George Georgiou: 'A reasonable man cannot to be dissatisfied with Limassol'

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George Georgiou, CEO and owner of the oldest active green energy company in Cyprus, came to the interview with the same attitude he keeps in his entire everyday routine: from the crucial meetings with big investors to the relaxing hours with friends and family. Smiling and laid back, the successful businessman is one of those who master the art of turning funny issues into serious ones and making the serious ones lighter.

Born in 1974, he spent his youth in the decades of economic security and prosperity on the island, when the salaries of the public sector were not just a dream but the reality for an overwhelming majority of young people. George decided to turn his back on this security, not due to arrogance or madness, but from a profound consciousness of his wishes and due to the professional ethos, which today allows him to run a continuously evolving company with large projects in Cyprus and overseas, while keeping human relations, mutual respect and sense of honor, as the basic principles in his work.

Growing up in the neighborhood of Agios Ioannis, he found himself from an early age at the Apollon football academies, where he trained until he became 16 years old, when the competitive enthusiasm deflated. Nevertheless, he remained an avid fan of the team and around the mid-1990s, he had a main role in the foundation of the Football Fans Club, while the following years he became a member of the Board of Directors of the “Apollon Football” company.

"I was very naughty as a child. At school, I was that little boy that would always leave a little bit of hair hanging in the back, after a haircut, ever since the primary school years. We were 2 - 3 people, who were considered to be "the leaders" of the school, and a lot of people were following us. Also, back then, the first flirts with the girls started."​

He completed his military service in the armored tanks, as an officers’ driver. He was preparing to join the marine forces, but a last minute misfortune did not allow him to complete the test. His bitterness remained, but he confesses that, eventually, he had a good time in the army. His father was a technician at the EAC (Electricity Authority of Cyprus) and had a dream to get his son into the same organization. He wanted for his son the same security and the confidence he was enjoying. In 1995, George, after studying Electrical Engineering, had the opportunity to work as a technician, but he never accepted the position offered to him at the EAC.

“A reasonable man cannot to be dissatisfied with Limassol. I don’t know what some people are nagging about... I think it is due to personal or corporate issues.”

“It would take me many years to get where I wanted, if I remained an EAC technician. I wanted to do something that would be mine, so I chose to work for 2 - 3 years at the British Sovereign Area and to see the model of operation in exemplary electrical installations. One day, while I and my partner were installing a lightning rod at the roof, overlooking Limassol, I told him that we should make our own company. The next day we declared our resignation."

The British Sovereign Area system was similar to that of the EAC, and to the Cypriot public sector as well. He felt like he was suffocating in that dry and standardized 8-hour routine of an employee; he knew he could be much more productive. His own company was the only option for him to meet his goals. Money wasn’t his priority. His priority was to satisfy his creative urge and to give room for action to a mind full of ideas.

“You have to be humane, in order to be a successful businessman”

 “So we started with the electrical installation company George Georgiou and Achilleas Michael, making large installations in factories and restaurants. My dream was to proceed to automation, to make installations with computers".

How did the interest in automation arise so early in the 1990s?
We searched for it, we found a SIEMENS advertiser for a relevant seminar. When I showed interest in the seminar, I met Lefteris Malamas, the sales manager of the company, who happened to be in Cyprus at that time. I helped him network with the local market and he secured us 2 places in the seminar. In fact, his partner and trainer at the seminar helped me with some tutoring, so that I could pass the exam, since I wasn’t familiar with the computers science at all.

You find it easy to create personal relations.
It’s important to be able to create personal relations at work. It’s good to be humane, in order to be a successful businessman, as well.

“We were hosting an Austrian once, whom we took to the seaside in the morning for coffee and in the afternoon for skiing on the mountains. He eventually bought a house in Limassol.”

