Meet Stanislav Medkov from Russia, the founder of Hookah Battle and the CEO of Nargilia !
Due to heavy influence from Caucasus and Central Asia, shishas have become a widespread recreational practice in large Russian cities, and are now offered in many bars and restaurants.
Hi Stan, we are happy to welcome you in Paris ! Can you introduce yourself to our dear readers ?
Thank you ! My name is Stan Medkov, I am from Saint Petersburg, Russia and I am the CEO of Hookah Battle. I work with a whole team who help me manage all the events. I also have another business which is Nargilia Lounges, a franchise network in Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus.
I have been in this business for more than ten years, but before that, I studied finance and banking. I worked at City Bank in Russia for three years. In 2008, because of the financial crisis, my workmates and I were fired.
I spent the whole summer jobless, and one day, my friends called me to join them in some restaurant that have just bought new hookahs. They needed a guy who would show them how to manage all those accessories and so on. And this is how I ended up creating a company with hookah catering service !
After a few years, we have had around 50 places where we provided hookah services with our hookah master and our products.
Tell us more about the “Hookah Battle” !
In 2011 the first Hookah Battle took place in Saint Petersburg. Many teams took part in the competition and many visitors assisted. We decided to repeat it the year after. And in 2013, we started to make it in other countries like Belarus and Egypt.
The concept of Hookah Battle is pretty simple. The competitors have to prepare the best hookah ever for the jury. It can be any kind of hookah : fruit bowl hookah, simple home style hookah, but also creative or crazy one.
The appearance and design is just 15% or 20% of all the work, because the jury mostly evaluates the Hookah Master work depending on the quality of its hookahs.
Of course, you need to be older than 18 years old (over 21 in the USA). Moreover, you can compete alone, or with a team. You can compete as a hookah lover and you can also represent a company, like a hookah lounge.
What was for you the craziest hookah ever invented for this competition?
It’s hard to pick one actually. But I would say the craziest concept I saw was the flying hookah that I discovered in 2015 in Saint Petersburg.
It was a hot-air balloon with a hookah… It flies and you can smoke from it at the same time !
Yesterday, I was showing to my team in Paris the Diskette Lounge page on Chichamaps, they were surprised by the originality of the concept ! Tell us more about this place and the Nargilia franchise you have created.
We launched Diskette Lounge only 6 month ago. It has an 80’ theme aesthetic and music. It’s pretty popular right now. It’s up to 60 seats, and when we do showcase, we can have up to 100 people.
But way before, in 2012, we opened our first hookah lounge, The Office Nargilia Lounge, where you can enjoy a shisha like a boss, on a presidential chair !
This idea became super popular in Saint Petersburg, and we have started to sell franchise right after. At the moment, we have around 120 of them in four countries !
Regarding Nargilia, it is a franchise network that we plan to develop worldwide. We are already doing pretty good in Russia, and we would be happy to help who ever want to open a franchise in Europe or somewhere else !
We have 10 different concepts of lounges that you can pick freely. Also our entry fees are very low.
To finish, according to you, what makes the “Chicha Culture” in Russia so special ?
So, in my opinion, the Soviet history makes the shisha culture in Russia so special. Let me explain to you why…
Back in time, it was not possible to travel when you lived in Soviet Union. In the 90’s when the union crashed, people started to travel massively. The nearest and cheapest destinations at that time were in the Middle East countries, where Russian tourists discovered shisha.
Those tourists brought back to their homeland huge quantities of hookahs, and I think this is how the shisha culture has started. It became so popular because young people took in charge the development of this industry.
If you compare it with France for example, where I guess the chicha culture is older but not as important, in Russia, it was not only pretty new, but it was also a symbol of freedom somehow. But this is my own theory, maybe other Russians would have other explanations !