KONE is one of the leading global providers of elevators and escalators founded in Finland in 1910 and present on the Romanian market since 2008 as KONE ASCENSORUL.
KONE's portfolio is extremely varied from offices to hotels or retail spaces - what does the company's footprint look like on the Romanian market?
KONE ASCENSORUL was founded in 2008 as a greenfield company (the only one in the region), but we have been operating on the market through our distributors ever since 1990 and before. In fact, an elevator from the control tower in Henri Coanda Airport was manufactured by KONE more than 30 years ago. We currently have around 80 employees and operate across three main business lines: sales, operation and equipment maintenance. We are part of the Balkans-Adriatic-Mediterranean Area (BAM) cluster, together with Croatia, Greece, Cyprus. Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro and other neighboring countries. Romania is considered a driver of the region thanks to its profitable economic context and fast developing emerging market behavior.
Taking a look specifically at the real estate industry, wherein lies the opportunity for growth and optimization in your field?
Since the Romanian market is continually expanding, we always find opportunities here that are fit for our business model. Our portfolio includes projects across all real estate sectors all over the country: residential, offices, commercial, infrastructure (metro stations, rail stations, airports), as well as the ever more popular mixed-use projects. Bucharest is the main hub of our activity, with half of our maintenance fleet being deployed here; Cluj-Napoca is the next point of interest followed by Timișoara, Brașov, Constanța and Iași.
In Poland, business has really taken off in secondary cities, are you seeing a similar pattern emerge in Romania as well?
Secondary cities in Romania are starting to show potential but they are still not a major part of the business portfolio. An improvement in this sense can be observed in smaller towns where local authorities plan energy efficiency projects like hydro-isolation, new waterway systems or modernized elevators in old apartment buildings (Slatina stands out with a noteworthy project for a residential buildings). Tier-two cities have a similar pattern when it comes to hospitals, public authorities HQs, historical buildings, etc.; in the last year an increased effervescence was registered towards public projects with lots of auctions taking place.
Let’s speak about innovation - how does your business contribute to building smart cities in concrete ways?
Because you can't have smart cities without smart buildings, it's only natural that elevators follow this trend and get more technologically advanced. Even though the general perception is that elevators are mere hardware boxes that take you from floor to floor, we managed to transform this simple box into a "connection".
At the end of 2019, we launched our first line of intelligent equipment named KONE DX (Digital Experience). For our region the first project was implemented in Croatia and 2 weeks later in Romania, while for example more conservative countries like Germany or France adopted it only later on continuing with standard solutions. These new elevators come equipped with open-source connection interfaces which means they can work with any third-party apps preferred by customers, tenants, owners or 3rd party users (useful for residential and offices).
Do you also have your own integrated solutions?
We have proprietary programs, like 24/7 - a proactive maintenance system that connects all the elevators to a cloud and monitors them in real time, providing permanent health checks and identifying any deviations. We first used this system in May 2020 in a residential project in Brașov and I must say people were pleasantly surprised. KONE Residential Flow is a phone app through which users can open doors and call the elevator from the outside of the building, cutting the waiting time while being able to memorize the usual floor the user gets off. The idea behind this project came about from a project in France, where a group of elderly residents needed a way to optimize couriers' access into the building. The solution development evolved bringing innovation for the modern citizen as it enables also welcoming your visitors from distance while being outside from home.
What would be some of the challenges you bumped into while integrating these modern solutions on the (sometimes pretty conservative) Romanian real estate market?
Modernization projects mean a lot of work and it can in fact be challenging to implement new technologies due to limited spacing or specific architecture. You need an out-of-the-box mindset, and some communication skills on top of it, to let people know what is possible. Our products are customizable and scalable, and that makes it easier to integrate them into all kinds of projects, regardless of the initial design. Of course, there are technological restrictions that make us put a halt to projects sometimes and we always follow the "better safe than sorry" rule.
What are the main goals you want to pursue in the next two-three years?
We'll definitely continue developing our organization with a focus on quality and innovation. We plan to implement all of our new features as soon as possible across all segments of the Romanian market. The appetite for digitalization is more significant in CEE than in Western countries and this creates great opportunities for us. In Western Europe we work on many modernization projects, but what is exciting about CEE is the abundance of new projects, for which it is easier to plan from the very start and integrate smarter equipment.
Do you have a final message about the Romanian real estate market?
Romania has a fast-growing market that has been maturing at an incredible pace, a trend that positively impacts clients and investors alike. Solid partnerships can be easily built here since top level standards are becoming a reality in our country and there is a general sense of trust.
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