Interviews

Interviews

Mr. Philipp Koronowski, Founder at VEGA GROUP

April 30, 2024
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“While building trust in our technology and solutions, we aim contributing to a more sustainable and greener future”

 

FIAA: In our last General Assembly, we got to know you through your impressive candidature speech and your charisma. What is your background, Philipp?

Mr. Koronowski: I hold a degree in electrical power engineering and business administration, specializing in renewable energy technologies from RWTH Aachen University—one of Europe’s premier institutions for electrical engineering. It was here that I met my friend Bruno, who would become my business partner. Together, we envisioned starting a solar construction company in Albania, attracted by its untapped market potential and abundant solar production capabilities. My initial visit to Albania as a tourist solidified my commitment to this venture. Prior to founding Vega Solar, Bruno and I improved our competence in Germany, working across various residential, commercial, and industrial solar projects. This experience equipped us with the essential practical knowledge to establish and grow our business in Albania.

While in a process of rapid growth, Vega Solar has undergone quite a few changes in its structure. We recently heard about the creation of VEGA Group. Could you share in a nutshell what these changes are and what your intentions behind it?

Our venture began with Vega Solar, focusing primarily on EPC turnkey services for solar projects, especially in rooftop installations, in a then-undeveloped market. Over the past five years, our company has seen remarkable growth. While continuing to serve the rooftop/self-consumption sector, we have expanded our reach to include utility-scale projects over the last eighteen months. To optimize our operations, we restructured our services into distinct entities, each functioning independently yet synergistically, leading to the transition from Vega Solar to VEGA GROUP. This new structure comprises:

  • VEGA Solar: EPC for rooftop/ self-consumption projects.
  • VEGA Energy: EPC for utility-scale projects/ solar parks.
  • VEGA Electric: Dedicated to operation and maintenance services.
  • VEGA Charging: Aiming to establish the largest EV charging infrastructure in Albania.

Looking ahead, we plan to diversify further into the EV charging market and explore expanding our photovoltaic operations beyond Albania. All these initiatives will be managed under the umbrella of VEGA Group.

As a quite young company operating in the energy field, you place a lot of emphasis on marketing. What is the rationale behind this?

In a marketplace where understanding of renewable energy solutions is growing, marketing plays a crucial role in differentiating ourselves and establishing our brand image. Our goal is to build something that is both significant and sustainable. We are concentrating on VEGA’s trajectory over the next 20 to 30 years. Therefore, branding and the company’s image are paramount. That’s why we heavily emphasize marketing; we do not wish to be recognized merely as an EPC turnkey service provider of solar projects but as a leader in sustainable and renewable solutions.

We believe it’s essential to communicate not just the benefits of our products and services but also the long-term value they bring to consumers and the planet. Through focused marketing efforts, we aim to enlighten consumers about the advantages of solar energy and sustainable choices, while building trust in our technology and solutions. This approach not only helps in increasing our market presence but also encourages a broader shift in public perception towards renewable energy, contributing to a more sustainable and greener future.

How has Albania’s business climate supported or hindered your business growth? Would you recommend Albania to other investors in the photovoltaic field?

The rapid growth of our company, scaling to over 100 employees within just five years, is a testament to the favorable business climate in Albania. The country’s potential in the renewable energy sector, particularly in photovoltaics, is immense. For investors willing to navigate the initial complexities, Albania presents substantial opportunities for growth and impactful contributions to the renewable energy landscape. I strongly recommend it to potential investors, given its excellent solar power production capabilities, competitive installation costs, and advantageous market conditions.

You have joined FIAA recently. What do you expect from the membership in this business organization in support of your business?

The Foreign Investors Association of Albania (FIAA) is an indispensable organization for investors aiming to expand in Albania. It encompasses key stakeholders from various sectors, offering a robust network for business connections. Our involvement in the energy sector makes these interactions especially valuable.

We have dual expectations from our membership with FIAA. Firstly, we plan to benefit FIAA’s extensive network to foster partnerships that will propel our renewable energy initiatives throughout the region. Secondly, we expect that FIAA’s advocacy efforts will help shape a more valuable regulatory framework for renewable energy investments.

