Etem was founded in 1971 and is a leader in the aluminum extrusion sector in SEE. It specializes in architectural systems and industrial applications.
As a relative newcomer to Romania, what is your vision for Etem locally and what led you on this career path to start with?
My education and background are quite technical, and I love getting into functionality. Ten years ago my path crossed with Etem and I started working with them in Sofia, gradually advancing and covering a variety of international markets.The industrial segment of the company produces industrial profiles and aluminum boxes but the main focus is on architectural systems. Etem is the first company in the Balkans to be designing profiles and accessories for curtain walls, windows and doors. Our vision is to significantly develop the company’s architectural service potential on the local market.
As the real estate market is growing in sophistical so are architectural expectations, in what manner are you observing the demand shifting in this respect?
The relationship between the architect and the investor is a fluid matter because we can't establish from the start who is going to be the final decision maker in a project. In Western European countries or in North America, this decision is much more streamlined, while in our region things are still in a gray area. We tend to rush into the building stages and figure things out as they come. In the last 10-15 years, we noticed that the architectural quality standard has increased significantly. Novel technologies, such as BIM libraries, have become standard practice, so we needed to adapt and create our own solutions. We expect that in the next five years, there is going to be a totally different approach, and we need to keep up with the market's requirements.
What is Etem's footprint in the region and how much of it involves Romania?
Our HQ is in Athens, we have two production plants in Athens and Sofia, and affiliate companies across Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. Etem as a group frequently works in partnership with the automotive sector (BMW, Daimler, Land Rover etc.). The overall turnover is more than EUR 100 million and Etem Romania accounts for roughly EUR 5-6 million of that, though it is a growing segment.
Aluminum counts numerous advantages though it is certainly not the cheapest out there, how does it fare in comparison to other materials the real estate sector can choose from?
We consider aluminum a luxury product (long-lasting & eco friendly) that brings a higher quality to the table, one which investors are starting to appreciate. It is a very popular material and consequently people are psychologically drawn to it, feeling they can rely on it.
Secondly, it can be easily shaped into profiles with specific characteristic and it can be painted in a wide array of color nuances. In Sri Lanka we are developing a project (Water Front) that is right on the ocean coast and we guarantee a 20 years lifetime for the colored aluminum profiles used.
Aluminum competes with PVC, which we also offer, and that is also a perfectly good material depending entirely on what the needs and requirements are. One of the main difficulties in the SEE market is putting together an accurate budget at the beginning of every project because we usually rush into production and adjust the figures on the fly. The cost of materials naturally plays into this, and depending on priorities such as durability, insulation and so on the correct choice can be made for each project.
Looking at the four areas: residential, offices, industrial and retail, how open are investors to using aluminum solutions? Has the pandemic influenced demand?
The commercial segment is a little bit halted at the moment, however generally speaking aluminum is seen as a pivotal material for offices, both functionally and marketing wise. The residential sector is on the rise, but regardless of the market fluctuations it's still the wisest to invest in it. From what we observed, renovation projects are going to explode this year because people want to make sure their property value is secured, so we expect a rise in demand for high end products. Actually, Romania is leading the way in this sector, in the Balkan region.
What are the main hurdles that struck you since moving and doing business in Romania?
Infrastructure would be the first challenge that comes to mind because connectivity is crucial in our industry. Furthermore, the financial sector is circumspect towards business loans, an issue spreads all across the region, and in contrast with Western Europe or the United States. Also, some investors are cautious about rising construction costs and don’t always pick materials of the highest quality, leading to potential long term issues.
Where do you see Etem in the region in the next 2-3 years and what would be the main priority?
The main focus is to popularize Etem’s portfolio. We are already known for the architectural and industrial solutions but we want to press harder on the first one. There is a Europe wide trend to focus on energy efficient systems and buildings, and we wish to encourage Romania to move in this direction at a faster pace. We intend to optimize the investment so that aluminum is seen as a profitable long-term solution. In our industry, Romania is the second biggest exporting country in Europe (after Poland) and based on this, the local business gets to benefit from the experience of countries like Germany, Belgium or the UK.
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