Optima Group, a company that provides fixed asset inventory and stocktaking services as well as software, wants to continue expanding in Europe in the next two years. Currently, the company is active on the markets of Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Serbia. "We are looking at the possibilities to finance this expansion. We have several options that we are considering, either issuing bonds, or stock exchange listing, or attracting a strategic investor or an investment fund. Our estimates at the moment are around 2-3 million EUR for scaling. We are in the phase where we are creating a board of advisors, a team that has experience in scaling international businesses. Whether we will sign different partnerships with companies in Europe, whether we will initially hire sales and marketing people for certain strategic markets, or whether we will find other tools so that we can scale the business in Europe, we analyze and propose for this team to guide us in the best direction. We plan to do this in the next two years, both for the software business line and for the inventory service line," said Gabriel Chiva, Managing Partner Optima Group, on the PROFIT LIVE show from PROFIT NEWS TV, adding that, for scaling, he also considers the acquisition of companies from different countries, which operate in the same field. "We are analyzing all options also depending on the financing we will benefit from, so that we can scale the business as quickly as possible, but also as healthily as possible," he states. Also, to attract funding, the company is also looking at the possibility of issuing of bonds or even listing on the Bucharest Stock Exchange. “We were also considering financing through a bond issue or even listing on the stock exchange, but that will happen in 3-4 years probably. Investment funds or a strategic investor are the cheapest option," he states. Optima Group will launch next year a product on the market that it is developing in collaboration with the Babeș-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca. "We are implementing a product, an artificial intelligence solution, with a value of almost 7 million RON, which will greatly allow us to scale. We started this project a year ago. It has an implementation period of 2 years. So, next year at this time we will launch the product, which predicts some trends in the market based on external indicators, in addition to internal ones. At the moment, the product is being tested by 3 companies from different fields of activity", says Gabriel Chiva.
The name of the innovation: Optimal Drones Type of innovation: Technical Short intro: Optima Group operates 2 business lines: software solutions and stocktaking and asset inventory services. Leader on the Romanian market for stocktaking services, we work with over 200 beneficiaries from different industries (bricolage, retail, fashion, banks and insurance, FMCG, telecom, public sector). During 2021, we inventoried over 3000 locations and about 120,000,000 stock items. Description of the innovation: The Optimal Drones automatic inventory solution with drones was launched in 2021 in Romania and is intended especially for companies that have warehouses. The solution involves the use of drones that have built-in scanners and that allow the scanning of items in each cell without the need for people who use scanners. The novelty element: The novelty consists in the automation of the inventory process, the use of drones in the inventory process for access to hard-to-reach areas and increasing efficiency. The system uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to perform various activities that can be iteratively improved based on the information it collects and the transformation of the data collected by the drones into useful reports for a high accuracy of the stocks in the warehouse. Effects of innovation: Following the use of drones in warehouses, that scan the barcodes or RFID tags of the items in the warehouse, all this information is transmitted to the warehouse management systems (WMS) and thus the accuracy of the stocks will be very good. This automatic stocktaking procedure in the warehouse will allow you to carry out periodic inventories in a short time and with very good accuracy. Project initiator: The initiators of the drone inventory project are Gabriel Chiva - CEO responsible for innovation and the product marketing component and Marian Luca - CTO responsible for the architecture and development of the solution. Download
Forbes Romania invited important representatives from the local business environment to talk about the lessons learned/experienced in 2022 and the challenges of 2023 in the #lecțiipentru2023 editorial project. Gabriel Chiva, Managing Partner Optima Group What is the word that best characterizes the year 2022? Argue. For Optima Group, 2022 was under the sign of growth. This is the word that defines our evolution. It is definitely our best year. It may seem atypical that, in a year that was marked by uncertainty on many levels, we have an upward evolution of business, but this is proof that software development and technology services respond to current issues and change the paradigm in all fields. Topics such as time and cost efficiency and sustainability are on the agenda of all large organizations, and our solutions make such an impact in a context where change in a smart way is the watchword. On both lines of business - the development of own software solutions and stocktaking and asset inventory services - the trend is increasing. We started an important research project with the Babeș-Bolyai Faculty, in the area of Machine Learning/AI - a software platform for predicting the evolution of some business indicators in commercial processes. Also, in the area of asset management software products and services, the period is very active, we are constantly growing and working with large and very large organizations from all fields of activity, such as utilities, retail (supermarkets/hypermarkets, bricolage, fashion, beauty), banks, telecom, FMCG, public sector, etc. Moreover, we cover about 80% of this market of digital asset inventory and stocktaking solutions through stand-alone solutions. We will register a turnover more than 1.5 times higher than in 2021. Also, we have already signed contracts for 2023 worth 3 million EUR for several months. What were your concerns about the business you are running in 2022? What are the