Such advancements are likely to streamline project implementations and enhance the sustainability of Albania’s energy landscape. We are also eager to engage in FIAA’s diverse programs and workshops, which are excellent venues for sharing ideas and industry best practices. We are optimistic about the prospects of our collaboration with FIAA.

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Mr. Elvis Ponari, Chief Executive Officer of SIGAL Uniqa Pension Fund

April 4, 2024
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“I do see a trend towards greater digitization and innovation in the insurance and pension sectors”

FIAA: You are the Chief Executive Officer of SIGAL Uniqa Pension Fund. How challenging is to operate in a field which is still rather unknown to the Albanian citizens? Why does it make sense to look for private pension solutions in Albania and what is the Austrian experience in this regard?

Mr. Ponari: Operating in a field that is still unfamiliar to many Albanians can indeed be challenging, but it also presents an opportunity to educate and inform citizens. Private pension solutions offer individuals the chance to take control of their financial future, rather than relying solely on state pensions. By understanding the benefits of private pensions and dispelling any superstitions or misconceptions, Albanians can make right decisions that will benefit them in the long run.

 

One of the recent achievements in your sector has been the passing of the law on private pension funds. As the Chairperson of the Association of the Life and Pension Insurance and Investment Fund Companies, did you have to use any secret handshakes or special passwords to get this law passed?

While I can’t reveal any secret methods, I can say that lobbying for the law on private pension funds was rather a collaborative effort method. The Association of the Life and Pension Insurance and Investment Fund Companies worked determinedly to educate policymakers and the public about the importance of private pensions in ensuring financial security in retirement. It was a challenging process, but ultimately a rewarding one, as the law has had a positive impact on the industry and the people of Albania.

 

Your initial professional experience has been with SIGAL Uniqa Albania. The company, which is one of the early members of FIAA, recently celebrated its 25th anniversary and has been confirmed as the leading company in the insurance sector in Albania. What are some of the most impressive statistics that you can share from the insurance market development in the past 25 years and SIGAL Uniqa Albania’s contribution to it?

SIGAL Uniqa Albania’s contribution to the insurance market development in the past 25 years has been significant. The company has been at the forefront of introducing innovative products and services that have helped drive growth and increase insurance penetration in Albania. While I haven’t heard of anyone insuring their mustache or pet rock, I can share some impressive statistics, such as the significant increase in the number of insured individuals and the overall insurance premium volume, which have both grown steadily over the past 25 years.

 

As someone deeply involved in the insurance and pension sectors, what are some key trends or innovations you foresee shaping the industry in Albania in the coming years?

While I can’t predict the future with certainty, I do see a trend towards greater digitization and innovation in the insurance and pension sectors. We’re already seeing the use of AI and data analytics to streamline processes and enhance customer experiences. As technology continues to evolve, who knows what exciting developments lie ahead! Perhaps one day we’ll be insuring our hoverboards against crashes and injuries, or even setting up retirement funds for our robot assistants!

 

You often appear in events wearing Austrian traditional costumes, which to people who know how Austrians value their costumes and how they enjoy wearing them in any type of occasion, is a clear sign that you are personally related to Austria. Could you share about your background and your connection to Austria apart from leading one Austrian-Albanian business?

While I can assure you that I am not an undercover Austrian spy, I do have a deep appreciation for Austrian culture and traditions. Wearing traditional costumes, is my way of celebrating and honoring that rich heritage. Plus, who wouldn’t want to rock dirndl or lederhosen at a party?!

 

With your background and experience, what advice would you give to young professionals looking to enter the field of insurance or finance in Albania?

My advice to young professionals would be to approach their careers with curiosity, resilience, and yes, a good sense of humor! The insurance and finance industries can be complex and challenging, but having a positive outlook and the ability to find humor in tough situations can go a long way. Plus, who doesn’t appreciate a colleague who can lighten the mood during a tense negotiation or a stressful day at the office?!