Does the same apply to the partnerships?
There were some cases when we had to turn our back to the prospect of a collaboration, because we knew that if we did proceed with it, problems would arise. There will always be tensions or different opinions, but it is good to avoid controversies. It doesn’t help to come into conflict. It may be bitter, but I am trying to end an issue smoothly.

Are these characteristics of a successful businessman?
The businessman must be fair with his people. Then the team can grow stronger and the team is the greatest asset of a company. Honor, honesty and hard work, are characteristics that one should possess, first as a man and then as an entrepreneur. Eventually, the result, proves me right, even if sometimes I act based more on feelings than anything else.

Do you act like this in your personal life as well?
I manage business issues in the same way I manage the personal ones. I think the business affairs have been an example for the way I need to manage my personal issues.

Is continuous evolution an element of success?
Yes, we were constantly evolving. After the electrical installations, we took up buildings automations and continued to look for more. So, with an initial, very small help of 25 thousand pounds from my father, back then, we made the first order for solar panels. We were the second company in Cyprus to deal with this and the first one in Limassol. Today we are the oldest company in the sector and the first one still running.

“Everyone says how lucky we are to live in Limassol”

If you could choose to live anywhere, where would you live?
I couldn’t live anywhere else. Everyone tells us how lucky we are to live in Limassol. We have friends and associates from Nicosia and other cities that, when we host them, tell us that only Limassol knows how to have fun. We now have so many beautiful walkways and cycling lanes, for a walk by the sea, with lighting and security. We have Limassol Marina, we have so many things that make us proud of our city.

Do you consider Limassol Marina an important project?
It was definitely an important project. It is considered a gem for Limassol and was a great success for the city. As a development, it covers many different needs, at the same time in the same place. Additionally, it is a place that hosts all social groups, both locals and visitors. After all, this is what the admiration expressed by everyone from other places, friends and colleagues, confirms. 

“As for the pollution of the sea in Limassol, we can suggest technologies and measures to eliminate such phenomena.”

What other projects do you think stand out in Limassol?
I would say the biggest was the coastal park and the pedestrian road, where everyone can easily and safely walk. The construction of vertical roads was also important, for everyone to walk down to them, in order to reach the seaside. The foundation of the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT), with which we have a memorandum of cooperation as a company, was also a great success for the city.

Why do you think there is still people nagging about things?
A reasonable man cannot to be dissatisfied with Limassol. I don’t know what some people are nagging about. If anyone is unhappy, I think it is due to personal or corporate issues. Certainly, the infrastructure projects that have been implemented, do support any further development in the city, such as the high-rise buildings that are being constructed now. In order for someone to buy a property, it is important that the city's infrastructure is covering them.

“We still don’t respect the city as much as we should... Perhaps, some things should be enforced, for us to realize their usefulness.”

Everything is done with proper, strategic planning. After the large developments, the casino is now coming to attract other kinds of investors, apart from the ones interested in property in the city. This is important for the city to be able to continuously grow. Someone who comes to the city, seeing its advantages, will want to invest, even if they hadn’t thought of it before.

Does Limassol becomes very “elite” with all these?
I find it very positive that the city is upgraded, new standards are being introduced and the quality of life rises to another level. It's not elitism to have the chance to try, for example, a distinct or special kind of coffee when you go out. The city has its simple side, and yes, it also has elitism too, so it can satisfy all tastes. That's great.

How do you think Limassol has managed to get here?
We had successful mayors, who added to each other's work. We receive admiration for Limassol from everywhere: from other cities of Cyprus, but also from abroad - from Russia, from China, even from Iran, countries with which our company cooperates. Of course, the investment interest that the city attracts has actually made a great difference in Limassol. When such big development projects are in progress, then the quality of life increases in general.

Which ones do you consider as the advantages of the city?
The safe environment in Cyprus is a big advantage, attracting foreign investors who want to develop their activities in the region. Thus, Limassol is emerging as a business hub. The diversity in Limassol is also something unique. Some years ago, we were hosting an Austrian who had come for the Save Energy exhibition. It was March, we sat for coffee under the sun in the morning and then he went up to Troodos for skiing. Eventually he bought a house in Limassol. "I didn’t see something like this before," he told us, "I can leave the seaside and in half an hour later I can go skiing to the mountains.”

