The coronavirus lockdown has changed many things – including our attitude to things. We suddenly realized that things like fur coats are practical items, not inviolable sacraments. When your entire family, including young children who would have been normally attending their nursery or school, stays at home, a standard city apartment becomes cramped and drastically limited in space.
“We do not have enough workplaces for everyone at home. My husband and I have to share one desk. On the other hand, the piano no one plays takes up half of the room,” a friend complains.
“The children are driving me mad. They want to jump, run and scamper around, but we do not have enough space. We should have got wall bars or a trampoline instead of this sliding wardrobe,” my sister groans.
The family next door would like to have tea in wicker chairs on their balcony, but it is cluttered with bicycles, a skateboard and four (!) suitcases with old stuff…
Warehouses and storage rooms can help declutter an apartment, store the owner’s fur coat during the summer and their bicycle during the winter, and temporarily rid them of the piano (if there are no members of the family who want to play it) or children’s books (when the children have grown up). This market is rapidly growing now.
The founders of the Cherdak (Attic) startup told Invest Foresight how they have organized storage, why clients shouldn’t be afraid of temporarily parting with their porcelain tea set or gift books, and how much the storage services cost.
An innovative storage platform
Cherdak was founded in 2018 by Konstantin Zakharov and Merdan Durdymuradov. Before that, both Konstantin and Merdan worked in food delivery. Konstantin was Executive Director at Delivery Club, and Merdan, a co-founder of the Golod app. After Zakharov left the company and the Golod project was closed, the two friends had an idea to start a business together. Having analyzed the current state of different markets, Konstantin and Merdan chose a rather conservative sphere – individual storage of things or self-storage – but decided to approach it in an innovative and creative way. They wanted to launch a service that would be intuitively clear, convenient and easy to use.
“We realized that Moscow should have a huge potential demand for storage. Most apartments are cluttered, and many residents of the capital cannot use their own balcony because it is littered with car tires, bicycles, and tool boxes. Suitcases with clothes that no one wears but you can’t bear to throw away have been gathering dust for years tucked in the top shelves and spaces under beds.
Bookshelves are bursting with books. Storing away some of the personal belongings is much easier than buying a bigger apartment. Still, for some reason in Russia, personal storage services are not so well developed as in European countries. Our project Cherdak, an offline cloud storage facility, is our way to improve this situation,” Merdan Durdymuradov says.
The Taoist practice of feng shui strongly recommends that we avoid cluttering our space as it could affect the positive energy in our homes. Common sense, too, shows that it is much easier to breath in a spacious room and it is not so comfortable to constantly squeeze through between a chest of drawers and a bed. Just type in “personal storage” and numerous offers will pop up, for bookcases, dressers, china, musical instruments and more. You can rent anything from a small cell to a fancy unit the size of a sports ground.
“Cherdak is not just another personal storage facility. Our business model is different from other similar companies. Cherdak is an innovative storage platform. We offer turn-key services. We pack our clients’ belongings and deliver them to a secure and heated warehouse. Our customers have online access to every item which we will return at the click of a button,” Konstantin Zakharov explains.
Movers vs. handlers
Konstantin and Merdan invested their own money ($300K) in the project. After a successful start, they found several investors, including Qlean and Papa John’s. The total investment in the company amounts to $2 mio.
Currently, Cherdak has two storage facilities in Moscow and Yekaterinburg. Customers can store almost anything (okay, maybe not food, medication or weapons which are prohibited). The warehouse in Moscow has a capacity for 8K cubic meters and 50K items, which is 4 times more than in 2018. At least 10K people have used Cherdak at least once. In the past year, Cherdak’s customer base has tripled in size.
Since the personal storage market in Russia is underdeveloped, the main difficulty that the Cherdak founders faced in the beginning was people’s lack of trust.
“At first, many clients called and asked whether they could go to the storage facility and see if their belongings are safe. They were worried that we could deceive them and were concerned about receiving their stuff in one piece. But the situation is changing. There are more people who are glad to try new things and understand how important it is not to accumulate clutter. We started with dozens of clients, then there were hundreds, and now we are servicing thousands of people,” Konstantin Zakharov says.
Another difficulty that the startupers faced was the search of quality personnel: movers.
“Movers are the company’s frontmen: they have to be able to explain the way we work. It is important for building and maintaining trust between the company and its clients. Here at Cherdak, we wanted to abandon the traditional image of unkempt, unfriendly, gloomy packers and movers. We wanted to employ young professionals with a positive attitude. But it was not that easy to find them. We had to do a painstaking job of selecting them and teaching them the principles of our company, so that everyone would understand the niceties of moving, treat the others’ belongings with respect, and was able to pack them properly so nothing gets damaged,” Konstantin says.
A mover must know how to pack any item (Cherdak uses 15 kinds of packing supplies: for instance, bubble wrap for dishes, padded paper for boxes, furniture pads and blankets), how to carry a cabinet through a narrow door without scratching it, or how to handle a fridge. “The keepers” are responsible for the items, and the company has their own full value protection policy.
From books to bricks
Cherdak strives to make moving comfortable for their clients. They do not have to go anywhere; movers come to their place, pack their belongings if necessary, disassemble furniture, take pictures of everything and then send the belongings to the storage facility. The photos are uploaded to the client’s personal account where they can manage their storage facility like documents in a cloud. Cherdak clients can order the return of separate or all items back to any address.
According to Konstantin and Merdan, Cherdak’s typical clients are those who use the storage service for different things, starting with small seasonal belongings, boxes with various stuff and children’s toys, and ending with belongings and furniture from their apartment rooms, mostly when moving into a new apartment.
Tariffs differ depending on the storage period and the size of things; for instance, storage of automobile tires or bicycles costs RUR 499 ($7) per month. People often use the service to store motorcycles, with Cherdak offering a special tariff.
In case you are moving into a new apartment or making repairs, you can give all your belongings for storage. Depending on their size, the cost will vary from RUR 990 ($13.6) for 0.5 cubic meters, or six Cherdak boxes, to RUR 15,840 ($217.6) for 18 cubic meters, or 180 Cherdak boxes, per month.
The startup has recently conducted a poll among its clients to get an idea of the things they give for storage first. The study has revealed that top items are books (20% of all stored belongings), followed by such bulk items as cabinets and wardrobes as well as boxes with various stuff (20%). Automobile tires rank third (9%). Other groups include chairs (5%), tables and desks (4%). Also, people often use the service to store clothing, children’s clothes, bicycles, and trunks.
“Our clients often ask us to arrive and take books for storage, which is nothing unusual: today, people choose mobile devices and e-books. Yet, people have a hard time letting go of books; some want to eventually move into a bigger apartment and organize their home library, and others give us boxes with wonderful children’s books for their future grandchildren,” Konstantin Zakharov says.
Cherdak also has a list of the most unusual things they have received for storage. Those include a bag full of plastic bags, as well as bricks, logs, and boxes with soil. What is precious about them and why would someone want to pay for storing plastic bags? We will hardly know answers as man seems to be the most puzzling creature on the planet.
By Nataliya Sysoeva