GIG: Can you tell us about your role in the aerospace, defence, and security sectors, and EFA Group’s activities in Greece?
Hadjiminas: EFA Group consists of companies that have a leading-edge position in the international markets in the fields of aerospace, security, defence, and industrial cooperation. The Group employs more than 200 people in total, most of them scientists and engineers, and has established itself as a leader in its field in more than 50 countries worldwide.
Always trying to stay ahead of the game when it comes to global integration, EFA Group has a wide international network of partner companies and five offices around the world: Athens, Zug, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, and Kempen. EFA Group is decisively export-orientated and consists of the following companies:
- EFA Ventures: focused on industrial cooperation, logistics, and participation programmes, powered by epicos.com, a leading global business-to-business (B2B) information platform for the aerospace, defence, and high technology (ADHT) industries;
- Theon Sensors: night vision and thermal imaging systems for military and security applications;
- Scytalys: datalinks, interoperability, command and control systems, and;
- ES systems sensors, based mainly on microelectronic-mechanical systems (MEMS) and IoT sensors.
GIG: What are the main services that interest your international and domestic clients? Where are your customers predominantly located?
Hadjiminas: Our Group of companies support prime/sub-contractors and governments around the world. Our client base includes local aerospace and defence contractors, the majority of the largest and prominent aerospace and defence corporate entities and integrators around the world, as well as governmental organisations related to the ADHT sector.
GIG: What proportion of your activities are undertaken with Greece’s Defence Ministry and in which areas are they predominantly focused?
Hadjiminas: EFA Group is set on creating promising strategic alliances with corporate entities, both on a national and a global scale, thereby broadening the spectrum of its activities. It is worth mentioning that 10-15% of these activities are ultimately focused on the Hellenic Ministry of National Defence, delivering night vision systems, developing and integrating datalink command and control systems, and training and testing related products.
However, EFA Group stresses the fact that the initial contracts, as well as proper accreditation, were obtained in the Greek market and through a spotless cooperation with the very advanced Hellenic Armed Forces. We encourage other foreign companies to use Greece as a co-production hub for the wider area.
GIG: How have you been affected by public and defence spending restrictions during the economic crisis? What are you seeing today in this regard?
Hadjiminas: Certainly, the years of the crisis were difficult for us as well as for the whole country. But we prepared to shield ourselves by expanding our operations and partnerships overseas so that most of our turnover would come from our exports.
Another major challenge for our company derived from the difficulties and prejudices we faced in convincing clients that a Greek company could produce reliable, high-tech products and services for defence and security and deliver them within the agreed time. The quality of our products, along with our consistency and professionalism, have helped us to surpass this obstacle, and we have proven that Greece can excel in high technology. Greek engineering, we repeat all the time, is the best value for money.
Nowadays, the Hellenic defence industry is a dynamic part of the Greek economy and a vital partner of the Hellenic Armed Forces. Their experience, inventiveness, and commitment to high quality products and services help Hellenic defence companies have a continuous international presence and the opportunity to seek business opportunities globally.
GIG: How much of your business derives from outside of Greece?
Hadjiminas: Today EFA Group has established itself as a leader in its field in more than 50 countries worldwide, while its exports represent over 85% of total turnover.
GIG: What are the main advantages of doing business in Greece? What are the main disadvantages or difficulties you face?
Being at the crossroads of three continents, and in close proximity with the Middle East and the Arab world, Greece provides significant investment opportunities as a transport and energy hub. Given that Greece is a major tourist destination country, there are significant investment opportunities in tourism as well. The country is also currently becoming a hub for large scale investments (i.e. in logistics through ports and transportation means), while shipping is one of the most important and rapidly expanding sectors (Greece is the largest European ship-owner).
The country offers high quality logistics, networks, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing, and is expanding rapidly into the high technology and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) business.
However, Greece’s biggest strength is probably its highly skilled workforce and human capital, based on international standards. Greece has Europe’s second highest percentage of Masters and PhD students as a share of its population, with science, technology, and engineering being specialities. That makes Greek engineering an incredible asset, enforcing its competitiveness within global markets.
Being a member of the EU, NATO, and other international multilateral organisations, the country enjoys peace, security, and enhanced cooperation with its partners. Greece is a friendly country with respect for cultural, ethnic, and religious diversities. Given this fact, in combination with the highly skilled human capital in Greek engineering, we understand why Greece can also quickly become a hub for western defence companies, producing competitively for the rest of the world, where Greece and Greeks are accepted by almost all nations.
Despite the progress achieved so far, there is still a lot to be done in the areas of privatisation, structural reform, and the quality of institutions. High tax rates in enterprises, inefficient government bureaucracy, complicated tax regulations, and delays in the function of the justice system are some of the most problematic factors for doing business in Greece.
And yet, with the initiatives of the new pro-business Greek government, Greece is changing and has the potential to become an attractive investment destination. The country has entered a phase of development, extroversion, and digital transformation – adopting policies that will improve the economy and modernise public and private infrastructure over the coming years.
GIG: How have you been affected by geopolitical developments in the broader region? What does this mean for your business?
Hadjiminas: Greece’s broader region is becoming steadily more complex and more challenging. Most of the region is trying to recover from political, social, monetary, and economic crises. The immigration issue that Greece has faced in recent years is a huge issue, and certainly not a Greek problem but an international and a humanitarian one. Brexit is also another issue that will probably affect the EU in the future. All of these issues challenge the European Union mission and could affect the business sector.
These developments make us focus more on the high quality of our products, on our consistency and professionalism, and on policies that boost extroversion in global markets. This corporate orientation is further strengthened by the fact that Greece can boast political and governmental stability, better financial figures, and improvements in the banking system.
GIG: There has been a lot of talk about the so-called brain drain during the crisis years, with many bright young Greeks seeking a better future abroad. How easy is it to find scientists, engineers, and other professionals with the right managerial and technical skills to meet your needs from the local employment pool?
Hadjiminas: It is true that the 10-year economic crisis forced tens of thousands of young, talented, and highly educated Greeks to search for a better life abroad. This created significant problems in finding experienced and qualified people for the industry, since it was this category of people that decided to leave the country.
On the other hand, thousands of enthusiastic young scientists and engineers graduate every year from Greek universities. These are the people that we are going to trust, we are going to invest in them, and together we will build a new future for the economy of our country. Their knowledge, their expertise, and above all their eagerness to work, together with our experience and infrastructure, will be the foundation of a new big step forward.
Yet our Group has already become an attractive working environment for several Greek engineers that were part of the earlier brain drain.
GIG: In your opinion, what more needs to be done to attract bright young Greeks back to Greece?
Hadjiminas: The Greeks that left the country during the crisis years went abroad to find a stable and secure job with a decent and stable income. These people either lost their jobs or faced big cuts in their salaries. If these people realise that their life in Greece could be the same as the one they had years ago, I believe that they would have second thoughts and return. In order to achieve something like that, Greece needs economic and social stability, less bureaucracy and a more effective judicial system, a more business-friendly public sector, a dynamic banking system that could help new entrepreneurs, and less obstacles for doing business – and above all exports. All these are on the way to being drastically improved due to the new government’s initiatives.
GIG: How do you see the investment climate in Greece?
Hadjiminas: The investment climate in Greece is improving slowly but steadily. Years of economic and social turmoil belong to the past and the Greek people want to recover from this 10-year nightmare to build a new prosperous future. The country is gaining its confidence back, along with the trust of foreign investors, who are examining the potential for new investments. Our target should be to regain the standards of life we had before the crisis. This could be achieved as a result of our hard work, our exports, and new foreign and domestic investments that would bring money to Greece and create new jobs.