György Vertán, Founder and Managing Director
The first idea was photocopying, which was in great demand among students in the 1990s. “I lived in the biggest dormitory at Eötvös Loránd University, I had my first photocopier in my dorm room. This was followed by the University of Technology, with 12,000 students, to whom we also provided photocopying services”, recalls the romantic beginnings of György Vertán, the company’s founder and Managing Director. Launched in 1996 from a dorm room, Tigra Kft. entered the market as a university business in every sense of the word, a kind of Eastern European start-up in the turmoil of transformation after the political changes in 1989-1990. Photocopying was followed by computer sales, and then Vertán assigned the first programming projects to his talented classmates, who still run the business today.
Reacting in time to constant change, Tigra opened its first copy shop in 1996: the largest and cheapest non-stop location in the capital was at the Budapest University of Technology. “As a university student, I could easily negotiate with university administrators, and because we offered by far the cheapest prices, within a few years we had signed contracts with 10 more universities, becoming a monopoly in the university pho- tocopying market. Our core customer base of 10,000 university students also had significant IT needs, so the next step, selling computers, was an obvious one.”
It was 1998 when Tigra started its software development activities: the first customer of the still very young company was an international company called Psion, which developed personal digital assistants, the predecessor of today’s smartphones. They immediately ordered three development projects: one of them was for Mol.
University roots and links with higher education have always defined Tigra’s activities, providing the company with many good opportunities. “In 1999, many of my classmates were already working for Nokia in Finland. Through these contacts, we managed to bring projects from the Finnish giant to Hungary”.
Nokia was a major partner in Tigra’s life: the Finnish tech com- pany placed a lot of orders, and the prestige boost attracted a lot of talented employees to Tigra. This cooperation continued until 2002, when the joint work was suddenly interrupted. “Nokia decided to transfer all outsourced activities to Indian contractors and terminated the contracts with European subcontractors”.
Tigra, which had gained momentum in the meantime, survived the loss of a major customer. In the early 2000s, the company developed Budapest Bank’s retail credit scoring system, which has been used by the financial institution ever since. And, in recent years, Tigra’s work has become increasingly dominated by assignments from the insurance sector.
In 2000, it stopped retailing computers, and from then on it only supplied complex IT systems to companies. During these years, Tigra has worked for some of the biggest companies, including Erste Bank, Deutsche Telekom, Allianz and T-Systems. Strategic alliances have been forged with a number of large manufacturers, with HP and Oracle products being the most successful.
By now, the dorm start-up has grown into a group of companies employing more than 550 people. “We have 300 in-house programmers and 120 system administrators, as well as 100 experts with irreplaceable knowledge in banking, insurance and public administration”. These experts can provide the added value that Vertán believes makes the difference between Tigra and other companies in a competitive market.
“In addition to programming, we think it’s very important that the client’s business knowledge is also reflected in our heads.” To this end, the company places great emphasis on under- standing the needs of public authorities, banks and insurance companies and serving them accordingly. This also brings clear business benefits. “For example, public administration has a completely different logic and way of thinking than a bank or an insurance company. Mastering this is a long learning process, and one of the most important parts of it was that we recruited colleagues who had worked on the other side for 10-20 years, who knew the needs of the state well, and who knew how IT systems could support a whole sectoral reform. I’m proud of the systems that we’ve put in place in the social sector, our ambulance management system for the National Ambulance Service and the Electronic Registry System. One of our biggest projects at the moment is E-ing, the rewriting of the entire land registry system, which is the most significant administrative reform in recent years. Of similar importance is the introduction of the KSZDR, the Central Personnel Records Information System, a centralised HR system for the public administration and its back offices. Our work with several insurers, including the development of the Opus insurance core system and related systems used by Allianz Biztosító is very important to us”, he added.
Tigra’s philosophy is to attract and retain the “creative geniuses” who define the value and capabilities of the company, creating an environment in which they thrive. “One of the bottlenecks is to find these geniuses, to have a word with them. We have a lot of work to do at the moment, and I wouldn’t dare move to a new field, because I’ve already lured all the reliable, high-performing geniuses I know”, says Vertán. They have won numerous awards: They became the largest Oracle partners in 2017 and 2018. In 2020, they won the national “Family Friendly Workplace” competition of the Három Királyfi, Három Királylány (Three Princes and Three Princesses) movement. In 2021, Matehetsz’ Genius Loci Award recognised Tigra’s help and the Tigra brand won the Business Superbrands award. Also in 2021, the Managing Director of the company’s owner received the HUNGARIAN GOLD CROSS OF MERIT “in recognition of his work in the development of Hungarian public administration IT systems and digital public services, as well as his diverse social and charitable activities”.
The company is interested in further expansion in the longer term. There is plenty of potential in winning large European and American customers, where Tigra has a lot of experience and references.