The prospect of being the first is only possible with the right team of proselytes

Investments and innovations are a continuous process in the company

Ivan Papazov, Chairman of the Board of Directors,VP Brands International:

The prospect of being the first is only possible with the right team of proselytes

Снимка: EconomyMagazine

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Автор: Niya Ilieva

Mr. Ivan Papazov is Chairman of the Board of Directors and Executive Director of "VIP Brands International". He has been the head of the company since 1998 when he started the creation and imposition of own brands of wines and high-alcohol beverages and started large-scale investments in the development of modern production bases and vineyards. He was born in 1967 in Plovdiv. He has completed a higher education and post-graduate qualification in "Wine and High Alcoholic Drinks" from the University of Food Technologies in Plovdiv. Under the leadership of Ivan Papazov, "VP Brands International" becomes a leader in the Bulgarian market and has become a preferred producer in more than 40 countries around the world.

Mr. Papazov, how did VP Brands International begin in 2019, and what is coming to you in the near future?

We will strive to reinforce our leadership positions and maintain our customers' high trust in our brands. We restructure the corporate structure and we are increasingly working with clients from abroad. 

What is the development of the production of high-alcohol beverages and wine in Bulgaria and what are the challenges facing the business?

The big challenges are in two directions – one in raising the image of domestic producers on the national market and the other in affirming Bulgaria abroad. I believe that Bulgarian wine and high-alcohol beverages have long come to terms with world standards and now is the time to work on the country's overall image. Last year we had the opportunity to host a delegation of international tasters within the Spirit Selection competition. After looking at our production base and one of our aging storage facilities in Peshtera, they were extremely surprised that in a small country like Bulgaria there is a production with similar capacity, scale and covering the highest requirements in our industry.

Is the grey sector still hindering the work of the right producers and how are the measures taken to tackle this phenomenon?

The state must continue to make efforts to curb the illegal production of wines and high-grade alcohol, for at least two reasons. The first and most important is consumer's health. The market is flooded by "household chemistry" labelled "home-made". More dangerous is that illegal manufacturers do not observe any technological or production requirements, do not cover basic hygiene and sanitation conditions, do not monitor the quality of the raw material and the safety of the production process. We quickly forget the black statistics and all cases ended with fatality, like this in Yakoruda, where six people passed out after consumption of something called "home-made" alcohol. 

Second is the harm to the budget. Branch organization statistics and official data on imported excise duty still show that nearly half of the production, trade and consumption of wines and high-alcohol beverages in Bulgaria are in the grey sector. This leads to direct budget losses of over BGN 300 million per year. On the other hand, there are serious companies in the sector which comply with all regulations. They donate over BGN 300 million annually to the Treasury. These are companies that pay taxes and insurance, open jobs and provide jobs to thousands of people, providing direct and indirect employment. Moreover – for the quality of every bottle of alcohol produced, guaranteed by their name.

The presence of such a large illegal grey sector ultimately reduces their potential for development, reinvesting and opening new jobs. Ultimately the losers are the state, business, and consumers.

What investments do you have to make and what are the results of the investments made so far in the business?

Investments and innovations are a continuous process in VP Brand International. It is this approach that has allowed us to close the cycle of production over the years: from the purchase of its own vineyards, through the construction of the most modern production facilities and a well-functioning business power covering the entire country and mainly through investments in the company team, the preservation of the best professionals and ensuring adequate development in the Bulgarian conditions. 

At the level of the corporate structure, we have the full implementation of the most advanced software solutions of the leading international company in the branch. This will allow automation of processes and much easier control and tracking of each delivery and order. The project is very large considering the scope of our business and is already partially operational in some units. It is up to the end of the year to implement these technological solutions in full. Thus, VP Brands International will become the first company of this scale and industry with fully operational software. But for us the prospect of being the first one has always been the only option, especially when it involves a team of proselytes.

Investment in staff is one of the most important at the moment of deficit of qualified specialists. Do you encounter any problems with this and how do you work to attract specialists?

I have repeatedly said that in the team I work in, I do not only see employees, but people we think in one direction, who recognize VP Brands International as a serious employer and support. The company has succeeded for decades to prove itself as a stable and secure institution, and I think it is a great honour for the people who work for us to be part of the team. That's what helped us to be a market leader. The fact that the employees with whom we have started the business over the years have risen and today many of them are still in our team is also indicative of the environment we have built. 

Unsurprisingly, but in business there is no room for unnecessary modesty, VP Brands International has also become a generator of wonderfully trained staff. On the occasion of the successful retention of personnel – our basic rules have not changed since the company's establishment so far. We retain them by creating a secure and stable work environment, training and upgrading, and last but not least, I personally try to feel like part of a winning team and not just as a small piece in the big machine.