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What Vassilakis and Fourlis advise as businesses are redefined

The Bank of Cyprus welcomed two leading names of the business community to this year's 7th Business Leaders Summit.

In the context of the round table discussion entitled ‘Redefining Business and Entrepreneurship: Inspiring Insights from Successful Business Leaders,’ Eftichios Vassilakis, President of Aegean and Olympic Air, along with Vasilios Fourlis, Vice Chairman of the Board Directors of HOUSEMARKET SA (IKEA) exchanged views on innovation, sustainable development and corporate social responsibility (CSR). The Summit took place in Nicosia on 16 October.

E. Vassilakis: Aegean shortly before its 25th anniversary

Eftichios Vassilakis presented the group's milestones, commenting on the fact that in 2024 it will be 25 years since the first Aegean Airlines flight.

"Global air traffic collapsed during Covid to reach full recovery in 2023-2024," he said, giving his own account of the sector.

Vassilakis placed great emphasis on the development of human resources from the group's point of view. As he said, Aegean invests in its people, offering systematic upgrading, scholarships, training school and a series of incentives. In this regard, he said: "The Group remains focused on attracting, retaining and engaging the talent required to achieve operational excellence."

He spoke of the one "modern ecosystem of support services for air transport in Greece". He referred to the first green Hangar in Europe, as it provides "environmentally friendly building facilities with a reduced footprint. According to Vassilakis, the total investment amounts to €140 million with a 5-7 year investment horizon for implementation and maturity.

During his presentation he also put forward some facts and figures: The company during 2023 was flying to 46 countries, to 165 destinations with 264 routes. In total, 16 new international destinations were added to its network.

During the round table discussion, he spoke about family businesses, describing the early stages of the company and the distribution of responsibilities in the group, initially from his parents and then to more executives. We are different, he said, emphasising however the smooth relationship between the members.

Regarding corporate social responsibility, he pointed to the fact that since 2012 airlines have been paying for their environmental footprint. "This is something that has been ingrained in us," he noted.

Discussions about the green transition are necessary, he added, but said the data is moving differently in the airline sector. "We believe in the logic that there should be both rules and discussion to be more sustainable and less damaging to the environment."

He also noted the obstacles created by bureaucracy and delay in justice.

V. Fourlis: Our activity within the markets

"We have special ties with the Cypriot market," said Fourlis at the start of his presentation, who, before sitting on the panel, highlighted the characteristics of today's retail trade.

Presenting the results of a Eurostat survey on internet users who bought or ordered goods or services for private use over the years, Vasilios Fourlis commented on the fact that 42% of online purchases of goods in the EU, in 2022, were made for clothes, shoes or accessories.

Also read: Bank of Cyprus CEO: Cyprus needs a clear long-term strategy for FDI

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This was followed by a presentation of consumer preferences and habits compared to the various countries.

The businessman also mentioned the issue of payments. Through his presentation, he highlighted the fact that consumers want frictionless payments as well as personalized product recommendations.

In the context of the discussion that followed, he recommended that family businesses all share common business values. "Business value, respect for employees, meritocracy are values ​​that are transformed into deeds and actions," he underlined.

Among the key ingredients for success are, according to the entrepreneur, ensuring the qualifications of family members fit the positions they assume.

As for ESG indicators, he initially said that governance, while sounding burdensome in operation, protects companies from excessive risks and mistakes. "And because we are suffering in our region, governance is something moving in the right direction." As for the Environment, he said that "there is no going back, we will live by rules. There are excesses, but they are part of our business life and will continue to be."

Andreas Hadjikyriakos, CEO of Gnora Consultants Communications, moderated the discussion between the two entrepreneurs.

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