Interview to Dionisios Politis
Could you please make a brief introduction of Elvictor Group?
Elvictor Group was established back in 1977 by my father Stavros C. Galanakis. Until recently, Elvictor had been a family-owned company with its core services being crew management, crew manning and training. Elvictor’s clientele consists of sophisticated and respectable shipping houses. We are manning over 300 vessels from 12 different nationalities and over 4,500 seafarers onboard.
We are proud of our solid family ethos, which was, is and will always be reflected in our customer centric and acute personalized servicing. As stated in our current web site, our ethos, thoroughly expressed through our transparency and our quality standards, is complemented with up-to-date technology driven practices that characterize every dimension of our professional activity.
Previously you mentioned that Elvictor Group was family owned but that recently changed. Could you expound on that point?
Yes of course. Elvictor used to be a family owned-company until the 7th of October 2019. That date Elvictor took a strategic decision to join forces with the entity Thenablers, listed in the OTC Markets of the US. Hence, Elvictor, historically and globally, became the 1st Crew Management and Manning company to ever be listed in any market.
On the 5th of November 2019, I was appointed as the CEO of the publicly listed company. On my 41st birthday, the 26th of February 2020, it was renamed as Elvictor Group Inc. with the ticker ELVG by FINRA.
Elvictor Group Inc. is a newly born entity in our broad corporate structure and is placed at the epicentre of our brand and value proposition.
As a long-standing company of a bit of over four decades, do you have any milestones that you are proud of?
From the dawn of our company, our main focus has been in quality and transparency. This lead to a number of accreditations being acquired over the years, where Elvictor was at the forefront. We were the 1st Crew Manager globally with ISO 9001 in 1996, followed by another first in ILO MLC accreditation in 2010 and, as mentioned, the recent listing of our Company. But the aforementioned are centred around the quality of our work being recognised. That being said, we are striving to expand our list of ISO accreditations, focussed on quality, the environment and information technology.
As we respect the environment, we have been taking steps in becoming more green. An early attestation to that is our 2002 sanction as a paperless organisation. That was achieved by our pioneering move of launching Principal’s and Seafarer’s Intranets, services that continue to exist until today and are constantly being improved upon. I know this ties in with quality as well, although it is important to note that digitalisation isn’t the future only because of its facilitation of our operations, but as importantly it reduces the reliance on material documents, which has a positive ecological impact. In 2010, Elvictor relocated to an energy efficient establishment and in 2011 we invested highly in Green Technology, developing our in-house cloud systems and data centres.
On another note, Elvictor is an associate member of EBEN, HELMEPA, INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO. At the same time, Elvictor is also a proud member of Propeller Club, IMEC, BIMCO and ITF.
What is your Digitalisation Philosophy?
Technology is a wonderful tool and has gone hand to hand with creating industries, as well as ameliorating them. Since the 3rd Industrial Revolution we have had access to computers that cut working hours by a large margin, making jobs both easier and more efficient. We are now living through the 4th and have been experiencing its benefits from its greatest gift, the Internet. Ever since the global unification of data through this medium, we have been able to share information in real time, prevent mistakes and even correct them at a rate that would have seemed like science fiction a few decades ago. Ever since I actively entered the Shipping Sector in 2001, what I saw was a huge global sector not taking proper advantage of the new marvels made available to us all. Inspired by my brief friction with the banking sector, I became determined to bring these innovations to our industry. And what better place to start from than my own niche within Shipping. Hence, Elvictor started bringing about changes in the way we handled and viewed crew management. Continuous investment in information technologies has given us an edge when it comes to the quality and transparency of our services. Our intranets gave rise to a more direct and immediate exchange of vital information, allowing for more fruitful interactions between all parties, be them branch, client or seafarer. Our shift to cloud technology allowed for the creation of online databases and services accessible to all and the ability to work remotely. The next step is the extensive implementation of machine learning and robotic process automation to further increase the efficiency of all our procedures and services. The only constant is change and evolution along the technological path is the wise way to go.
What is your Digitalisation Structure?
The technologies that we use are: REACT cloud technology (Facebook open source) for the front end development, Laravel as back-end technology, Postgre open source database and Mongo Database for big data. There are some technologies that connect with the above informational ecosystem, but I cannot refer to them, as they form the core of our competitive advantage and know-how. We believe strongly in open source technologies and are always looking into google trends and are simultaneously testing various other technologies. We believe in the combination of various technologies will allow us to get the best out of each. We are building some innovative products and services that will be announced until the end of 2020, leading to a further diversification and increase in competitiveness of our services.
Can you refer to some tools from your innovative toolbox?
We have developed our own dropbox-style application in order to provide ad-hoc all scanned documents, reports, certificates and any type of report, statistic, key performance indicators etc. concerning crew matters.
Based on the intranets Principal & Seafarer we invented a toolbox of various innovative services that are above our scope of work requirements and also above TMSA3 and crew management requirements. Some are complimentary to ship and vetting operations, providing a hassle-free service for our Principals.
Interactive scheduling, communication with the seafarer though the integration of our systems with social media, safety html5 coded interactive links are sent to our seafarers, circulars, availability updates, negotiation tools, etc. – all organically integrated to both intranets, providing a nice user interface and experience, tuning the procedures, minimizing the operational “bureaucratic hazard” and providing ad-hoc reporting to each party, with full transparency and under strictest GDPR procedures that we have established.
What is your personal view of the Digitalisation Era?
Data needs to be converted to information, information should be handled by decision making tools, decision making tools should guide the user both proactively and reactively. Once again, the initiation until the result the Human Element is always a MUST.
