Q: As a CEO, which are the main challenges you perceive now in the vouchers/tickets industry?
Elena Pap: The voucher industry in Romania is a very solid, dynamic one, with good projections for the upcoming years. Our confidence in this growing path is based on the country positive economic trend, the favorable legislative framework and the market development towards innovation and digitalization, which make our solutions more attractive and easier to use. But the industry could face difficulties ahead, especially those coming from the regulatory vision of public institutions. However, we have a trusted dialogue with the decision makers and we believe that 20 years of applied voucher system have demonstrated its contribution to the development of market labor in Romania.
Q: Which were the most beneficial effects of the holiday vouchers in 2018? Please provide details on the horizontal benefit generated in different industries by the 2018 approach of the vouchers/tickets.
Elena Pap: The available data on the number and value of holiday vouchers issued in Romania indicate a record increase in the volume of issuance in the first half of 2018. Almost 700,000 employees enjoyed or will enjoy vacation vouchers issued until October 2018. We don’t have yet detailed figures to show exactly how much each industry involved has grown. We only can suppose that sectors like tourism and HORECA have had significant increases.
Q: One of the main dilemmas of the legislators is whether to compensate the public employees by vouchers or cash. What are the pros and cons for each of these options?
Elena Pap: We consider that the decision to grant meal tickets or food indemnities in the budget sector should be based on the answer to the following question: “which of the two types of individual food allowance best serves the public policy objective, namely the purpose for which they are granted - serving a meal during program hours?”
The meal tickets have from this point of view an indisputable advantage - they are dedicated exclusively to the purchase of food - while the food indemnity is in fact a wage increase rather than an individual targeted food allowance. Moreover, according to a study issued by the Romanian Academy last year, which provided the first estimate of the economic impact of the meal voucher system in Romania, meal tickets have a better performance than food indemnities in consumer spending, jobs and budget revenues.
Q: About every industry in Romania faces workforce scarcity. How does your company and your industry help companies retain the best workers? How do you deal yourself with finding the right people on the right position for the right salary?
Elena Pap: First of all, let’s not forget that vouchers, whatever they may be, are considered as social policy instruments of the state. They increase the purchasing power of employees, and secondly, the state is interested in making transparent the taxing of additional income by stimulating those who grant them, namely the employers. Therefore, we are a company providing social solutions for other companies in order to motivate and stimulate their work force. Up Romania has been developing products and solutions for companies concerned with the motivation and well-being of their own employees for 16 years. We believe that employee vouchers have entered into both the DNA of companies and employees. It is already a reflex to offer, as well as to ask for employment a package of benefits including vouchers. In what we are concerned, we are a company with high people retention.
We have employees since our beginnings as company in Romania. Our employees are the first testers of our products and the ones who provide us best advises and suggestions when we launch new services and solutions. I think our recipe has one particular ingredient and that is: empathy. We somehow managed to empower people with the feeling that they are important to us and that they are valued; not only financially, but as individuals.
Q: What is the project your most proud about in 2018? Why?
Elena Pap: This year we launched a unique service on the Romanian market, an online platform addressed to SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) through which they can have access to premium suppliers at best negotiated prices for a series of items and services, like courier services, office supplies, water, tea and coffee.
Or main objective with the launch of this platform is to be a landmark of services and solutions for the SME sector in Romania. We want to overcome our mission of creating motivation solutions for employees and become a service hub for companies, a connector and a tool facilitator that directly help companies achieve better financial results and performance.
Secondly, we want this platform to confirm and enhance our role as an innovative industry, concerned with the development of modern projects that help accelerate business in Romania.
In conclusion, the associated message with the launch of Up Achiziţii is that we are here to think new solutions and services for our customers in order to make them more efficient, more attractive and performing.
Q: Please tell us more about UP Romania, your clients, and beneficiaries.
Elena Pap: Up Romania has over 750,000 beneficiaries, 55,000 partner companies. We are part of a large international group, Up Group, active in 19 countries. We offer several types of vouchers, including paper vouchers, but also electronic cards, gift vouchers, paper and electronic holiday vouchers, social vouchers, kindergarten vouchers and nursery vouchers.
We are a partner of Romanian society and our products have proved their efficiency in the company-employee relationship. Our solutions are social solutions because beyond the business we have an important role in building a trust relationship between employees and employers.
Q: What is the impact of the fourth industrial revolution on your company, on your industry and in addressing your client’s inquiries, from consultancy and value-added services?
Elena Pap: Our industry could not stay out of this revolution and the impact is on several levels. First, we had to initiate the process of digitalization of our main products in order to adapt them to our clients’ expectations. The process is still ongoing but the speed is amazing due to a huge appetite for technology and what technology brings with: simplicity, time efficiency, freedom, higher control.
Second, the way we communicate with our clients and beneficiaries changed a lot. We face a new paradigm where the dialogue is live and permanent, so you have to always be prepared with the best answers and solutions. Last but not least, new technologies allow us develop new services and solutions, new connections between clients and partners, beneficiaries and partners, which will change the face of our industry.
Q: How do you prepare yourself, as a leader to become better? How do you get out of your comfort zone? Nowadays, how do you find the balance between work and life?
Elena Pap: I take any obstacle as an opportunity or I try to always find the possible good development of a complicated situation. I am focused on solutions and I am aware that finding the best solutions require an open minded approach and a constant curiosity. I try to avoid patterns and I’m always curious, flexible and open to new solutions and opportunities.
Work-life balance is very hard to reach. Personally, I am trying to do this and I have people around me that understand my responsibilities. What I try to do instead is catch up with my family and have special and memorable moments with them.
Q: In your opinion, as a CEO, what is the most important question to ask in the investment committee: what can go right, or what mistake can we not afford to make? Why? Is there another question that you ask your investment committee for 2019?
Elena Pap: I like to work on multiple scenarios. So, at a certain moment, and depending on the working scenario, both questions are being asked, because both are important for setting-up a certain mindset. Personally, I like better the question: what can we do more?
Q: What’s your ‘’Be careful at…’’ advice for 2019?
Elena Pap: Be careful at people’s needs. The world is changing at an amazing speed so people have different needs and expectations. The business environment has to stay open at people’s concerns and come with solutions.