“Cyprus University of Technology, compared to the University of Cyprus, has managed to come much closer to the business world.”

The fact that you are in Limassol, is it beneficial for the business relations you are developing?
No matter how unlikely it seems, yes, it helps. Recently, we had meetings with foreign investors, with whom we are getting into a new partnership. They did complain that, while they had heard about the beauties of Limassol, we were forced to stay in the office with cigarettes and coffees during their 3-day visit until the deal was closed. It was obvious that we were offending our colleagues, as well as our city, by staying in the office, since we had the opportunity to do the meeting in so many other wonderful places. The next day, after the complaint, we boarded on a boat and continued our work on board, with a laid back attitude and our sleeves and trousers rolled up. The atmosphere changed so much that we managed to close the deal within 3 hours, and still have free time left for our visitors to have a vacation break.

Are there some places in Limassol that you prefer or love in particular?
The countryside of Limassol is always a favorite destination. Certainly there is a special preference in the villages we come from. We regularly visit Kapilio, where my wife comes from, but also Alassa, from where I come from. The celebrations in the village are an opportunity to enjoy both tradition and nature, but also to strengthen the ties with the family. Also, we love Platres in particular. It is one of the most beautiful destinations in Limassol and we take every opportunity for a trip and dining there.

What’s missing from Limassol?
There are limited places you can visit with children. Now that we have our son, it is difficult to go out somewhere, where he will neither be in danger, nor will he be a nuisance. Such an environment we find in Galactica, but it would be good if there were other options as well. We would like a big playground that can also accommodate parents, so they can relax and calm, while their child will be playing safely. It is important to have a good time with your family, but you also need to respect your neighbor, you cannot go somewhere and let the children become annoying to everyone around. I had seen such a place in Italy, something like a waterpark, but with other specifications, with every facility made of plastic.

Does the tourist product of Limassol seem satisfactory?
Τhere is always room for improvement. If I were engaged in this field, I would try to innovate. I would like to see smaller hospitality units with very high quality services, for example. Other options are units with emphasis on health and well-being.

Does the city have flaws too?
Yes. We still don’t respect the city as much as we should. Some, for example, continue to park on sidewalks, in parking places aimed for the disabled, or they keep littering. Perhaps the city is growing too fast and it takes a while for the citizens to follow this change. Parking issues is a hot topic, because we host foreigners who are used to different habits and we are ashamed of this sight. Also, the city's street network is not very smooth. Bumps, for example, are also a problem. Some of them do not even follow the specifications. Plastic ones have the right specifications, unlike those made of cement.

Perhaps, some things should be enforced, for us to realize their usefulness, as was the case with the sidewalk poles. Some people accused the former mayor of this decision. Was that wrong or did our mentality force him to do it? At first we were annoyed, because we could not park outside the office, but then we adjusted to it. I believe that the same will happen with other issues, too, as it did with parking on sidewalks, for example.

Are we, the Limassol people, resistant to change?
Judging by myself and my social environment, I don’t think we are resistant to change. And generally, you see that the people of Limassol want to try new things, such as this new place where we came today for example. But also, bike lanes for example, which are also new to our culture, you can see that they are full of cyclists every day.

“Not everyone knows exactly what a green city is…”

Can Limassol be a green city?
Not everyone knows exactly what a green city is, and it is many things. Green cities are the ones that act in a way that the environment and the water resources are protected, the energy is not wasted, renewable energy is used, and generally these are the cities that contribute so that a green, sustainable environment can be created for the citizens.

