29 Jan Growing in an environment of threats and opportunities
Dimitrios Lakasas, CEO, Olympia Electronics, describes the new wave of Greek entrepreneurship, highlighting a gain in confidence
As an experienced businessman and entrepreneur, how would you describe the current macroeconomic outlook for Greece?
The current macroeconomic outlook is characterized by a very positive trend. The psychology of the market and the entrepreneurs has gone up over the last three months. In addition, we are seeing a new era of foreign direct investments reaching the Greek economy. The tax benefits that the new government provided to the economy changed the climate in a dramatically positive way. We see domestic investors starting to program new productive and export-oriented investments. Over the last five years, all entrepreneurs were in one way or another ‘paused’. Even though the climate was not positive, we were still here, as we believe in Greece and the opportunities that the Greek economy can provide.
What strategic direction are you giving the company for the upcoming decade?
At the core of our strategy we have innovation, quality and Industry 4.0. We have already bought and installed surface-mounted technology, robotics that are used for the automatic placement of components in our production facility. This is our strategy and, so far, our production line with Industry 4.0 machinery participates in 25 percent of our production capacity. Our plan is to be at 40 percent till 2025 and 50 percent until 2030. According to our master strategic plan, production staff will be increased. However, we will need to change the structure of our production line. In order to produce more, we are going to create more staff positions focused on business development. We are going to decrease our production cost and increase our turnover, requiring the necessary additional staff to grant us more advantages in the markets we are involved in. With the core of our business being in Scandinavia, we have to take into consideration the impact of our strategic partners.
In your opinion, what are the most lucrative investment opportunities available in Greece today?
We have to understand that if Greece uses the new technologies, we can move forward really soon. In Thessaloniki, 10 percent of the population are students at the Aristotle University, the Macedonian University or the International University. If our universities are connected with enterprises, which are connected with innovation centers, we are going to have a triple-helix model for progress. According to the above-mentioned model we can develop, produce and export innovative products and services, in order to find markets not only in the Southeastern Europe, but also in the Mediterranean countries and Central Europe as well.
In 2014, you managed to break into the shipping sector. What other diverse channels and markets is the company currently seeking to tap?
Investments in the shipping maritime sector require specific certifications, which in turn need much research, deep know-how and a lot of additional investments. Greek ship ownership is the market leader all over the world. It is very important to connect Greek production with the shipping sector. We gained Lloyd’s certification and we created a cluster of companies in Piraeus with another 21 companies that are producing for the shipping sector.
Will the full removal of capital controls have a notable impact on exports? What other economic factors will favor exports this year?
We are seeing a lot of important and quite positive changes in the Greek economy. However, on the other hand, we have been quite unlucky, given that the EU is stabilizing instead of growing. Many people are afraid of a possible decline in the future, which will affect the export activities of the country.
I strongly believe that the contribution of exports to GDP is 18 percent, which is still very low if you compare it with the EU average. However, before the crisis this was just 8 percent. I think that the first milestone has to be 25 percent contribution of export activities to GDP within the next three to five years. The future seems to be quite interesting and can be bright, if the new government continues with positive policies like the ones we have seen from it thus far.