Vlad Iftime, Managing Partner at Vestra, talked to Business Review in an exclusive interview about the company’s CSR involvement, results, objectives, and also about his latest ventures into green energy and tourism.
Which are the main pillars of Vestra’s CSR strategy at this moment and what projects have you implemented so far?
We are a company oriented towards innovation and high quality standards, but we understand, at the same time, that we have the responsibility to get involved in the development of communities and to help solve the problems they face. I strongly believe in the mission of the business environment to be actively involved in the life of the communities in which it operates. This is also the reason why I got involved personally or with Vestra in projects that bring a plus in the life of local communities.
For us, the main pillars of the CSR strategy are people and nature. I have always had a tendency to reinvest in “Beauty of Romania”, in everything that traditionally means, healthy living or Romanian values. I am attached to the tradition and history of our country and I want to bring people closer to traditional culture and customs through the projects I develop.
The soul projects that I have implemented so far with the team were: Moldova Film Festival, The Jar of Fiction, the painting camp Dream Paths, Where’s the Bear? – the running and cycling competition on Giumalău mountain or the Top Spin tennis tournament. All these projects have a double value, both cultural and social responsibility. In addition, I have always tried to bring an educational component to all these projects.
From one year to the next we increase the level of involvement in the community and we want to develop new opportunities that generate changes with major impact in favor of the people and the communities they belong to.
What were the strategic objectives for the development of Vestra?
Our principles are customer-centered. We always carefully analyze customer objectives and prioritize understanding in detail all their expectations, whether we are talking about price, reliability or delivery conditions. Our strategy focuses on the development of high-performance and quality equipment and services. Thus, out of the desire to deliver quality products on the market and to meet daily challenges, we have partnered with world leaders with whom we constantly improve and develop equipment and services for the most complex projects.
Because we want to increase the level of performance and actively respond to changes in the market, we place constant emphasis on improving services and products, but also on the individual improvement of each member of the Vestra team. This is how we manage the relationships that influence the organization’s performance, success and activity.
How was 2020 for your business?
2020 was a year that many of us were certainly glad to leave behind. As for me, I choose to put in a different perspective the things that 2020 has shown us in a completely unexpected way. The new challenges we faced tested the adaptability and resilience of the team and the organization as a whole. We managed to adapt, and the good and very good results we achieved together with the wonderful people who stand by me are proof of this.
The tourism activity was affected by the pandemic, but from the second half of the year we registered requests from entrepreneurs who wanted to move their “home office” to Haita Land locations, considering that they could combine the useful with the pleasant: they could carry out business activity in optimal conditions, safe, but, at the same time, the moments of break became mini vacations in the middle of nature.
In the case of companies that have an extremely well-developed fingerprint, the context has come with opportunities. Within Vestra Industry we have made beneficial developments for the business, the need for digitization being strong. We ended the third quarter of 2020 with a turnover of 70 million Lei, registering an increase of 32% compared to the same period last year. We have increased our customer portfolio and concluded solid partnerships with suppliers that add value to the business, but also to the goods and services distributed in the market.
Why did you choose to invest in SUBLIME Energie?
Out of the desire to provide the most suitable solutions within Vestra, we are constantly evolving and adapting to the needs of the market. The decision to invest in SUBLIME Energie was based, first of all, on the policies declared at the level of the European Union and in the European Legislative Framework. The reason why we chose to invest in SUBLIME Energie is our concern for care for nature and for a sustainable environment, aspects to which I attach great importance. We consider ourselves part of the group of visionaries who are trying to find long-term solutions for Europe and we have great confidence in the SUBLIME Energie executive team that we support.
SUBLIME Energie is part of the ENGIE group. Are you planning to bring this technology to Romania?
We are directly interested in bringing this technology to the country and being a trendsetter for agricultural farms and wastewater treatment plants because we want to build a sustainable and predictable model in Romania.
Currently, we are focusing on Vestra’s activity, and the new business strategy related to start-up investments in areas such as energy and software.
What is your opinion on the Green Deal and the implications for Romania?
The Green Deal is certainly a key economic recovery tool that has beneficial implications for the reunification of a better and more responsible European community. We have always considered that the modernization of the energy system, through the implementation of smart grid technologies is absolutely necessary, while automation and digitization are a “must-have” in any community. The Green Deal or the European Ecological Pact is essentially a program designed at the level of the European Union, which implicitly brings benefits to Romania. However, the importance of the Green Deal for Romania is a huge one that will contribute to shaping a sustainable environment. Financing agriculture with European funds, implementing environmental measures in the activity of farmers, until the transformation of energy production or recycling on several levels are just some of the implications that the Green Deal has on Romania.
How would you describe the industrial automation industry in Romania at this point and how do you see its development?
Automation and digitization are two priority strategic elements for Romania. Production, cost and time efficiency are important elements of the automation process. The fluidization of the production process through an automated system promises predictability and traceability to each operator. Digitization, a phenomenon already widespread in the great countries of the world, is the engine of innovation and prosperity. Romania must keep pace to maintain the upward trend of the industry, but also the high demand from consumers. Development potential exists, Romania being one of the countries that enjoy IT resources with a relevant contribution to the development of global technology. However, local investors need to be encouraged to invest in digitization, and this can be done with the help of fiscal incentives from public authorities.
Besides Vestra you are also involved in the tourism sector. How was Haita Land born? Why did you choose to enter this sector and what was the initial investment in this project?
I have always been attracted by the Romanian tourism and I consider that tourism has a fantastic potential which, with a little help from the government, can become one of the pillars of sustainable promotion of Romania.
Thus, in addition to Vestra Industry, I was actively involved in the development of quality tourism in Romania. I want to promote lesser-known places and traditions, to offer to those around me the feeling of beauty and peace that I have found countless times in places discovered more or less by chance. This is how Haita Land was born.
I found the place where the first housing unit is located by chance. We went the wrong way and ended up in a place as if forgotten by people in the village of Gura Haitii, at a house over 100 years old. Then, I decided that this place should be promoted. We organized the whole story around people who understand another kind of tourism: people who appreciate an eclectic village, but who can enjoy, at the same time, the facilities of the world in which we live. I looked for some investors, set up a framework and started building Haita Land.
The project includes 3 houses: “Sihastru”, “Pridvor” and “Cuib”. The two smaller houses (“Sihastru” and “Pridvor”) are fully rented, tourists have at their disposal 1500-2000 sqm of yard, where they can spend their holidays in peace.
In the “Nest” there are 2 apartments that can be rented either separately or together, they are “connected” through a secret door that may or may not be open, depending on customer preference.
In the future we want to further develop this concept and attract as many nature enthusiasts as possible, but also investors.