An interview with Herman Wierenga

Thu | 01.09.2016

Consumer goods

1. Dear Herman, please introduce yourself shortly to all our members.

I am 40 years old and I’ve been living in Romania with my wife, son (5) and daughter (3) since 2008. It’s then that, together with a colleague, I started ORTEC operations in CEE from zero. Now, ORTEC has grown into one of the biggest Dutch Tech companies in Romania. Our Bucharest office serves as regional headquarters for Central and Eastern Europe, with other local offices in Warsaw (PL) and Bergamo (IT) and local people in Russia, Ukraine, Bosnia and Greece.

2. When did you find out about the NRCC and its activities?

Actually, immediately in 2008 when we started ORTEC in Romania, I found out about the NRCC via the embassy. At that time, we were a 2-people company and wanted some visibility, so I thought it would be a good idea to be listed in a booklet with Dutch companies in Romania. That is how we became a NRCC member.

3. This is your 3rd mandate within the NRCC board. What triggered you to remain and what are your expectations and plans for the next year?

I decided to become active in NRCC and run for a board position, a few years ago, because I wanted to share my experiences and my enthusiasm on doing business in Romania. This year, when I was asked to run for a third term, I realized that those reasons are still valid and that, as a board member, I can continue contributing to the improvement of the overall business climate. I am happy that our members have voted me in once again.

4. You have invested time, energy and experience in leading important NRCC projects:  the Nearshoring Guide to Romania and Task Forces Transport & Logistics and IT&C. Why do you find these „products” so valuable?

First of all, these are areas in which I have knowledge and experience, thanks to my activities for ORTEC in Romania. We are an IT company, developing our own software for planning and optimization and most of our customers are in retail, transport and logistics. And with our growth and success (we now have 130 people), we also received a high demand for work from our other ORTEC offices around the world and thus have become an internal nearshoring hub.

Having said that, it is a pity to notice that the image of Romania abroad is not always good. Doing business in Romania is not so difficult in my opinion, also comparing with other countries I have experience in, but there is not a strong policy (as there is in some other countries) to attract investors or to make their start easy. That is one of the reasons we, as NRCC, decided to create the Nearshoring guide.

As for the taskforces for IT&C and T&L: these are fields in which both the Netherlands and Romania are very strong and where there is great opportunity for synergy between companies from both countries. With the taskforces we bring together our members in these fields, talk with authorities to share our members’ opinions and learn from best practices in the field.

5. You came in Romania in 2008, when Ortec opened here a branch. How did the local IT&C market evolved in this period?

The growth has been enormous. Many big, global IT and BPO companies have opened large offices in Romania and the competition in recruitment has increased dramatically. Also, the tax incentives for IT professionals has resulted in big salary growth. Overall, IT&C has become an important pillar in the Romanian economy. Although this is, of course, a good development, the impact is not always positive for the smaller (often local) companies, as it can be hard for them to survive in such a competitive market.

Unfortunately, until now, the Romanian public sector hasn’t yet managed to directly benefit from the IT expertise that is locally available. It would be nice to see more initiatives in that direction. However, I do believe that the times when public tenders are won just by strong political connections and money is spent on anything but good software are coming to an end. Now, there is a huge opportunity for Romania to capitalize on innovation, entrepreneurship and development. I believe there is a big opportunity for Romania to skip some steps in evolution when reforming certain areas/institutions and to become a true leader in technology used in the public sector. It would be great to see that happen!

6. Romania moves closer to getting emerging market status on FTSE index. Do you se major opportunities, especially on the R&D segment?

In my opinion, it is important for Romania to take the next step from outsourcing destination to developing own products. There is a lot of expertise and knowledge, there are plenty of entrepreneurs, there are many opportunities and good, successful examples. I think the role of universities is important and could be even bigger. Strong scientific research could be an engine for innovation. If there is cooperation between companies and universities today, then, most of the time, it is focused on practical education and recruitment. Although very important, of course, I believe it would be better if the cooperation would focus more on innovation and R&D, for instance by letting PhD or MSc students do research that is relevant from both the scientific and business point of view.

7. Peter Drucker, the man who invented management, said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. So, what is next in the T&L industry under the impact of Big Data and IoT?

In Transport & Logistics there are many developments at the moment. Some may seem like science fiction, but in fact might not be very far away. Globally, there is huge progress in the fields of electric driving and (semi-) autonomous driving vehicles. Maybe that seems far away for Romania, but it doesn’t have to be. In Bucharest, for instance, many cars drive relatively short distances, there is a lot of pollution and everybody would love to spend less on fuel. Those could be the ideal ingredients for a successful future in electric driving. Imagine how it would be to have (solar cell powered) charging stations in the city and no more costs for fuel? At ORTEC we decided not to wait and we will start driving electrically this autumn.

Another trend that will hit the field of Transport & Logistics is the development of Sharing Economy businesses (like Uber). Traditional Transport & Logistics companies will face competition from Uber-like start-ups that use smart Apps and the Internet to do the job faster and more efficiently. I think Romania has the possibility to be an early adopter here, as well, instead of a slow follower, especially due to these two fields in which it is strong: IT&C and T&L.

8. In the end, please a message to our members.

I hope everyone has as much joy as me in doing business in Romania and I would like to encourage everyone to not just follow the existing paths, but to keep innovating, developing and improving every day.

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