One year on, as Ukraine struggles with the war, its businesses are finding ways to continue operating, and even succeeding in the face of adversity. Despite the ongoing conflict, Ukrainian entrepreneurs are demonstrating a resilience that has become characteristic of the nation as a whole.
From small startups to established enterprises, companies are adapting to the challenging circumstances by diversifying their offerings, exploring new markets, and investing in technology. For some, this has meant pivoting from traditional industries to focus on emerging sectors, such as ecommerce and digital marketing.
Following our 2022 ‘Business in Times of War’ report, we carried out a follow-up study with more than 2,300 Ukrainian small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) across multiple industries including IT, manufacturing, education, agriculture, and others, to understand how they are maintaining, and even growing, their businesses one year on.
Ukrainian SMBs are showing that they have what it takes to succeed in a difficult environment. So much so, that despite the obstacles they face, 30% of Ukrainian businesses are looking to grow and 36% are still planning on hiring more staff this year. Furthermore, although there are government support programs available, 44% of Ukrainian businesses consider themselves independent and resourceful enough to achieve their business goals without any such support. Their determination and resilience are true testimony to the country’s strength in the face of adversity.
In this report, we take a look at how Ukrainian SMBs are continuing to operate and grow despite the conflict, providing insights into how entrepreneurs are navigating one of the most difficult situations imaginable.
The initial phase of the war in Ukraine had a significant and devastating impact on the country’s economy. Almost half of its enterprises stopped, or almost stopped, their operations, and total direct losses to SMBs was $83 billion. About 10 million Ukrainians, around 25% of the population, left their homes, with eight million of those going abroad. The unemployment rate rose above 30% and wages fell by as much as 58%. In all, the Ukrainian Ministry of Economy estimates there to have been a 30.4% drop in GDP in 2022.
It will come as no surprise, then, that the war greatly impacted on the plans of Ukrainian SMBs, with 77% saying it impacted their plans a great deal, and a further 20% saying it impacted them a little. Only 3% of Ukrainian businesses say they were not impacted by the war.
A year later, though, our findings reveal that many have returned and 69% of companies now have all their staff based back in Ukraine, despite the ongoing conflict, and 25% have just part of their staff based abroad.
“The Russian aggression towards Ukraine forced Yalantis to relocate some professionals to safer places. However, it didn’t affect our business operations much as we already had a mitigation plan for that in our BCP. We have allocated a budget for social and volunteering incentives.
We’re actively developing software development centers in the EU. We’re planning to grow our business in 2023. And we’re investing in growing technology areas.”
Chief Financial Officer & Co-Founder of Yalantis
As has become clear over the past year, like their armed forces, Ukrainian businesses have shown remarkable resilience and adaptability in the face of war.
One of the strongest signs of this resilience can be seen in the contrast between the mindset of survival that was prevalent at the beginning of the war, to a shift towards long term planning that is more prevalent today.
At the start of the war, many businesses were unable to plan for further than two or three weeks. Firmly entrenched in ‘survival mode’, they were scrambling to ensure their staff were safe and business operations continued as smoothly as possible. As the war persists, however, companies have adapted to a new reality and have settled into a more stable rhythm to be able to now make plans for the year ahead.
For 56% of businesses, this means planning to maintain their current market position. But for as much as 30% of them, they aim to grow and scale their businesses in the coming year, despite the ongoing turmoil and immense challenges.
This demonstrates a renewed sense of confidence and optimism in the business community, as they work to navigate the changing landscape and emerge stronger from the war. Some businesses are looking to innovate and leverage new goods and services (4%), or exploring new markets (2%) and partnerships to get ahead (8%).
These plans for future growth are also reflected in the number of companies looking to hire more staff in 2023. As many as 36% are looking to grow their teams, despite the difficulties in managing their business during the current conflict.
As a result of the war, Ukrainian businesses face significant challenges, such as disruption to supply chains, economic instability, and security risks. However, due to governmental programs that were set in place during and after the pandemic, and since the beginning of Russia’s ongoing aggressions towards the country since 2014, there are several resources available to them to maintain and develop their business despite these challenges.
