Business Review continues the #25×25 Interview Series powered by Schoenherr si Asociatii SCA, a special editorial project featuring 25 companies that have been in business in Romania for 25 years. BR will be interviewing leading businesses to discover the secrets to their remarkable success and longevity in the Romanian market. In today’s installment, we sat down with Adrian Ariciu, CEO of METRO Cash & Carry România.
BR: Starting with a bit of historical background, what can you tell us about how your company made its entry into Romania back in 1996 and how your industry as a whole looked back then?
Adrian Ariciu: When we opened our first store, in October 1996, the concept of a wholesale, in which entrepreneurs and professional customers can find, in a single place, all the products necessary for their business, was a rarity and a novelty. There was nothing like it back then. From the very beginning, we have sought, first and foremost, to support local businesses, constantly looking for solutions to support their development. By doing so, we encouraged the development of key economic sectors, as well as setting new standards for both the market and business owners. This is the reason why METRO is considered today the pioneer of modern commerce in Romania.
BR: How did your company navigate during all those years in Romania in terms of goals, achievements, challenges and opportunities?
Adrian Ariciu: There were challenging years, in which the local economy was learning, growing, selecting its path to maturity. METRO was there, as it is today, making sure the local businesses were developing in the right direction. Because this is our DNA and our brand statement: Your success is our business. So we put our international know-how and expertise to use and relied on our local team in order to understand our client’s needs. This is how our local network grew in key cities, launched new concepts, like METRO Punct, a store specially designed to support Reseller and HoReCa customers. METRO Punct was another innovation to the local market, providing dedicated promotions, solutions, and specialized consulting, as well as loyalty programs to its customers, in order to streamline their business.
We provided the same level of proficiency to all our partners and clients, and this is why we launched the first educational hub for the HoReCa industry in Romania, back in 2008. What was known back then as the Gastronomy Training Center, it is today the Gastronometro, a training center at high standards and a symbol of culinary excellence.
And the list could go on and on. We had the opportunity to be the market pioneer, with all the challenges, opportunities, sometimes roadblocks. The path was not an easy one, but certainly exciting and fulfilling.
BR: What is the proudest moment for your company in its 25-year history?
Adrian Ariciu: There were many moments and is very hard to choose one. Every milestone brought us to where we are today. Every store opening, own-brand launch, bringing the Own Business Day event in Romania – a global initiative through which METRO celebrates entrepreneurs worldwide – the implementation of “Buy more Pay less” campaign that ensures top products at the best possible prices, keeping the independent businesses profitable, the launch of LaDoiPasi, our franchise concept designed to help local entrepreneurs grow within their community, are just a few of the milestones METRO achieved through the last 25 years. We are also extremely proud of the way we managed to stay close, support our clients and partners during the past two years. We succeeded to grow together in very difficult times and continued to innovate. This is how, in 2019 we completed one of our most important projects in Romania, the OneRoof logistics center, with the main purpose of delivering to our customers the freshest products, at competitive prices. The launch of One Roof is a first example through which we demonstrated how important technology and digitalization are to us.
We also made sure METRO is an example of responsibility and prevention for our employees and clients, in terms of Covid 19 safety measures, by implementing all the DEKRA standards in our stores. The DEKRA, Trusted Facility standard is an international safety certificate awarded by one of the most important expert organizations in the world, which confirms the strict observance of health and safety standards against the spread of COVID-19.
And last, but certainly not least, METRO would never be where it is now without each and every one of our colleagues. Together we managed to build the largest wholesale company in Romania, an innovator, a reference of sustainability and ethics and a reliable partner for all our clients. This is one more reason to be extremely proud of our Top Employer achievement, awarded in 2021. Every year, the Top Employers Institute recognizes companies that place their employees at the center of their corporate activities and offer them an outstanding working and development environment. Enrolling for the Top Employer certification, the whole process we went through to access this certification, was a great opportunity for us to see, through the eyes of a highly qualified external entity, how good we are as an employer, what are the strengths and what we should improve, refine. This is how we come in front of our colleagues, partners and the community and demonstrate once again that the way we operate at all levels, including HR, is validated by a globally recognized institute.
BR: Moving into the present, how would you describe your company’s role in the current social and economic context?
Adrian Ariciu: We have always been and will continue to be a reliable partner of the local communities. Today, more than ever, we strongly believe it is our duty to continue to innovate, be a role model in terms of responsibility, care and help our most vulnerable clients: local entrepreneurs in retail and hospitality.
The pandemic started quickly and unexpected and made 2020 a very challenging year. We had to adapt in a very short period of time and make sure to be there with measures and tools that really made the difference. And the results show we did it right. Our LaDoiPași franchise network reached a total of 1,470 stores nowadays and we are strongly determined to reach our goal of 2,000 convenience stores operating as LaDoiPași until 2023. Even if we had to face extraordinary circumstances, we continued to be close to our franchise partners, to find solutions to get through this period well, given our common responsibility to serve the communities we belong to. We have opened a record number of stores during the pandemic, this is truly outstanding and would not have been possible without the trust of our entrepreneur partners.
For our partners in hospitality, we understood once more that digitalization is not the future, but the present, so we focused all our knowledge and expertise to help them be in the present. This is why we launched DISH, a platform that offers digital solutions developed with the support of entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry, to ensure online visibility and increase business efficiency. The use of these digital solutions ensures relevance in the online environment for HoReCa businesses, where most of their current customers look and buy products.
Also this year, following the launch of the Mshop delivery platform through which our HoReCa clients can order the products they need online, we announced the official launch of the METRO application, a big part of METRO’s digital strategy, which promises innovative solutions and products meant to support independent businesses. The METRO app is practically a digital service that offers our customers the opportunity to always have the METRO card at hand and therefore all the information they need directly from their mobile phone.
These are just a few of our present focus points, all meant to secure the promise we make to our clients: their success is our business.
BR: No one has a crystal ball, so we won’t ask about the next 25 years. But looking into the future, how do you see the road to 2030 for both your company and the industry you represent
Adrian Ariciu: We are sure all the challenges brought by the Covid 19 pandemic, the way it changed business operations, dynamic, consumption habits will strongly influence the future. As we had to embrace the new normal, we must prepare for the new future. A future where digitalization, new media, robots, and drone inventory will be normal. So this is where our expertise and investments are channeled. We are fully committed to continue to serve the communities for the greater good and put to use all the modern tools, tactics, and strategies we develop, in order to make sure we respect the promise made to our clients, partners, and local communities: your success is our business. We already prepare for the future, starting with a deep digital transformation both within and outside the organization, hiring the best talent on the market in order to make sure we serve our clients’ needs at all professional levels and deliver excellence. And, of course, as always, we will constantly adapt to all the trends and development directions of the HoReCa and trade businesses.