Policies used by green cities to achieve their goals are waste prevention, management and recycling, as well as composting. These cities also aim to raise awareness and educate the residents on environmental and energy issues. They are the ones that give the first example of saving energy by intervening in public buildings so they can upgrade their energy status, by changing the street lighting with energy saving lamps, etc.

“There is the possibility for entrepreneurs to implement measures to construct buildings even with 100% energy self-sufficiency, despite the fact that not all entrepreneurs choose to do so.”

The Limassol municipality has already signed a pact on incentives to make the city green. Today, for example, there is a study on the possibility of using electric buses, a large project run by the Limassol Tourism Board. Recycling is very important, though. We are really behind in waste management. In other countries the waste is even used for energy production.

A green policy is also the program undertaken by the Limassol Tourism Board, regarding a mobile application for finding available parking spaces in the city. Something that makes use of smart technologies can follow a green approach. And this is a part that needs planning. Essentially, anything that takes advantage of new technologies to promote practices that protect the environment, is considered green. Smart technologies always have something to do with the environment.

Is it possible for the large developments to have green specifications?
Yes, there is the possibility for entrepreneurs to implement measures to construct buildings even with 100% energy self-sufficiency, despite the fact that not all entrepreneurs choose to do so. In fact, with a law that is passing now, the building permits will not be allowed, if at least the 25% of the energy needs of the premises are not covered by renewable energies. This can be achieved with heat insulating materials, with solar panel systems and other measures. Actually, even the glass facades of buildings could, with the appropriate technology, function as solar panels.

“We would like to have a big playground in Limassol that can also accommodate parents, so they can relax and calm, while their child will be playing safely.”

Can a technology like this be used in residences?
An old house can become energy sufficient even up to 50%, receiving state funding. Unfortunately people don’t know that and, while deciding to do renovations, they don’t go through the process of upgrading the building’s energy efficiency. In fact, the state will provide extra funding, so that a house can zero its energy needs. All these measures have become more mainstream abroad, because some countries, such as Germany, may have been more familiar with the technology and have been able to get into people's consciousness earlier.

Can the environmental education help?
I'm not sure how much it can help. Some environmental classes or events may be useful, but I don’t know if the proper things for the children’s needs are done, so they can become environmentally conscious. I know, for example, that several years ago we had won as a company a competition for the installation of solar panels on the roofs of public buildings, among which schools, too, which could also be used as a workshops, for children to practically see how much energy is produced and to which extent can pollution be reduced through renewable sources. Today, there are schools with such units, but they don’t use them. Nevertheless, one thing certain is that all companies involved in green energy are willing to contribute with visits, lectures and programs to children's education.

What is your opinion about the discussion over the sea pollution in Limassol?
With the job we do, we always have the environment in our mind. Certainly, when there are discussions about the sea pollution in Limassol, we sure do share the general concern as well. As it happens with all the problems we encounter, we are automatically entering into the process of seeking solutions. And in this case, we could suggest technologies and measures to eliminate such phenomena. There are many options and suggestions that could be implemented by local authorities, especially in co-operation with the Cyprus University of Technology. University, entrepreneurs and Municipality consist a circle that can work very effectively on such issues.

The future of renewable sources in Cyprus is in solar panels or wind farms?
Regarding the wind, I think anything that was supposed to be done, is done. Wind farms were constructed with quite a high cost, at a time when Cyprus had to exhibit a certain number of installed units. However, in a country with so much sunshine, which as an island doesn’t have endless energy needs, nor can it sell the energy in other countries, solar panels and solar power in general, are the predominant options.

Do you think that, at some point, electric or hydrogen cars will make their appearance in Limassol?
Yes, it is something directly related to the reduction of pollutants, which is the next big goal. Electric car technology has evolved much faster, at rates similar to the ones of the conventional car technology. I'm also doing a market research for an electric car this time. I didn’t do it earlier, because I did not think technology was mature enough, but it would be a great pleasure for me to use an electric car, since I run a company that deals with green energy.