For example, 50,382 businesses have received over UAH 154 billion thanks to the Affordable Loans 5-7-9% program. There has also been financial support for the creation of new jobs (over 400,000 jobs have been created), as well as an intense privatization program that gives more credit to the state budget. Since the start of the war, the government has also introduced programs to compensate employers for the wages of internally displaced persons.
Grants have also been made available during the war to those businesses in the environmental sector by way of the EU4Environment program that support the “green” industrial recovery and relocation of enterprises in Ukraine. Also, the USAID Competitive Economy Program (CEP) supports small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) to help them become more competitive in domestic and international markets.
“I am constantly in awe of the unyielding spirit of our nation’s small and medium-sized businesses. Despite the adversities of war and economic challenges even one year later, it is incredible to see as many as 30% of Ukrainian SMBs planning to grow their business this year, and 36% plan to hire more staff. Their steadfast resolve to succeed and contribute to the country’s economic growth is nothing short of inspiring.”
Ukrainian Country Manager, Payoneer
Despite these programs, however, a large number of Ukrainian SMBs (56%) still claim to lack enough resources of their own to pursue their business goals.
This might be because a large majority of them (77%) claim not to know about the numerous support programs mentioned above. However, when so many do consider themselves able to achieve their business goals without governmental support (44%), it would seem that a large propotion of Ukrainian businesses are resourceful enough to achieve their goals on their own and are not dependent, or at least don’t consider themselves dependent, on external support.
This hint of strong independence is strengthened even further when looking at those who do know about international or state sponsored support programs (23%) and have still, mostly, not turned to them for help (81%).
To achieve their business goals in peace time, Ukrainian businesses, like any other business, require a range of resources. And how much more so in times of war.
One of the most important resources is government support, which can come in the form of regulatory clarity, funding, and incentives. A robust IT infrastructure is also crucial, as it allows businesses to leverage technology for increased productivity and competitiveness. Additionally, Ukrainian businesses need access to a skilled and motivated workforce to drive their growth and success.
But the one thing that almost half (49%) of Ukrainian businesses need the most is more financial investment, for it enables their businesses to grow and expand their operations. Overall, though, it’s a combination of these resources that is necessary for Ukrainian businesses to not only survive the ongoing war, but to also thrive in a competitive global market.
It is hard to overstate the devastating impact the war in Ukraine has had on the people there. At best the situation has led millions to lose their homes and way of life. At worst, it has caused many to have, tragically, lost those closes to them.
The war has also given Ukrainian businesses a huge blow and forced them to rapidly adjust and be highly resilient to the new realities. Testament to this quick adaptation and resilience is that 30% of Ukrainian SMBs, despite everything, are still looking to grow their business in 2023 and 36% are still looking to hire more staff in order to achieve their business goals. What’s more, 44% of them consider themselves resourceful enough to achieve these goals on their own.
No-one knows what the future holds for Ukraine, or when the war will end. What’s for sure, is that Ukrainian businesses, large or small, are likely to continue to prove their resilience and will prevail, whatever comes their way.
Payoneer is committed to democratizing access to economic opportunity, to ensuring the security of our customers’ funds and data, and to being the world’s go-to partner for digital commerce as we provide our continued support throughout the affected region.
For our Ukrainian customers, they can access their funds regardless of where they are in the world. We are committed to doing everything possible to continue supporting Ukrainian businesses. Currently, Ukrainian Payoneer customers can continue to use all Payoneer services as usual:
Payoneer is the world’s go-to partner for digital commerce, everywhere. From borderless payments to boundless growth, Payoneer promises any business, in any market, the technology, connections and confidence to participate and flourish in the new global economy. Powering growth for customers ranging from aspiring entrepreneurs in emerging markets to the world’s leading digital brands, Payoneer offers a universe of opportunities, open to you.