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Mr. Balázs Révész, CEO of Vodafone Albania and Chairman of the FIAA Committee on Digital Economy

November 6, 2023
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“Turning Albania into the most important digital hub in the Western Balkans it would require coordinated efforts from business, the government, and universities”

FIAA: Mr. Révész, this year you were appointed CEO of Vodafone Albania, following a successful career in Vodafone Hungary. What are the experiences that you bring to Vodafone Albania?

Mr. Révész: I was born and raised in Hungary, although all of my professional experience of over 15 years was spent into a multinational environment. During the first 12 years of my career, I worked for Procter&Gamble, a well known multi brand, US based company. My latest role with them was Heading the Commercial Operations, responsible for 9 countries in the Central European region. During my tenure with them, I mastered brand management, P&L ownership, marketing, commercial management, and leadership in a highly diverse, multinational corporation.

In 2015 I was invited over to Vodafone Hungary, where I have supported the organization in various roles, starting with Head of Marketing, later Consumer Business Unit Director, and Deputy CEO.
Joining Vodafone was one of the wisest  decisions i made in my career path. Vodafone offers a highly professional environment, it is a truly, innovative company that impacts lives everyday, the lives of our customers, businesses and the entire society in its transformative journey to digital technology.

Vodafone Hungary was fiery in the past decade, as it acquired the fixed operator UPC from Liberty. I had the opportunity  to take on a leading role,  integrating the mobile and fixed businesses, steering  Vodafone Hungary through a complete IT and business transformation program.

Early 2023, I was proposed the role of Vodafone Albania CEO, a role which I gladly accepted.

What are some work differences between Albania and Hungary?

At Vodafone Albania I found a professional, highly experienced, and motivated organization, comparable to any of the Vodafone teams in Western Europe. I would go further and add that the team here is more effective, as we have learned how to deliver outstanding results with a much leaner organization than many of the large operations in big European markets. Albanians are creative, efficient, politically, and economically literate and highly adoptable, and it is to no surprise that we are exporting great talents to so many other Vodafone operations in Europe & Africa.

What is your vision for further developing Vodafone Albania? Any new products and services that you are planning to launch soon, and you would like to share some insights about?

I came to Albania at a truly exciting time. As the country is preparing for EU accession in the years to come, the economy will go through major transformations. Although, preparing to fully join EU will bring plenty of opportunities, at the same time, business competition will be fierce. In this view, I strongly believe that embracing and progressing the digitization journey of the country, will strongly prepare Albania to become an equal player in the big competitive field of the unified European market.

We believe that Vodafone can be the key partner in digitalizing Albania and turning it into the digital hub of the Western Balkans. The journey towards digitizing Albania has already started as we are offering the best 4G network in the country, although these are only the first steps. With the soon to come auction of 5G next year, Vodafone Albania will be offering gigabit connectivity for every customer in the country. In addition, in the next 3 years, we will upgrade our entire fixed network to fiber.

Further, we will focus building an even stronger presence of Vodafone in ICT, system integration, and IOT, so that we can offer a full range of digital services to both the government as well as enterprises in the areas of cloud computing, cybersecurity, software-defined network, and even tailormade IT solutions. Vodafone is and will remain Albania’s trusted digital solution provider.

Vodafone Albania is a FIAA founding Member and has been a member ever since. How does FIAA support Vodafone’s mission to connect and expand business in Albania?

Vodafone is one of longest standing Foreign Investors in Albania, marking 23 years of investment to date. Vodafone has invested over 1.3 Billion Euros over the years employing over 3000 people directly and indirectly.

Our partnership with FIAA has seen a long and successful journey indeed.

FIAA has provided a great platform for all Foreign Investors in Albania to network and build connections within the industry, often facilitating partnerships and collaborations. Further, FIAA has been a great advocate for policies and regulations, that benefit the telecommunication sector. Often FIAA has helped Vodafone engage with local and national governments to represent the interest of Vodafone Albania.

Vodafone Albania, on the other side, has been a great advocate of promoting Albania into the foreign investors’ community worldwide.

We are looking forward to further the cooperation with FIAA.

A few days ago, you were appointed Chairman of the recently established FIAA Committee on Digital Economy.  Can you share some thoughts on the vision that this Committee will adopt in the next two years?

