Goran Kostic, General Manager of Alfa-Plam – Best in Serbia for the fifth year in a row
Alfa-Plam is the leader in the production of heating devices in the region and one of the top 5 producers in Europe. Last year, Alfa-Plam celebrated an anniversary – 70 years since its founding. Goran Kostic, General Manager of Alfa-Plam talks about the modern conditions of doing business and the plans for the upcoming year.
eKapija: You have been leading the company since 2012. What has changed in Alfa-Plam's operations in the meantime?
– Primarily, it is the ownership structure that has changed, as we have become part of Alco Group, led by Miroljub Aleksic, which has enabled us to carry out a large investment cycle to the end of expanding production capacities, changing the range of products and refreshing the company's employee structure.
The investments we've realized in the past period are important and they primarily pertain to building new production halls and equipment for mechanical processing, surface protection and the assembly of products using solid fuel and pellet. In 2015, we bought the premium Italian brand Calux, so a whole range of pellet-fueled heating products of top design become a part of our offer. These products are now made at our factory. In order to complete the production cycle, we built the new FOS factory in Surdulica, which is specialized for the production of boilers. All this has enabled us to increase the production capacities and put our products on new markets.
In the modern conditions of doing business, the competition is stiff, there is a multitude of small producers fighting for a piece of the market, and for us, as a large system, it is not easy to adjust, as we need to work harder than others to reduce the costs and increase the competitiveness.
At the Best from Serbia award ceremony
eKapija: To what extent has the structure of the company's range of products changed?
– Above all, the change trends are much bigger than before. Consumers are much more demanding and insist much more on product comfort and quality. In line with the global trends, the demand for products using pellet as fuel has grown in the past years here too. In the past, customers could only pick the type of heating and the power they need, whereas now they have many other options available.
Pellet-based products are technologically much more complex, modern electronics enables weekly programming of heating systems and the option of having the system run even when the user is not at home. In the domain of products using solid fuel, the demand premium products is also growing, as owning an oven that uses wood as a fuel is no longer a matter of need but of prestige. We are also implementing new products in that segment as well. The latest ones are solid fuel stoves Inox 75 and Futuro.
eKapija: What are the limitations that Alfa-Plam faces when exporting to EU countries?
– In the past years, with the growing ecological awareness locally and globally, our profession has been affected, as many standards are being implemented that we need to meet. I would highlight the Ecodesign standard, which comes into effect in the EU in 2020 and affects the domain of pellet- and solid fuel-powered boilers. This standard pertains to the level of energy efficiency and the degree of emission of harmful gases for the purpose of protecting the environment. Most of our pellet-based products meet this standard.
eKapija: What limitations does the company face in the local market?
– One advantage in the local market is the power of the brand. A customer is always more likely to choose our product due to the perception of the brand, the fact that we have quality, easily available products and that we have a very good service network. Unfortunately, I have to say that the demand in the local market is highly price-dependent, so small differences in price are sometimes crucial, and we are not ready to compromise the quality for it.
It sometimes happen that customers buy a product from a producer of lower quality and then see that they've made a mistake while using the product. That's the best marketing for us, as they recommend our products to friends, relatives... Another secret to our success is the fostering of partnership relations with distributors, retailers, installers.
What we always emphasize is that numerous awards are the best recognition of our work. This year, for the fifth time in a row, we've won the Best from Serbia award, in the Best Corporate Brand category. We are truly proud of this award, which is the result of the work of us all.
eKapija: What are Alfa-Plam's plans for the upcoming year?
– We are continuing where we left off. We are fighting to keep our leading position in the local market and the surrounding markets, to win new markets and we are continuously working on upgrading our products and after sales service. In February, just like in the previous years, we will take part in one of the biggest fairs in our field, the one in Verona. We have prepared numerous new features which we will present tot he European market on that occasion. Also, we are continuing with the initiated projects of upgrading internal company processes for the purpose of increasing the efficiency of each production process and upgrading performances of each individual.