results of the company's/group's activity compared to the estimates at the beginning of the year? We looked carefully at global economic and political development, the impact that all of this could have on our people, customers and business, and followed various working scenarios. Although the results of Optima Group are above expectations, we are still concerned about the potential economic crisis and the changes taking place on the labor market. I will refer to the latter and would mention that an important concern is to be able to support, from the perspective of the human factor, the projects undertaken. It is not a concern per se, but rather a priority once the business volume increases, especially that we are operating in the main business and technology poles - Bucharest and Cluj and that, for some projects, we also need 500 collaborators (for inventory projects with national coverage). How did the war in Ukraine influence the activity of your company? We felt no direct influences. Of course there were concerns with a war in the immediate vicinity - both from the perspective of the impact on our team and from the perspective of Optima Group clients, global organizations which investment decisions are made on different considerations and scenarios, and a stable climate comes before. Which are the strong and weak points of the business environment in Romania? I think it is worth highlighting that we have an accelerated or faster economic growth than other countries. The geographical position in the region also matters, but also our ability to adapt and adjust immediately. In the field in which we operate, of technology, I would also mention the talent of people, even if they are insufficient for the current need on the market. What do you think will be the biggest challenges globally, but for your industry/field in the year 2023? We are looking closely at signals from other territories, like the United States, where the idea of an economic crisis is taking shape. The challenges we had this year as well – the energy crisis, inflation, supply chain disruptions and other post-pandemic effects, war and the paradigm shift in labor culture – will remain and we will have to learn to manage them. For the IT field, the competition in attracting and retaining talent is intensifying from year to year and will remain the most important challenge and priority for OPTIMA, equally.
Present on several markets in the area with software solutions for asset inventory and stocktaking for which it has as clients multinational companies from the banking, oil & gas and utilities fields, Optima Group is running an innovative project based on machine learning and big data technology together with Babeș-Bolyai University. We learned details from Gabriel Chiva, Managing Partner of the company. How is the market of smart inventory solutions? We are talking about an area that is mandatory by law for any company, but also necessary - any organization must have a real-time image of all its assets, from acquisition to scrapping. So, the potential of this market is huge, both in the area of development of solutions and in the area of services. We are at the point where we are making the transition from paper and pencil to a smart, automated way of inventory that brings net benefits – reduction of budgets, effort, time, solving complexities, paperless. We have noticed the trends over time and we can talk about 60-70% more efficiency measured in time invested, budgets and people involved. We are the main players in this market niche, but our estimate is that the market for outsourced digital inventory solutions and services is at 20% access on the Romanian market, and the adoption gap compared to other territories is huge. In countries like Poland, the physical inventory component for both stocktaking and asset inventories is 80% outsourced, so there is room for growth. What were the most important projects this year? I would mention, first of all, the completion of the first stage of implementation of the asset management and inventory project at OMV Petrom, a very challenging and complex project that opens up new perspectives for us in the coming period. It is a project that involves a lot of technology and human resources and will also continue next year. Then, I would like to mention the research project that we are implementing together with Babeș-Bolyai University, an initiative through European funds, amounting over 7 million RON. We are developing through machine learning and big data technologies a platform for predicting the evolution of some business indicators in commercial processes. For a technology company, working with new technologies, in the field of artificial intelligence, is really interesting and I can say that the AI team at the university is one of the best in Romania. Also, in the area of asset management software products and services, the period is active, having projects with very large organizations from all fields of activity, such as the ten main banks, global retail players such as Mega Image, from utilities, such as Apa Nova, and from other fields of activity. Moreover, we cover, through stand-alone solutions, about 80% of this digital asset inventory solutions market. What business estimates do you have for the end of this year? We predict that we will reach a turnover of 20 million RON at the end of the year. Basically, it will be an increase from 2.7 million EUR in 2021 to 4 million EUR in 2022. We have had a sustained pace of growth in recent years, and the estimate is that we will maintain it in the coming period. On both lines of business - the development of our own software solutions and inventory services - the trend is upward, and for several months we have signed contracts for the next year as well, amounting 3 million EUR. The only major challenge and limitation, at the same time, is the human resource, the possibility of expanding the team. It is well known that we are in a field of employees, and we carry out our activity in the most dynamic poles of the industry - Bucharest and Cluj. Although the permanent team is small, 50 people, we have projects where we need to quickly hire dozens or hundreds of collaborators, and then we feel the difficulty of finding the right people. Think that for the asset inventory and stocktaking services business line we work with over 500 collaborators with national coverage and are in the process of expanding the team