Albania has made great progress in terms of digitalization in the past years, thanks to the Government and their brave initiatives to digitalize the business sphere and public administration (e-Albania), to focus on IT education, and also thanks to the support of EU, funding digital capabilities and start-ups.

However, despite the great progress, Albania’s digital development level is still behind that of the European Union: the DESI Index (Digital Economy and Society Index, a key tool of the European Union to measure digital readiness) counts for 30 in Albania, compared to 50%+ average of the EU.
Our vision with the Digital and Telco Committee is to create a forum where the foreign-background businesses involved into the sector, together with the government, can exchange feedback, ideas, or even concrete recommendations that can accelerate Albania’s digitalization. We believe that with our international experience coupled with the resources of our companies, the Committee can contribute to turning Albania into the most developed digital hub of the Western Balkans.

What would in your opinion be some necessary steps to be undertaken by the businesses, the government and universities that would turn Albania into potentially the most important digital hub in the Western Balkan region?

Turning Albania into the most important digital hub in the Western Balkans it would require coordinated efforts from business, the government, and universities.

Businesses should invest in technology and digital solutions to enhance their operations and services. Further cooperation with start ups is a must, specifically for large business to foster innovation and support the growth of the digital ecosystem.

It is applaudable that the Albanian government already has a digital strategy, and that digital investments are a priority of the governing agenda in the years to come. Nevertheless, support with investments in digital infrastructure, together with a regulatory framework which encourages investments and protects privacy and security should be a government focus to achieve the expected results.

It is also necessary that the Albanian Universities update their curricula to include courses on emerging technologies, data science and entrepreneurship.

Only by aligning the efforts of the above, Albania can become the prominent digital hub in the Western Balkans.

And now we want to focus on you as a person. What is a motto that drives you in life and in career that you would like to share with the audience of FIAA? What is the best psychological advice that you would give to your younger self?

Around 15 years ago I heard one of the previous executive leaders of Procter & Gamble say that a great leader should have a cool head, a warm heart, and dirty hands. This simple expression set with me, becoming my motto further in life. It keeps reminding me that my role as a leader is to shape a vision and engage the entire organization to that vision, with clean prioritizations and tasks.  Yet, I may be able to guide, but the success comes from the team.  Leading and coaching the team is where results will derive.
A tip to my younger self? Dare to dream big and take risks to achieve it!

Your family accompanies you in this new journey in Albania. How have they accommodated themselves and what have you seen of Albania so far?

In only 6 months we are calling Albania Home, and we are indeed enjoying it very much. My wife, Anett, is working as a chief dietician at a private clinic in Hungary:  we are ripping the benefits of digitization as she is privileged to continue her consultations online.
My 2 teenage kids have adjusted quick, as they are pursuing their high school studies in one of the international schools in Tirana. Albania is a fantastic country with amazing nature, a Mediterranean vibe, great cuisine, and friendly people. The only struggle is the language, it is super difficult, but I accept it as a challenge. 🙂

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Mrs. Stela Dhami, Managing Partner of Colliers Albania

July 24, 2023
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“FIAA stands as the epitome of excellence in representing the international business community in Albania”

FIAA: Stela, you recently joined for the second time as Member of the Board of Directors of FIAA. What is your perspective for the upcoming two years in the organization?

Mrs. Dhami: Dear Marinela, President D’Oria, esteemed Board members, and honorable members of FIAA,

I am deeply honored to be granted the opportunity to serve on the Board of FIAA for another two-year term. In my view, FIAA stands as the epitome of excellence in representing the international business community in Albania. Over the years, it has played a pivotal role as the primary intermediary between the business sector and the government, driving numerous beneficial business initiatives. Recently, the establishment of the Energy Council and the HR Committee exemplify FIAA’s commitment to enhancing the significance of the energy sector and the impact human resources have in our enterprises.

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Mr. Constantin von Alvensleben, Country Manager of Voltalia Albanie and Chairman of FIAA’s Energy Industry Council

April 19, 2023
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“Government needs structured feedback from Business on its legislative initiatives”

FIAA: Mr. Constantin, you joined recently Voltalia Albanie as the Country Manager in an important phase such the Project Construction. Could you tell us about this experience of yours in Albania?

