is no longer support, it is a form of the company's life," said Maxim Akimov at the end of the session. CEO of Russian Post called the priority of client requests, data centricity and the ability to attract talented specialists the "three whales of success in the modern world".