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Against Bashing Greece : The Greek Utopia

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How many people work for your company?

Kefalogiannis: Right now we are 54 people. We are a small or medium enterprise. But we have hundreds of partners for our products from the agricultural sector. We are spotting the absence of Greek quality products from the international supermarkets all over the world. That was the reason.

I see your products everywhere in Germany now.

Kefalogiannis: Well, Germany is 22% of our sales. It is our most important market. This is how Germany became our number one market in the world: Stiftung Warentest does random tests on the shelves of German supermarkets twice in a period of five years, and we were always the best-bottled olive oil in the German market.

The same tests that proved that the Italians betray us with their olive oil.

Kefalogiannis: Well, the first test was the most important for us. That really changed our destiny in Germany, although we were already doing well. If you offer a real value for money to the consumer, Germany is a market where  you can get long-term success. But generally, behind our success stories are international sales. We are 82% export. The Greek market is 18%. So as a company, we haven’t been affected by the crisis directly. Of course, we have been indirectly because we operate here. What happens in this society around us affects us as much as everybody else.

You said that you are doing well. But as a citizen of this country, was there a time, or is there a time, when you awake in the morning and have the feeling that the whole society might crumble?

Kefalogiannis:  Absolutely. We have this feeling or at least I have it personally. I worry about it. No matter how well a corporation may be doing, you cannot survive in a society that is going down. Although I am an optimist because I see this change in mentality, which is by far the most important thing. At a slow pace but it is taking place. I saw the day before yesterday a very big survey about the trust of Greeks in institutions. I remember a few years back, before the crisis the last in this list was business, companies. Now it is number two. This is a stunning change. So, mentalities are changing, even not as fast as we would like it to, but they are changing; I think this is very important.

Aris Kefalogiannis, born in 1960, is founder and CEO of Gaea, a Greek Brand working internationally in the field of authentic and innovative Greek Food Products. Additionally, he serves as Vice Chairman of the Greek Confederation of Olive Oil Industries. Prior to that, he was CEO of Proton Marine Services, a London based enterprise offering shipbuilding and shiprepair solutions, and he held the position of financial adviser at the Merchant Investors Group, London.
Aris Kefalogiannis, born in 1960, is founder and CEO of Gaea, a Greek Brand working internationally in the field of authentic and innovative Greek Food Products. Additionally, he serves as Vice Chairman of the Greek Confederation of Olive Oil Industries. Prior to that, he was CEO of Proton Marine Services, a London based enterprise offering shipbuilding and shiprepair solutions, and he held the position of financial adviser at the Merchant Investors Group, London. : Bild: Fotos Elisseos Kontis/AcePhotography

I think what is also changing is a perception of values. the Greek economic crisis is the result of a society that lost vision in the values. This is what brought the economic crisis as well. We need a new vision, and we need to reinstate values in our society in order to start the real recovery. But I believe this is happening, and once it starts I think it will get an accelerated pace. Because I like marketing, I think all this bad publicity these last few years about Greece has created an awareness. Now that we have stopped being the first bad news all around the world, I think if we accelerate a little bit the reforms and we start growing, this awareness can be turned into a positive thing that can help further the growth of the country—the transformation of the country.

Nobody would believe us that a Greek entrepreneur would say this.

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