to be able to support the projects we have planned. What are the goals for 2023? We aim to maintain the annual rate of growth and, together with the development of the business, the increase the team to maintain the scaling also from the perspective of the human factor. We aim to increase the activity by 50% and the team by 20%. Because we have rollout on multinational company clients, we desire to expand international projects, which, at the moment, represent approximately 10-12% of the business. The plan is to address to more foreign markets. We are considering for development in foreign markets also the possibility of acquiring a company that fits our needs in these markets. Looking a little further, we are aiming for internationalization by 2024 for our asset management solution, which already has maturity and proven efficiency. I think that what we have achieved with this as a customized product for the specifics of the oil & gas market, for instance, is unique. We aim to move from the asset management software solution built for large companies to the small & medium company market, which involves a much larger number of implementations and the transformation of the solution into a parameterizable product in the cloud, which will allow a much faster scaling of this solution. What are the advantages of Optima solutions compared to other products available on the market? On the market of inventory services and solutions, we managed, through the results, to attract the main players from all fields, although, at one point, the global leader in the field was also active on the local market. It mattered a lot that we had the support and availability to be close to the customers even after the implementations and that we always build solutions customized to the needs of the customers. I was talking, for example, about our solution for the utility market, a product that is unique in the market. The leading position in the stand-alone digital asset management solutions market, with a market share of around 80%, has helped us build a mature solution with extensive functionality, through which we aim to grow the client portfolio with a minimum of 50% each year and which we wish to outsource. The exposure we had with some of our solutions on other markets in the area, such as Hungary, Poland, Serbia, Bulgaria or Moldavia, is also important. As multinational partner companies implement software solutions with us in Romania, we have the opportunity to rollout our solutions in other European countries as well. And the reason for continuity is obviously given by the results we achieve together.
In the match between paper and pencil versus AI, Romania is still betting, in many directions, on traditional solutions, but precisely because the need for technology exists, it gives technological service developers the opportunity to innovate, launching new functionalities. This is also the case of the Optima company, which came up with a solution for the digitalization of fixed asset inventory and stocktaking services. It is normal to reach the moment when we move from paper and pencil to digital solutions that further translate into the optimization of all the resources involved – budgets, time, human resources. The complexity on site of certain organizations requires such efficiencies. Let's think of a bank like CEC Bank, which has 1,000 branches and tens of thousands of fixed assets, or OMV, which also has extraction areas - wells, or a large retailer with national coverage, with millions of units in stock. It is an area that will obviously grow. Only looking at the larger surrounding markets, for example, Poland, we notice that the digital inventory, both of stocks and assets, is outsourced to the extent of 80%, while in Romania the share is 20%", says Gabriel Chiva, owner of the company Optima, a business with a turnover of 2.7 million EUR in 2021. Optima started its activity 15 years ago, as a developer of its own software solutions, and following requests from customers in the first line of business, it developed the second one, fixed asset inventory and stocktaking services. Currently, the Optima team is in the process of implementing a research project, together with Babeş-Bolyai University, amounting 7.2 million RON (over 1.4 million EUR), through which it develops a platform for the prediction of the evolution of some business indicators in commercial processes, based on AI (Artificial intelligence) and Big Data. "The pandemic has emphasized the role of technology from a support tool to an integral part of companies' strategy. For example, we are already at the point where we have to make predictions for the evolution of some business indicators, depending on environmental factors, in commercial processes." According to the entrepreneur, the development of this platform is the result of the fact that, at present, most companies make many decisions mainly based on the experience of some managers, being difficult to exploit the entire amount of information held by the company and which could have a major influence on these decisions. This analysis, he adds, can become possible using applications that exploit the data accumulated over time, to obtain additional information such as the identification of trends or models (patterns) that are of particular interest in decision-making, something that can be made using the Machine Learning component of AI, applied to large data sets (big data). "There is a need in the business environment for such solutions", Chiva explained, adding that including on the market of outsourced inventory solutions and services, large organizations need to see the real-time image of all goods and their movements from purchase to scrapping, to make quick decisions that have a positive impact. "The main software solution developed by us is that of Asset Management which manages in one platform, in cloud, all the operations carried out on an asset - from acquisition to scrapping - and the inventory is carried out digitally through barcodes or RFID tags through which all goods are identified much more easily. With the help of this platform, a lot of information about assets can be collected and stored, such as their location, the category they belong to, their condition, photos or other useful information. And following the implementation of the digital inventory solution, the annual cost related to the inventory decreases by 50%-60%", said Gabriel Chiva.