Mr. Alvensleben: I started as Country Manager for Voltalia in Albania in November, have now been on the job for half a year and must say that I really enjoy having joined the energy field. Compared with air transport it is a much more competitive sector, and the current situation where Albania is moving to diversifying its energy mix, introducing more solar and more wind energy sources, presents a lot of opportunities.

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Mrs. Alba Paparisto, Managing Director, Tax at KPMG Albania

January 19, 2023
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“The Law on Income Tax is a fundamental law, and a new improved law will provide a more solid framework for the business environment”

FIAA: Mrs. Paparisto, in addition of representing FIAA to the National Tax Committee in the Ministry of Finance, you have been recently elected also the Chairwoman of the FIAA Tax & Financial Committee. Can you tell us what motivated you to further contribute to FIAA and how do you plan your engagement in this journey?

Mrs. Paparisto: KPMG Albania is a long-time member of FIAA and has contributed to increase the awareness of the public authorities on the tax issues faced by taxpayers in Albania. The experience gained through the years working for KPMG Albania and management of different complex engagements, strongly motivates me to lead the Tax & Financial Committee of FIAA in the future.

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Mr. Diego Pisa, CEO at Teleperformance Italy Group and Albania

October 19, 2022
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“Trying to improve the quality of the life in all the sectors is our due for the future of Albania”

FIAA: Teleperformance Group enjoys a long and successful history in the industry of Outsourcing and Offshoring Consulting, with global presence around the world and in Albania. In our country, Teleperformance is present since 2008, clearly high standing with Teleperformance Group´s world-class standards and tools.  Could you tell more about your group’s experience in Albania?

Mr. Pisa: If we wanted to summarize in one word the experience that Teleperformance Group in Albania has had in Albania, I would say: outstanding.

Teleperformance is the largest and more successful Group in the world in the CRM/BPO sector, we are present in 82 countries with approximately 500,000 employees worldwide.

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Mr. Roberto Laera, Chairman of Italian Network

August 22, 2022
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FIAA: The Italian Network company is called “a 360-degree consulting Firm” and it is present in the Albanian market for a long time. Could you tell us a bit more about the services of your company and your experience in Albania?

Mr. Laera: Italian Network is a consulting firm for internationalization, tax and labor consultancy, HR Management, which since 2006 has been promoting and offering a 360-degree service to foreign entrepreneurs who want to invest in Albania.

It is a bridge between the Balkans and Europe, having offices in Tirana in Albania and Bari in Italy.

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Mr. Alessandro D’Oria, President of FIAA and CEO at Intesa Sanpaolo Bank Albania

July 7, 2022
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FIAA: You have been recently elected as President of the Foreign Investors Association of Albania, what is your perspective on the Leadership model and experience that you will share with Foreign Investors Community in Albania?

Mr. D’Oria: First of all I would like to express again my gratitude to all the members who voted me as President of FIAA.

FIAA’s mission is to support the success of its members by promoting a healthy business environment in the country, and to provide high-quality business information and resources. This is a challenging mission in a fast-developing country in terms of legislation and infrastructure and I am happy and excited to have taken up such an important role in the structure of FIAA.

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Mr. Enrico Donati, Executive Chairman at Assist Digital

June 16, 2022
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FIAA: Assist Digital achieved its 5th anniversary in the Albanian market. Could you tell us a bit more about the business of your company and its experience in Albania?

Mr. Donati: First of all, we are very happy to have been working in Albania and we are still following a growth path of our business in this country. We like the country and we like the people we are working with. Assist Digital is providing Customer Experience services to global companies at a pan-European level. This means that we provide a wide range of services related to the relationship between brands and their customers. We provide consulting services, CRM and marketing automating services, UX/UI design services, as well as multilingual customer operation services. Since the beginning of our story, we have been leveraging a lot on digital technologies and ICT technologies blending Artificial Intelligence with Human Intelligence, with the aim to fully satisfy the end users and at the same time our clients. This strategy has been very successful so far giving our company the opportunity to engage with very important clients.

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