I come from the former Total lubricants importer in Romania, and moved to Total in 2005, when the affiliate started the activity and built the Heavy Duty lubricants department. Then started the bitumen business in 2011. I am the bitumen manager now.
I was in charge with HDDO lubricants, road constructors were part of customer’s portfolio. Therefore, in parallel with lubricants I started contacting refineries around Romania for supply, transporters for logistics and customers to offer a new product. It was a completely new business to me, I had to learn fast what is bitumen, where it can be used, conditions of transport, storage and general market characteristics. First order was the hardest. A bit of chicken and egg, having to commit in the same time to customer to rely on our delivery, transporter to send a truck for us, and refinery to allocate a slot loading. It might seem normal, regular business now, but at that time, with no previous experience, I can call it boldness. Started in 2011 with 5.000 Mt direct deliveries from Hungarian MOL refinery, to 60.000 Mt sales volume in 2016 and the acquisition of 4.000 Mt capacity depot Central Romania.
We were very closed with my team as fast information exchange is vital for this business. They are dedicated people. Due to the specificity of bitumen business, you have to be available 7/7 to guarantee the success. Especially on a stable market, coming as a new player, constant efforts are necessary to offer top services and prove to customers that you are reliable. Which is a challenge for commercial and it cannot be done without the teamwork with all departments. Logistics and supply were put under constant pressure, as the volumes were growing fast and they had to adapt to new requirements.
I remember when I was working in lubricants, here in Total, when we just entered the market, I tried many times to start the partnership with the major equipment dealer in Romania, but without success, despite many meetings with their technical, commercial, supply departments. The market was oversaturated with offers from many brands. I start losing confidence that I will succeed, after a lot of time and resources spent. I remember the day I went again to them, I left my office thinking of another day lost, but driven by the idea that any small chance must be taken. While waiting on their lobby, one person passing stopped and came to me saying: "Hi, I see you more often here than I see my partners and I heard you talking about lubricants, tell me few words". I had all the documents with me, explained right there in the lobby who we are, what we can do for them and proposed an innovative idea to differentiate from competition: to produce a private brand for them, a completely new concept for our market. In the end, I found out, he was the owner of the business. We started a successful partnership; all our departments were involved in the effort, technical, production, marketing, and logistics.
First look, it might seem that I met the right person there by chance. Recently my GM told me a famous quote: Success is where preparation and opportunity meet, which I liked a lot. I think this is the case here. It’s not a story about lubricants or bitumen, but it’s a lesson to me, that you must pursue your target, be prepared and seek for the opportunity. It remembers me a joke, the opposite of my story: A guy was complaining all his life to God, why he doesn’t win at lottery! After many years, a strong, exasperated voice from the sky ask him: "Why don’t you go and buy a ticket then!?"
Of course, nothing could be realized without the team next to me, the willingness to do something new and the expertise behind Total. Because it’s not easy to market a new line of products, new packages, technical data sheets, labels and so on.