Andreas Feichtlbauer, executive director at agricultural player Biso Romania, tells Business Review how the company has overcome challenges such as adverse weather and low cereal prices and shares the results of an HR study conducted to shed light on its employer branding.
By Anda Sebesi
What do ten years on the Romanian market mean for Biso Romania?
For Biso, ten years of presence on the Romanian market have meant constant hard work in the name of our customers. This period might be nothing compared to the development of the world, but it was a time when we grew from zero to a value that is recognized by our customers. And we did it our way. For sure there were ups and downs, but the important thing is that we had more ups than downs. We are ranked among the top five players active in the agricultural equipment field now.
What are the company’s main achievements of the last decade?
The 2008-2009 period was a very difficult one. The worldwide crisis combined with decreasing cereal prices forced us to struggle hard in order to survive. But such transitional periods motivate us to work harder in order to be prepared for the next difficult time. In addition, 2013 was a challenging year, both because of the significant rainfall and the very low cereal prices, plus the difficult context in some EU countries like Greece. All these factors directly influenced the market. The result is that Biso came out stronger than before. While in 2014 our company focused on improving processes in order to meet the needs of farmers better and more quickly, in 2015 we are determined to continue this strategy and benefit from the power that affiliation to the Austrian Biso Schrattenecker Group offers us.
2015 is an anniversary year for Biso Group and we are preparing to make an announcement to farmers and our business partners that will change the way agriculture is done today. In the last few years we have managed to open new Biso branches in Romania, in order to be closer to the farmers. Now we are present in ten counties – Calarasi, Tulcea, Constanta, Ialomita, Buzau, Galati, Teleorman, Dolj, Neamt and Arad. In addition, in the last years we have invested about EUR 7.5 million in the development of our main offices in Drajna (Calarasi), which have a very modern showroom, and the service and spare parts departments.
How has the business environment developed in these ten years?
The business environment has changed from a very poor to medium-quality agricultural equipment market to a more and more diversified one, with small, medium and large farmers. Each of them has his or her place on the market while the development of this field continues. It is important that the agricultural sector is growing while farmers are becoming more and more skilled in farm management. This shift towards a more mature industry is supported by various other factors. For example, local universities have adjusted their learning program in order to meet the needs of more modern agriculture. Also, several specialized international companies are present in Romania and offer consultancy on agricultural operations. Things are moving much faster than in Western Europe, which requires constant adjustment to the market.
How have agriculture and the agricultural equipment industry developed in this period?
The Romanian agricultural equipment industry has grown constantly, mainly due to imports from countries such as Austria, Germany, Hungary and even the United States, so the farmers’ perspective has been changed. They are investing more and more based on a long-term vision and looking more closely at modern technologies. At present, there are farmers who use the latest technology and equipment launched at international level. All of this should be seen in the context of the fluctuations of international cereal prices which we cannot avoid, as 95 percent of our industry depends on them. The difficult subsidies mechanism also influences this market. Fortunately, Biso Romania has launched some financial solutions in order to alleviate farmers’ dependence on them.
When you marked ten years of presence on the Romanian market you conducted a study on the concept of employer branding at Biso Romania. What were its main conclusions?
The Biso Romania Employer Branding Study evaluates how the company is perceived by its employees. The initiative identified flexibility, professionalism and competitiveness as the top three qualities that best define Biso Romania as an employer, compared with other agricultural equipment companies present on the Romanian market. Vision, courage and strategy are the top three company values, according to our team.
The HR market in the agricultural equipment industry has a marked need for professional development, while the opportunities in this direction remain minimal – few specialized training programs and projects offer the possibility of career development. In this context, the study shows that opportunities for professional development, the team of professionals and the working conditions have a special importance to the company’s employees. Forty percent of them gave the maximum score (five points) in answer to the question, “How proud are you working for Biso Romania?”. The results of the study confirm the company’s efforts towards permanent development and being in line with the latest trends on the international agricultural equipment market, in order to help farmers choose the right equipment for their farm. This perspective offers our employees an ongoing development context.
How do you see Biso Romania in ten years? What about the Romanian economy?
We will focus on increasing professionalism, and creating value for farmers and our business partners. The projections for the end of this year depend on our team and external factors we cannot control or predict, like the cereal prices and weather conditions that are crucial in agriculture.
Box: Biso Romania
Field of activity: imports of agricultural equipment
Number of employees: 91
Number of products in portfolio: 350 (international brands and company’s brand, Biso)
Number of branches in Romania: 10
Number of customers in Romania: 1,900
Estimated growth of turnover in the first semester of 2014 on the same period of 2013: 7 percent