GIG: What are the main areas of your business in Greece, and how do you see prospects going forward within the space you operate?
Capras: Bosch Greece operates as the subsidiary of Bosch Group in Greece. It is active in automotive and mobility solutions, consumer goods, energy and building technology, as well as in the industrial field, offering a wide range of high-quality products. Apart from providing traditional solutions, we are also promoting a range of new Internet of Things (ΙοΤ) products and services, designed for connected mobility, smart building with its Thermotechnology and security solutions, and smart agriculture.
GIG: What has it been like as a global company operating in Greece during the crisis years? Are you seeing any significant upturn in the economic climate?
Capras: Bosch did not change its modus operandi during the crisis years. Certainly, we had to adapt to the new requirements and find ways to effectively tackle these rising challenges, as did all companies. Following a brief adjustment to the macroeconomic environment of the time, Bosch Greece has been developing at a double-digit growth rate since 2015, having doubled its turnover in the span of five years.
In the last few months of 2019, the general economic sentiment indicator rose and, compared with 2018, economic circumstances have slightly improved. I am confident that this positive image will lead to actual economic growth, which will be reflected in real figures for companies and households alike.
GIG: What new business development projects are you planning in Greece? Which other geographic areas is Bosch Greece responsible for and are you considering further expansion?
Capras: Since 2017, Bosch Greece has set up a new Department for Business Development, aiming at the growth of its product range and the promotion of new technologies and services in the Greek market. We are focusing on the fields where Greece can either traditionally gain a competitive advantage, like agriculture and rural farming, or fields like urban mobility where we can offer solutions and products in order to deal with the problems cities currently face.
Over 60 Bosch smart agriculture systems have already been installed and are currently being tested in eight different regions of Greece. We are actively working on the field of cloud-based parking lot sensors, an essential product for smart cities and, at the same time, a means to reduce traffic and pollution. We are also promoting a new, innovative product for connected mobility, Call4U. This is a retrofit device for older vehicles: in the event of an accident, it connects to the driver’s mobile phone via Bluetooth and sends an SMS alert to four numbers previously determined by the user.
The activities of Cyprus, Albania, and Malta also fall under the management of Bosch Greece.
GIG: How does Bosch foresee the future of mobility? Will future transportation change cities?
Capras: As the leading supplier in the automotive industry, it is Bosch’s conviction that next-generation cars will be personalised, automated, connected and electric. Cars will be used to move from point A to point B, constantly changing drivers and location; they will not remain parked in the garage of a single, permanent owner. This will not only apply to cars, but also to all other vehicles: two-wheelers, bicycles, etc.
Automated mobility is based purely on artificial intelligence, where the car learns to react like a person with the help of technology. Currently, next-generation cars that are circulating on the streets are already automated to a certain degree, providing crucial support to the driver, who is still in control of the car. In the future, the automotive industry aims to provide Level 5 vehicles, the highest level: they will be fully automated, and the driver will ride them like a simple passenger. The time required to reach this level depends on many factors that mainly have to do with infrastructure and management issues.
As far as connectivity is concerned, as an example, I am going to refer to the shared project that Bosch and Daimler developed at Daimler’s museum parking lot in Stuttgart in 2019. There, an automated and connected car found a parking spot and parked by itself. In order to achieve this, sensors are used both inside and outside of cars.
In the field of electromobility, Bosch is currently working on the new technology of hydrogen cells, which is being tested on trucks. In fact, our estimate is that 25% of new production until 2030 will consist of electric cars. However, apart from technology, we are also pursuing the establishment of a new urban mobility model that will maximise road safety, reduce stress while driving, and minimise pollution, as well as increase driving enjoyment.
GIG: What are the main challenges of doing business in Greece? What changes, in your opinion, need to be made for Greece to be considered a more attractive investment destination?
Capras: I believe that in Greece the main challenge that enterprises – as well as the state – have to face are the bureaucratic processes. Digitalisation is the only way to go, and time is of essence. Core issues like stable and competitive taxation for enterprises and individuals, competitive social security contributions, as well as the elimination of unnecessary and meaningless procedures in the context of attracting new investments are all prerequisites for investors in order for Greece to be considered a potential country for new investments.
Greece must focus on products and services of a certain level, where it can develop a competitive advantage. This could be done within the space of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) professions, where a local pool of professionals could be established supporting international artificial intelligence projects. In order to achieve that, though, stable and long-term planning is required by all stakeholder enterprises, all sectors of the state (economy, education, infrastructure, free market) and, of course, the society.
GIG: What’s your relationship with Greek start-ups? What specific opportunities do you see within the start-up community in Greece?
Capras: One of the goals of the newly established Department for Business Development at Bosch Greece is to build a firm collaboration with Greek start-ups. We wish to get closer to the start-up communities, pick the most suitable ones, and work together to develop integrated solutions, mainly in the IoT field.
GIG: Can you tell us more about your plans to develop the IoT in Greece and the role that Bosch would like to play in this exciting new area? What are the main challenges to pushing this forward?
Capras: Bosch is no longer just a technology company; it is now an IoT company. Over 60% of our products can connect to the internet, and by 2025 all of our products will either use artificial intelligence, or artificial intelligence will be used for their production. Our goal is to share part of these IoT solutions in Greece, since it has been proven that they can add value to consumers’ quality of life.
GIG: In view of the increased challenges we face from climate change, what’s Bosch’s target in relation to climate protection?
Capras: Bosch technology has been invented for life. That means that our products are designed to improve the quality of life and be environmentally friendly. In this context, we are rigorously redoubling our efforts to fight against climate change and improve air quality. By 2020, we aim to reduce our carbon footprint both in the products themselves and in their production, so that our group becomes carbon neutral.
In this endeavour, our activities are based on three pillars: development of low-emission engines, collaboration with municipalities in steady-state traffic flow projects, and the internal implementation of a different mobility model, like car-pooling, car sharing, etc. at our sites.