István Lakatos, Chief Executive Officer
Even as a schoolboy, István Lakatos, the group’s CEO, was characterised by precision. When he started preparing for the national maths competition at the age of 14, he systematically copied the examples of previous years. He also wrote down which day he completed the tasks, in how many minutes and how successfully. His thoroughness paid off, as he won the national finals of the “Dániel Arany” maths competition in his second year at grammar school.
He joined Műszertechnika (the infocommunications division of which formed Bravogroup) in 1987, after university studies and a 3-year scientific fellowship. This company, which took many different forms before the political changes in 1989-1990, was originally engaged in the manufacture and sale of computers. The necessary parts were imported from Asia.
After the political changes in 1989-1990, the profile of the company started to expand rapidly and, in addition to computer technology, the company first established itself in the telecommunications and then in the office technology business. It was a major turning point when GSM mobile phones appeared in the 1990s, and Műszertechnika became one of the mobile phone vendors. This was the first time that sales were made to residential consumers rather than to corporate clients. They later became official distributors for more than a dozen mobile phone manufacturers.
This growth has never stopped in the company’s life: since the early 2000s, they have also been involved in office furniture, community furniture, networking and document manage- ment. However, the ownership structure of the company changed along the way. The infocommunication companies of Műszertechnika were bought out in 2007 by the manage- ment led by István Lakatos and Péter Lakatos, and the name Bravogroup Holding was born.
“Our motto is progress and growth”, says the CEO, who believes that in life you should never give up. This mentality is also pres- ent in his everyday life. For example, he didn’t give up one of his favourite hobbies, tennis, just because he injured his right arm. Instead, he learned to swing the racket with his left hand.
At Bravogroup, the goal is to be the market leader in all busi- ness lines. In their view, the country is too small to settle for anything less than being first. Once they are established in a sector, they constantly monitor how to expand further in that segment and what new elements can be added to the profile. For example, after launching their mobile business line, they first appeared only in shops. But then they went into whole- saling and repair services and within a few years they had the largest mobile phone service operation in the country.
At Bravogroup, acquisitions are also a common means of expansion. Their strategy is to find industries that are booming today, just as office technology, telecommunications and IT were in the 1990s. Sometimes they “knock on the door” of a potential acquisition target through a systematic search, but there are also companies that indicate themselves that they would like to join Bravogroup. They are usually either compa- nies that are growing and can break through the glass ceiling with the help of the Group, or they are on the downward slope but can regain their strength with some help.
Even though there were a few months during the 2008 crisis when salaries had to be cut, they came out of the crisis stron- ger. As the financial situation of many Hungarian companies deteriorated, they could make several acquisitions.
Today, the 500-strong group is also involved in call centres, smart devices, visual technology and energy. The management first became interested in the solar market ten years ago, but at that time the payback period was long, and the market was too dependent on settlement with the government. However, by 2019, the business environment had changed so much that they have already started in this segment. In addition, they have recently added the installation of electric car chargers to their profile.
The management believes in quick, flexible decisions. They don’t have a set long-term strategy; instead, they have visions and desires that they constantly adapt to opportunities. They believe that the ability to adapt quickly to change is one of the keys to their success. They also rely on bank financing, but largely on their own capital.
Those who join Bravogroup as employees usually do so because they have more autonomy here than in a multinational company. Bravogroup has many employees who have been with the group for 15-20 years, and more and more young people are joining.
Although they are already present in some foreign countries through their Hungarian customers, they do not see the real potential in international expansion at the moment.
Bravogroup has not been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic. While communication within the company became more difficult during the pandemic, there were a number of business benefits in the meantime. Customers have become more open to automation. For example, they could more easily introduce digital signatures.
Management is already preparing for intergenerational succession well in advance. The owners have agreed that they would not necessarily hand over their management positions to their children, but that they would select and train the most suitable and talented people.