The original report was published in the USA Today on Thursday, September 22, 2011
A Romanian entrepreneur bridging East and West
Niro Investment Group comprises more than 20 different companies that are involved in a wide range of sectors, and it is looking to strengthen its relationships with China and the U.S.
Niro Investment Group is a 100% Romanian holding group which for the past 14 years has proven successful, having employed over 1,200 workers and reaping financial results in the Romanian market. The group controls more than 20 different companies in numerous sectors, such as the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry, food industry, real estate, commercial and residential construction, guard and security services, the leisure industry, and investments.
The group has been setting an example by using sustainable development to guide its business dealings, aiming to improve wellbeing and satisfy the needs of the present without compromising future generations. The group is also responsible for funding a number of non-profit projects, such as film festivals, sports competitions, and church restorations.
Niro Investment Group has used creative means to conquer any challenges it encounters and stands by the belief that economic benefits do not come without the development of the host community. In the future, the group plans to take on the regional market, as Romania has already established partnerships with countries like Azerbaijan, through the AGRI Project.
Here, group president Nicolae Dumitru gives an overview of the company’s Romanian activities and its international partnerships.
American investors like to know how transparent a company is and also what they are doing in terms of corporate social responsibility initiatives. Could you tell us a bit more about these factors?
Niro Investment Group is undertaking many social initiatives in various areas of Bucharest and is building partnerships to offer these projects. We have partnered with the Mayor and we have edited a book in our publishing house about the public-private partnership that exists with the Mayor.
We are also involved in the sponsorship of Romanian sports and were named the official sponsor of the Romanian Olympic team in Beijing 2008. We have many foundations to support gymnasts in Romania and the Romanian Orthodox Church. So each year we engage in a fairly developed program of corporate social responsibility.
On the diplomatic side, we have supported the publication of many books on diplomatic relations. Niro Investment Group is sponsoring the newly opened Honorary Consulate of the Republic of Latvia in Romania, an important event, as Latvia, a member of the EU and NATO, does not yet have an embassy in Romania. I had the honor of accompanying the President of Latvia at the ceremony of the official opening of the Honorary Consulate.
We have a magazine, The Balkans and Europe, which is part of the Niro Investment Group and is distributed free of charge to diplomatic institutions, such as embassies, throughout the Balkans. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting the President of Azerbaijan and I presented him with the magazine’s Person of the Year 2010 award.
You have a strong track record with the Chinese. Do you have a strategy for collaborating with American business partners?
When I lived for three years in China and developed relationships and representatives there, I had the opportunity to be supported by a U.S.-Chinese consultancy firm, so I received support, advice and explanations from both sides.
Last year I visited Washington DC and at the beginning of this year. I signed a contract with three companies. I think they are the three most important companies in America and one of them has a relationship with Romania dating back many years.
So are you exploring opportunities in the U.S. now?
The contract that I signed will enable us to gain a better understanding of American business opportunities and to become more well known by investors in the U.S. It will also enable us to investigate whether it is possible to establish business relationships between Romania and the U.S., in addition to our Chinese relationships.
Would you be interested in business opportunities in countries around the world in addition to China and the United States?
At the moment, on a multinational level, we are still a very small company. To think multinationally, you need to have the structure of professionals in place, and at the moment we have only been in existence for 18 years so we are like a student who has just finished high school and is going to university. We still have a great deal to learn.
In our 18 years, we have learned many things and have made mistakes – and we are still in this period of making mistakes and learning from them. We avoid making mistakes with our capital and the fact that we have passed through the most difficult period of the crisis – and that this year we are beginning some new, large projects – means that we have learned where the opportunities lie in the economy. At the peak of the crisis in 2008, we put all the measures into place to support the company through such difficult periods, which has given us the ability to move onto the next phase in our plans today.
What would your personal message be to the American business community, not only as an ambassador of Romania but also as a key business leader?
At the state level it is very difficult to establish an image of Romania in the U.S. I would like to take a moment to separate the political relationship and the public relationship.
From the public’s point of view, the people are pro-American. I had a meeting in Washington last year where I said: “Do not ask why a Romanian is pro-American as opposed to pro-German, pro-Chinese, pro-Russian, etc.” They will not know the answer and will simply say that they like the Americans.
For the Romanian people, therefore, the opening of America is totally supported. In terms of the Romanian political institutions, I think that there is a structural issue, because after 1990 we did not build our political system correctly and we do not have politicians in office that understand the concept of a dignitary of the state: a person doing the job for the people.
It is becoming increasingly common for Romanian politicians to close themselves in their own house as they only need to meet the public every four years. Additionally, they are involved in their own business activities. It is an image problem because Romanian politicians did not understand the role required of them when they entered their positions.
I believe that after 1990, the Romanian political institutions did not develop properly and instead went downhill. But I am glad to say that in the last two years Romania has resulted in a large number of politicians and political institutions behaving more responsibly, and I think what the politicians and political institutions are building right now will reshape our political future.
The entry of Romania into the European Union has also impacted positively upon the performance of Romanian institutions.
A UNITED WORLD SUPPLEMENT PRODUCED BY:
Alana Kalin, Carolina Costanzo, Waqas Ahmed, David Barbolla, Maggie Rubenstein and Geoffrey Cooke
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