Human Element is a must and the most difficult part is not developing an intelligent cloud ecosystem, but finding people to realise its potentials. Know-How should be injected regularly into the system. More positions are to be seen in the future that are centred around the handling, teaching and conservation of the technological ecosystem. We are still right in the beginning.
What is the best way of approaching digital transformation?
When approaching any subject of import, you need to ask yourself a set of critical questions. On this subject, I ask myself the following:
- How should I approach the data at hand and turn them into usable and useful information?
- How will I benefit from the derived information?
- In what way do I need to change my approach and tactics based on new information?
After asking those questions, I feel the need to climb a theoretical ladder, whose steps will safely and surely lead me to my goal. For me there are four basic named steps.
The first is “SELF-CRITICISM”, where every company writes down analytically its procedures and its general modus operandi. In this step, the goal is to identify areas for improvement. Approaching the data analysis approach will significantly help them to measure operational efficiency and compliance in a more accurate manner.
The second is “DISSECTION”, where the owners of the business identify the reasons of existence of the manner they work in and this allows them to seek optimum ways to reengineer their structure. The benefits here are the improvements for the status-quo and the formation of their digitalized strategy. The practice of approaching the data here is by doing reverse engineering, benchmarking and root cause analysis.
The third and most difficult is “FOCUSED”. Many companies lose their focus, and the management should be highly dedicated to the digitalization strategy and focus on it. The benefit of focusing on the digitalization strategy are the creation of pioneering initiatives and strategies, which will serve to increase the Principals’ Satisfaction and the Service Value. The approach to data practice is usually big data analytics, segmentation, decision trees and cause-effect modelling.
The last and most important is “CHANGE”, where the management has to think meticulously if they are capable of innovating and investing a serious amount capital on reengineering their overall structure, redefining what they already know, test and invest in quality and change thoroughly. The benefits of these are new data products, data validated actions, higher rate of success and, most important, the alignment of these works with the Company’s vision. The approach to data here is the use of Artificial Intelligence tools, known as APIs, models of machine and deep learning, data driven decision (I call them 3Ds) making and at last bringing enlightened ideas into fruition.
The above apart from thinking of digital transformation, form a high investment in the real meaning of quality;
Having said the above can you state ELVICTOR’s Mission and Vision?
Allow me to comment and say first Vision and then Mission. A company without a true understanding Vision is not capable of having a Mission and surviving in the coming decade.
Our Vision is to become a global, leading Crew Management Company, providing shareholding opportunities to end users of the group’s services, focusing on constant innovation and increase of competitive advantages.
Our Mission is to deliver the most sophisticated, value adding and prominent framework of client solutions in Shipping, while deploying our shareholders’ value through an unparallel combination of expertise, passion, commitment and partnership.
Now that Elvictor Group is Listed what are your next steps?
We just took the ticker and the entity was renamed as Elvictor Group Inc. Currently the company trades in the OTC Markets and the stock is pink. We have applied and expect that in about a month’s time we will be uplifted to QB share.
Concerning our business plan everything is online in the OTC markets and in the SEC filing, the S1 file is already reported. We shall start shifting business contracts from our private company to the listed one as soon as the authorities allow and the market also, because due to coronavirus, such operations take more time.
We are becoming more diversified and we shall have good news and strategies to announce.
Unfortunately, I cannot disclose any information, everything has to come through official SEC announcements. All media will be informed through announcements in the following weeks.
How would you define the macro economic trends and outlook of the maritime industry?
The global driving forces are basically dependent to economic trends and demand for goods. The evolution and operational disruption, is characterized by its determinants, which are the structure of the maritime trade, the size and composition of national fleets, the maritime management new methods, operations and complexity of logistics, the technological advances, stricter and complex regulations, the characteristics of seafarers’ employment and the uncharted waters of the digitalization era. This evolution and operation disruption will lead to the demand and supply trade-off for global goods. This trade-off will increase the probability for an outsourcing tendency to prominent third-party crew management operators, who will be dependent on enhanced digitalization, demanding specialization, efficient logistics and good management initiatives.
COVID-19, Stock Markets meltdown, global maritime economy. How is your strategy affected by this historical turbulence and how?
The COVID-19 outbreak has taken the world by surprise. Countries, cities and ports are locked down. Fear of the unknown has shaken the stock markets, demand for goods is falling and this will have an imminent effect in the maritime world. The maritime world has been suffering for the past 11 years. Stock market historical lows are now being written in modern history.
However, crises always bring opportunities. These opportunities may be a “change of minds”, “thinking out-of-the-box”, “changing tactics”, and redefining what we know.
Imposition of “alternative engineering”, environmentally friendly oil to be onboard ships, to protect the environment was the first cover until today in the maritime periodicals and newspapers. There were deadlines for the scrubbers and the CO2 imposed regulations.
Now there are no deadlines, but a huge line of dead people! Thus, many things will change and at a faster rate than we might have thought possible.
Having said the above, I have a different way of thinking, I am highly invested in technology and I have moved during these times to the arena called stock exchange. Despite this market meltdown and the COVID-19 outbreak, I found and brokered a promising deal with an underwriter in the US, to assist Elvictor with the business plan I have designed and firmly believe in. Elvictor’s business plan is a business plan that takes into account the possibility of any crisis scenario and not future forecasts of the hopeful “if the market goes sky high” type.
In a few words, I have outlined Elvictor’s next steps, we have the support of an investment bank, and I am more than confident of the outcome of our next moves.