Two-in-one interview for The Economic Magazine, #/1/2020, January-February
Mrs. Marechkova, is it trendy to run a business today?
To me, it is trendy to manage with a clear vision for a sustainable development and with a strong team of the best professionals. In a fast-changing environment, it is important to meet the expectations of consumers and to offer them high-quality products that are in line with the current trends and preferences. I am happy that as a market leader in Bulgaria, we manage to do this in a responsible way with our wide portfolio of international brands.
What management style do you apply and are there any new management models that you want to try in the environment in Bulgaria?
The most important to me are the determination and motivation to give the best of yourself, the understanding and commitment of the team, to provide the strong results and to feel proud of what you have achieved together. Passion and a lot of work, as well as challenges that develop the team and the company further.
The organization in Bulgaria is part of BAT’s international team. We are happy that the company encourages diversity and provides to its employees opportunities for development in other countries of the BAT Group, where, currently, Bulgarian colleagues are working. In BAT Bulgaria, there are also foreigners who contribute with their experience from international projects. The management model is seen in the team of our organization – we strive to attract people who are proactive and work with heart and zeal. Our team includes many individuals who, with their diversity and talent, leave a mark in the development of the company and help us to be successful on the market.
Employees who work with passion are the backbone of every successful business.
Each year at BAT, we have internship programs for training and development of young people who are at the beginning of their careers. I am glad that lately many of the interns who apply for a job in Bulgaria are university students who have studied abroad. They choose to come back and develop themselves in Bulgaria. One of the biggest assets of each country are the young people and the stable business environment.
What is the strength of BAT Bulgaria?
The two main ingredients of our success are our strong portfolio and a team, which would not accept anything less than the best as a result. We integrate BAT’s over 100 years of global experience with our expertise and knowledge, acquired at a local level, which helps us be successful. To us, employees are the backbone of each successful company. That’s why we believe that employees’ commitment and the development of the company go hand in hand. The team spirit, enthusiasm and dedication of our employees are key to our success on the market.
The number of ladies in business is growing. What are some of the benefits of having a woman managing a company when it comes to its employees?
I believe that the benefits are to know your work and team well. Perhaps women have a much stronger intuition when it comes to business and are more attentive to the human factor. I would highlight the new generation of women who are responsible, educated, curious and brave. Companies’ initiatives to increase the number of women in the management team help them make the most of their human resources and grow successfully as business organizations. For example, about 40% of BAT’s team in Bulgaria are women who hold positions in various departments, including at management level.
And what is the thing that gives you confidence that good marketing with the right customer approach is always important?
Our many years of experience on the market helps us understand the preferences and needs of Bulgarian consumers and respond to them in the best way – by presenting high quality international brands, combined with responsible business behavior.
Kiril Georgiev: Illegal trade in Bulgaria has decreased many times in recent years
Mr. Georgiev, what is the “pebble in the shoe” of your business?
I wouldn’t say the “pebble”, but rather the challenges that give us the opportunity to develop and to build on what has already been achieved. We have always been guided by compliance with high standards in all areas of the business, as well as by a responsible corporate behaviour. What is important is that the regulation of the industry in Bulgaria follows the European directives and practices.
The topic about the excise duty on tobacco products is very sensitive. What should all those who have the power to influence its increase know?
As a member state of the European Union, in 2018, Bulgaria met the requirements of the EU for minimum excise duty taxation per 1,000 sticks of cigarettes of EUR 90.00. For this to happen, an excise duty calendar was introduced in Bulgaria for the period 2016-2018, thanks to which the minimum levels were achieved very smoothly, with no shocks for the market and the consumers, and with predictability of the business environment. This was a very good initiative of the state, which was in line with the European practices. The reasonable regulations, the predictability of the legal framework and the consultations with the business sector on the legal initiatives concerning tobacco products proved to be effective over the years in terms of preserving the stability of the business environment, protection of the state revenues, as well as keeping the positive trend for reducing the illegal trade in Bulgaria.
Do you see a solution to the illegal trade with tobacco products in Bulgaria? Who loses from this trade?
It is a fact that in recent years the illicit trade in Bulgaria was reduced several times. From a double-digit percent to minimum levels. According to the latest data from an independent Nielsen survey, organized by the five tobacco companies from the Initiative Against Illicit Trade, in which British American Tobacco in Bulgaria also takes part, Bulgaria once again has a record low levels of illicit trade with a tendency to remain low – 3.3% for the third quarter of 2019. Even more, we are already observing areas with zero levels of consumption of illegal cigarettes – a fact that is an undeniable precedent in the history of the study in the country.
How are the levels of illegal trade measured?
With the survey that we have been conducting since 2010 onwards, we measure the level of illicit cigarette trade in Bulgaria by collecting and analyzing empty cigarette packages every quarter. If we have to compare our country on this indicator with other EU member states, where the same survey is being conducted, Bulgaria again has lowest levels within the EU, which is another indisputable success for everyone.
What has already been achieved in the fight against illicit trade in Bulgaria is a good example for the strong commitment and the work of both the government and of all law enforcement authorities on the basis of effective coordination among them. These extremely low levels of illicit trade in the country are the result of that. The reduction of illicit trade protects the market from products of unclear origin, and also increases the revenues in the state budget. I believe that the work and cooperation between the state institutions and the industry in this regard will continue in the future.
What innovations are shaping the new future of the tobacco industry?
Recently, we have witnessed many changes in the tobacco industry, on the one hand, there are new and additional regulations, and on the other – new trends related to the transformation of the industry. We are now in an innovative era in the development of our long history. In the last several years, BAT has invested in a number of innovations and studies on the assessment and development of the so-called potentially reduced-risk products (PRRPs), which are also part of BAT’s portfolio in Bulgaria.
Who is Mila Marechkova
Mila Marechkova has been Manager of British American Tobacco since 2014. She is a graduate of the French Language High School, and continued her education in Finances at the University of National and World Economy. She holds a Master’s degree in Finances and Business Administration. She started her career at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce, and later, began her work for Adidas, which, at that time, made its first steps on the Bulgarian market. She spent many years there, and worked also for international markets. She has been working for BAT for more than 13 years now on management positions and in different areas of trade and marketing.
Who is Kiril Georgiev
Kiril Georgiev started his career in the field of public relations at the Ministry of Finance, after which he joined the team of British American Tobacco Bulgaria. He continued his career at leading companies on management positions in the area of corporate affairs, including Heineken Zagorka. In mid-2017 he returned to BAT, where he held the position of Legal and External Affairs Manager.
Source: Economic Magazine, #1/2020, January – February 2020.
Photos: Ikonomika Magazine