EBRD, EIAH and EU help small businesses go online through pilot initiative
When Albin Maior started producing socks in Romania in 1992, he never expected that, by Christmas 2020, he would have to change his entire business model because of a global pandemic. However, when the sales of his company, Larom, plummeted during the coronavirus crisis, he quickly realised that he needed to join the digital world. Luckily, he had some help from the EBRD.
In early 2020, as the pandemic brought Romania to a halt, the EBRD selected 13 local companies, including Larom, to benefit from a full-service package of trade digitalisation services, including a brand new online shop, complete integration with logistics and a 12-month online marketing strategy. These go-digital services were provided under the Bank’s #WeSellOnline initiative (Romanian: #VindemOnline) and were covered in full by the EBRD, with the support of the European Investment Advisory Hub, using funds provided by the European Union.
Joining the #WeSellOnline initiative has been a game changer for the lucky 13. “This project has had a tremendous impact on our company and on Larom’s brand awareness,” says Albin Maior. “We’ve learned to pay more attention to online services and, in the future, we might use the new e-shop to start selling abroad.”
Larom is not the only company feeling optimistic about the future, in spite of the ongoing pandemic. Other apparel suppliers, including Berende, Distinto and Stefi Tex, look forward to dressing the nation this Christmas through their new online stores. In fact, taking the 13 companies online in time for the 2020 Christmas shopping season was always a key measure of success for the EBRD. Romanian shoppers will soon set the Christmas mood with lighting from Led Light District, hang picture-perfect decorations on Wood Mood furniture and enjoy home spa experiences from Ritmo.
Ioana Micu, the CEO of Wine Up, is perhaps the most optimistic of all: “Making the transition to online sales will help us increase turnover and overcome the negative impact of the pandemic. Without EBRD involvement – without the financial support for this project – we could not have made the move online, at a time when sales decreased dramatically.” Now, together with Bar Mag, the wine retailer will help online shoppers end an incredibly difficult year on a positive note.
This is not, however, the end of EBRD support for digitalisation in Romania – and nor was it the beginning. It took just six months to take 13 small businesses online, but the EBRD has been helping Romanian SMEs go digital for years, one by one. Whether that means e-commerce, business software, robotic process automation, production automation or any other solutions to today’s digital problems, the Bank, its donors and consultants have stepped up to meet the challenge.
Bogdan Colceriu, the entrepreneur behind Frisbo and the lead consultant of the #WeSellOnline initiative, is a long-time collaborator of the EBRD. “Together with Blugento, we decided to help Romanian small businesses stay open during these troubled times,” he says. “With EBRD support we were able, for the first time, to offer all the essential digital trade services in a unique package, helping brick-and-mortar stores transition to user-friendly online spaces.”
The future is now bright for small businesses that have the courage to take the digital leap. With top-notch expertise and financial support available from the EBRD, there is no reason why this leap should not lead to greener, coronavirus-proof pastures. As 13 companies bring this optimism into the New Year, it’s up to Romanian customers to keep their small business hopes alive. So why not start New Year’s Day with a locally-sourced breakfast, featuring delicious donuts from Donuterie, rich preserves from Arovit and aroma-filled coffee from Il Caffé and Narcoffee. As the #WeSellOnline initiative has shown, the future looks far better when faced together.