LEADER Interview for Economy.bg
Mr. Zlatanov, a few days ago you received a class A investment certificate in a new factory for electric bicycles. This is happening at a time of crisis when most companies are cutting costs. Why did you decide to expand your investment right now?
The decision for this investment was made at the beginning of 2021, when the boom in demand for electric bicycles was evident. Of course, risk was also high, given supply chain difficulties and some uncertainty about whether demand growth was sustainable. But businesses need bold decisions to move forward. This investment went in parallel with a large-scale project to completely renew our production processes and move to a lean system. Our desire was to start the new factory clean, with modern technologies and innovative processes.
How much did the change of ownership in the summer affect the decision for the new factory? How will the deal affect your long-term plans?
Such deals do not happen within 2-3 months, usually take about a year to finalize. We went through all the stages and the news was announced just before our participation in EUROBIKE 2022 in Frankfurt, Germany. The decision to expand the business with new production facilities has nothing to do with the change of ownership, but the latter definitely gives additional opportunities to work in a niche market and much larger development strategies. Long-term plans remain confidential for now, but we reserve the right to share them at a later stage.
What is the amount of investment in the new plant?
BGN 28.3 million have been invested in the construction of the factory, with additional investments of over BGN 20 million in equipment. The total value exceeds BGN 50 million.
Where will the production base be located?
The production base is located in the Trakia Industrial Zone, more specifically the Kuklen Zone, on Asenovgradsko Shosse near Plovdiv. This is an area that is booming, and industrial construction is in full swing. The facility itself is huge, on a built-up area of over 27,000 square meters, and extremely modern.
How many employees do you currently have and how many jobs will you create with the new production? For what type of professionals?
About 450 people work in the current factory, and the new production will require more than 300 people, assemblers, process engineers, specialists, quality control and others. We currently have 60 people training on a model production line and more on pre-contract.
How do you deal with staff shortages? How do you motivate people to start working for you?
Of course, finding and keeping quality staff isn’t easy, but we’re doing it. The business is modern and promising, we have a good social policy, and our team of specialists is excellent. Just a week ago, we also held the regular annual team-building, which further unites people outside of work. We support all those who want to improve and develop. People who pursue higher education from the production turn to the managers in the administration to share the know-how to use in their course projects. The dynamics are serious.
When do you expect to start actual production?
The beginning of 2023, at the latest in March, when the bicycle season in the global market also begins.
What are your plans – how many bikes will you produce per year?
The new factory has a calculated production capacity of 250,000 bicycles per year. If we take into account the current 250,000, I hope to reach half a million annually.
Are you mainly working for export? To which countries?
You can say 100% export. Our market is the EU countries, specifically Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, etc.
Why did you switch to electric bike manufacturing only?
This is the future of the industry, and our strategy is tied to it. I don’t think that the production of ordinary bicycles will stop, but certainly the demand for electric bicycles is growing at a pace that allows us to bet on this type of production.
What is the price of your bikes?
We have bikes in different price ranges – from €1,000 to €8,000 final selling price. Our goal is to provide our customers with a quality product, regardless of price, to enjoy the feeling. Cycling is a way of life.
What are the potential and challenges facing the bicycle industry in Bulgaria?
The potential is huge, I think it is realistic that Bulgaria will become a major exporter and reach 1 million bicycles a year if we all do our job well. The challenges are the same as anywhere else – a competitive market for a skilled workforce, supply chain issues, health-related uncertainty (COVID) and other ongoing global issues. I hope things will get better soon, and in the meantime, manufacturers are doing their best to meet the expectations of the market and customers, despite the difficulties.
What is the chance that our country will become a leader in the production of e-bikes?
How will the Green Deal affect the bicycle industry in Europe and specifically in Bulgaria?
Positively. Green policies adopted at the European level have already affected demand: regulations, subsidies for electric vehicles, including bicycles, development of a complete bicycle infrastructure, campaigns to promote a healthy lifestyle and physical activity of the population. In Bulgaria this is less felt, but I am convinced that people here will realize that clean air and environment are irreplaceable, and physical activity is health. We all need such awareness.
Read more: https://www.economy.bg/business/view/52762/Tazi-bylgarska-kompaniya-shte-proizvezhda-po-500-hil-e-velosipeda-godishno-