Exclusive interview with Zsanett Ducsai-Oláh, the freshly appointed CEO of MNKH Hungarian National Trading House Cls.
- Could you talk about the most important milestones in your professional life?
In the last seven years, I was active in the civilian, public and corporate sectors where I generated and realized several billion forints worth of domestic and international RDI projects. I started working on priority projects first at the InnoStart Foundation and the at ITD Hungary. Since 2010, I am an employee of the Department for the Development of Green Economy at the Ministry of National Development. In addition to that, I am the professional manager and implementer of the popular science program TiJöttök since 2013. I also design R&D projects for market participants as a freelancer expert. I am a board member of the Young Entrepreneurs Association Hungary - FIVOSZ and a leader of several programs within the framework of the Entrepreneurship Foundation Hungary designed to provide market exposure to startup companies before national and international partners and investors.
I like to introduce myself as a child of destiny. I have never placed my own ambition before solving the task at hand. Creating something new is the inspiration propelling me to see through each project. Innovation and providing support to Hungarian companies on the international market have been my long-time priorities, but most recently, I am getting more and more into transfer of technology as well. In my opinion, others find it easy to work with me because I truly believe in what I do.
- MNKH was founded jointly by the Hungarian government and the Hungarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with the purpose of opening up new markets and business opportunities for Hungarian companies, in line with the national foreign trade strategy. Through its activities, Hungarian trading houses have been opened in 29 countries already, helping Hungarian products and services reach foreign market demand. You have been the CEO of MNKH since April 3 this year. Could you share some of your most recent experiences?
I have been CEO for almost 5 months now, but to tell the truth, it feels like a much longer period. I was not a newcomer to foreign markets, because (as I mentioned earlier) I used to work at ITD Hungary, the state agency for stimulating investment and promoting trade, and I was familiar with certain aspects of the export mechanism and the activity of both the non-profit and for-profit sectors as well. Innovation played an important part in my past. Therefore, I incorporated the Technology and Knowledge Transfer Directorate into the new structure, with the role of providing support for emerging innovative enterprises and technologies to entering foreign markets, especially the Far Eastern, the Israeli and the North American markets.
Currently I see that there are more and more potentially successful companies at home and a lot of opportunities emerging all over the world. I have been to several places recently which are not necessarily regarded as a potential export market for Hungarian enterprises. However, employing a local expert may help companies connect with the partners and find a productive market. The number of possibilities in the health and food industry is particularly high in such countries as Japan, Argentina or Lebanon, while smart city solutions and technologies related to water and waste management may help achieve the most in South America. I believe that now is the time to make the right decisions and take a huge step forward. We have all what it takes at home and on foreign markets as well.
- What are some of your main tasks and duties? What are your objectives and your plans?
This last period was extremely busy even with my experience. We were expected to maintain the level of efficiency delivered by the previous management. What this means in the practice is that that we tried to assess the market potential of those countries which were already associated with us and achieve much better focused, demand-oriented activities in the case of Hungarian companies. All this required some internal restructuring as well. We started investigating the activity of our foreign partners and reassessing some of our partnership contracts.
Our contacts active in the foreign markets provide us all the information which domestic micro, small or medium-sized enterprises may need for a successful international presence. The objective is to provide support for companies to initiate business negotiations on the foreign market.
Our non-profit activities include organizing conventional exhibitions, training courses and business meetings. In case of for-profit companies, we provide opportunities for our partners to initiate business negotiations as part of trade development. I find it very important to make it apparent to all companies who wish to work us that our activity has great added value. Taking into account the feedback we received so far, we developed new cooperation agreements. In these agreements, we specifically defined what is meant by for-profit activity, when is the brokerage commission charged and which cases are invoice as well as the services provided within the framework of non-profit activities. The achievements of the trading house can be measured both directly and indirectly. Indirect results are achieved from those activities which do not generate direct earnings, but are essential for the development of the Hungarian economy, such as growth of export, successfully organized ministerial visits and successful company trips.
As for the expectations, we strive to work together with a variety of professional organizations, such as Hungarian Tourism cPlc, the Agricultural Marketing Center, the Agricultural Information Technology Cluster or the Hungarian Water Industry Cluster with whom we wish to form a uniform image on foreign markets.
- What numbers can you mention in the case of for-profit companies?
I would say that we are more result-oriented than profit-oriented. We regard everything as a sort of investment, such as the maintenance and operation of foreign trading houses. Obviously, success entails a certain percentage which cannot be determined as a fixed amount. It depends on the income, activity and size of the company, but also on the price of the given product. I think it is safe to say that our expectations for success is between 1 and 10%. We calculate our commission in a way as to avoid affecting the competitive price. Maintaining the long-term competitiveness of the company is top priority for us. It is definitely more important than getting rich fast on a certain project. Obviously, we wish to achieve income from all transactions.
- If you look ahead in the future, what result would make you satisfied within one year?
I think I would be satisfied if we started one large project for each industry.
- Do you have a preferred industry?
All countries have different strength, such as fashion, textile industry or water management in Brazil. Brazil's economy is actually quite closed, but there are areas which do not have the appropriate knowledge, such as water and wastewater management. This makes them open to such solutions. Agricultural technology is also in great demand, as Brazil is South America's largest agricultural country. SmartCity solutions might become very popular as well.
In Japan, the greatest demand is for agricultural products. Although they have a much larger GDP in IT development, they still love Hungarian honey and everything else they cannot grow. Finally, Mongolia and the CIS countries require engineering, construction and technology investments.
- Based on the above, which international markets would you consider to position the 4iG Group?
In my opinion, the spectacular growth of the 4iG Group is due to the fact that they have inhouse developments in several different sectors. Negotiations can be started in autumn and we are going to target the niche markets. I think it is best to focus on oriented trends. Economic growth makes entering a market most rewarding, but nowadays backward regions have also taken the path of development. We may provide such advice as in the case of Argentina, where innovations in the health services industry are much needed. Regarding IT development, Africa and South America may provide the most opportunities because these regions have spent almost nothing on research and development. Also, 97 percent of the universities and 3 percent of companies are ripe for the taking.
- What do you do in your spare time?
I like to spend my spare time with my little girl. Modeling clay, playing puzzle, swing or slides, going to the pool – you name it!