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Dmitry Dobrovolsky. AIMOL

'Russians Can Teach the Dutch How to Act in a Crisis'

Dmitry Dobrovolsky, General Director of AIMOL Lubricants and General Director of the Russian Drift Series Grand Prix.

You have been working in the oil business for a long time. How did it all start?

I could say that it all started by accident. When I was a student I was looking for a job. My neighbor offered me a position in the automotive market — they sold spare parts and I started working as a sales manager. In time we began selling motor oils. I realized that this is a consumer packaged good and we began to develop this branch. We opened the store in 1992 and now I’ve been working in this business for almost 30 years.  

AIMOL has been operating in Russia since 2010. How has the business changed during this time? What have you learned? How have the clients changed?

The most important change I have seen over the years is the start of local AIMOL production in 2015. We had been preparing for this for a very long time. It's not a secret that there is a certain idea of the perceived quality level, and many consumers still believe that everything Western European is a priori better than Russian. We were able to successfully overcome this prejudice. And this is the most important thing that has happened over the past 10 years — we have learned to produce the highest quality AIMOL product here in Russia.

As for clients, they have become more selective. Clients have become more demanding of the service and this can be seen at all levels, from the end consumer to large enterprises.

How has the pandemic affected your workflow, demand and revenue? How much has changed? 

Like everyone else, we had a powerful failure in April-May. We lost almost half of our turnover, but since June the volumes have begun to recover and now, by October, we have managed to reach pre-crisis levels. We expect another drop during the "second wave."

What are your plans for the next few years?

Our main task is to increase the AIMOL range produced in Russia, for example, we intend to start producing edible oils. We also plan to increase our production capacity.

You probably often go to the Netherlands. What impressed you most when you visited the country for the first time? 

Herring! And of course the people. They are very open and friendly, easy to communicate with. I was also impressed by the architecture in Amsterdam and Rotterdam. In general, I really like Dutch design.

What can the Dutch learn from their Russian colleagues, and what can the Russians learn from the Dutch?

The Dutch, like all other Europeans, can learn non-standard thinking, creativity and the ability to act in a critical situation from the Russians. We are the most successful in terms of response to a crisis. And we can learn from the Dutch the correct approach to the organization of labor and productivity. In my opinion, Dutch labor productivity is much higher than in Russia. Their ability to manage time is amazing! 

Now let's talk a bit about drifting. Over the past few years, drifting has become incredibly popular in Russia, but this has not always been the case. How did it all start? What does this sport owe its popularity to? How many drifting fans do you estimate there are in Russia today?

The history of drift in Russia started in 2006-2007. These were completely different times and the sport was poorly organized. Amateurs gathered on wasteland or in parking lots and tried to force cars to go sideways. The development of drift in Russia is largely due to two things. First of all, the eastern part of our country is very close to Japan, where drift was born, and from there all fashion trends tend to reach Vladivostok, Khabarovsk and other cities. The first drift competitions were held not in Moscow, but there.

Secondly, this was already an international trend, which quickly began to gain popularity after the release of the movie "The Fast and the Furious 3." In 2003, this film became insanely popular among young people. So there were two waves of interest in drifting — from Japan and from Hollywood. 

In the Far East and Siberia, all this began a few years earlier than in the western part of Russia. And then it came to Moscow. Due to the financial and administrative possibilities, all trends in the capital tend to develop very rapidly and the first competitions were already being held in 2007. In 2010, when the Russian Drift Series (RDS) was organized by the efforts of enthusiastic fans Timofey Kosharny and Dmitry Simenyuk, a "new century" of drifting began in Russia. I always try to be conservative in assessing the audience, as this is a rather subjective parameter. But I estimate the RDS audience at about a million people. The agency that did the survey for us gives a figure of 2,000,000.

Where are the RDS stages held now? Are there any plans to expand the geography of the series?

The stages of the RDS take place all over the country — from Vladivostok to St. Petersburg and Sochi. We certainly plan to expand the geography, first of all, by holding stages in Central Asia, for example, in Kazakhstan, where there is a very good circuit. Also, we want to go to Europe. First of all, to Riga, where there are a lot of Russian-speaking fans and the participation of our drivers there showed that we are really expected there. But in Russia too the number of drift tracks is increasing every year, and we are conducting the younger series of RDS where we could not have imagined before — in Togliatti, Belgorod and Grozny.

We also have plans for Yekaterinburg, Tyumen, Novosibirsk, Irkutsk. So practically the whole country and the near abroad, and I think we will continue to expand. Technically, we are now even ready to go to Japan, but of course we first have to wait until the pandemic is over. 

Six months ago, the Russian Sports Ministry officially recognized drifting as a sport and included it in the All-Russian Register of Sports. How did this event change drifting and the perception of it? How do you see it in 10 years?

The main result of the recognition of drifting as a sport is that organizers, especially regional ones, now have the opportunity to get help from municipal and local authorities. That makes it easier for drivers to organize drifting competitions legally. This is the most important thing.

And of course, generally speaking, the recognition of our sport as a sports discipline gives drivers the opportunity to realize their ambitions and gain ranks and titles. This affects both the prestige of the sport and the involvement of young drivers. When young racers come to us now, they can already count on an official status. 

In 10 years I see drifting having a World Championship. Actually we are already at this level, but with different "buts" and "ifs." In 10 years drifting will become a leading fully fledged sport with stages in many countries.

What advice would you give to those looking to learn how to drift? Where should they begin?

If we are talking about very young drivers, then I recommend they try karting first. There are many schools and sections, and karting is very useful in terms of developing driving skills, plus it is not as expensive as a car. But when you have experience in karting you can start drifting — in drift school. Adult racers who dream of drifting should go straight to drift school, which is available in all motorsport centers.