“Honor, honesty and hard work, are characteristics that one should possess, first as a man and then as an entrepreneur.”

Can a car like this cover all your needs?
In Cyprus we have short distances that greatly suit the electric car. Of course, the appropriate infrastructure is still missing, in order to park somewhere and charge your car directly from a truly renewable energy source. Today, electric cars are charged with electricity produced in Vasilikos by fuel oil, while charging could be done by solar panel units. For example, there are some charging spots, such as those at Uptown Square, but again, this energy is produced from non-renewable energy sources.

Are we headed in the right way in order to achieve a green city?
We are on a quite good way. Amendments to the legislation are needed, in order for a public building, such as a theater for example that doesn’t operate all the time, to store energy generated in non-working hours and either use it later, or give it at a lower price to other premises, such as hotels for example. But the laws in Cyprus are proceeding relatively quickly and this is rather optimistic.

What is the future for green growth?
The field of waste management, the recycling and even the production of energy from those materials, is something that has great growth possibilities in general, because we are quite behind as a country. We were the ones who licensed and operated the first tire recycling factory in Agios Sylas. Of course, then for other reasons I sold my share, but it is a sector with very good prospects.

 “The cooperation between the CUT and the ITMO is a great success for the entire Cyprus”

How do you see the presence of the CUT in the city?
There is mutual support and cooperation with the Cyprus University of Technology. It's a very good university. We also develop relationships in social activities, supporting the students, running competitions, etc.

There is an ongoing program for the production of hydrogen from solar panels, right?
Yes, through the cooperation between the CUT and the ITMO University of St. Petersburg, a pilot solar panel park of 100 kW will be constructed in Polemidia, in an area of ​​approximately 2000 square meters. We, as a company, invest in ITMO's technology so that the pilot project can succeed and grow in both Cyprus and the Middle East. The cost is large enough and is being covered by the company, in cooperation with investors. The important thing is that, in this case, renewable fuel will not be produced by an EAC unit but through solar panel installations. So, we are basically talking about an entirely green energy project.

So, can hydrogen be the driving fuel for cars in Limassol?
Clearly it can. Whether you make alterations to your car engine or whether the car industry starts to market hydrogen-powered cars - as in Iceland and other overseas countries – this can be a safe, green alternative. I believe that in 5 years we will be able to see on the streets of Cyprus a massive presence of hydrogen cars.

“Coming into conflict doesn’t serve anyone. There may be bitterness after the end of a co-operation, but I try to end a matter smoothly.”

What is the significance of this program for the CUT?
The cooperation between the CUT and the ITMO is a great success. The fact that an interdisciplinary postgraduate program is running, too, is very positive, not only for the CUT and Limassol but for the entire Cyprus, because it is a pioneering technology, and its development may create employment prospects both in Cyprus and abroad.

It is very important for the Cyprus University of Technology to be involved in such research programs, with pioneering ideas, technologically innovative and with the potential to help in the future green development in Limassol and Cyprus in general. Through this program, we expect to see some progress in applying these technologies in transportation, while progress is expected in the large scale energy storage sector, too.

Is the university a leverage for business activities in Limassol?
Cyprus University of Technology, compared to to the University of Cyprus, has managed to come much closer to the business world of Limassol, especially in the field of engineering. This is very positive because companies also benefit from the collaboration and the University. The University’s orientation to the green development helps the city, and also the Limassol Municipality is helping to this as well.

“Today, electric cars are charged with electricity produced in Vasilikos by fuel oil, while charging could be done by solar panel units.”

How is the green energy related to the sustainable development?
This is a development that is designed to avoid damage in the future. A sustainable development project must make a profit today, but also be profitable in 5 or 10 years. This is definitely a part of the strategic planning of the companies.

Are green energy companies just doing their job, or do they want to save the planet, after all?
We are doing our job. Beyond that, the city could benefit if there was a cooperation with the Municipalities. Recently, for example, an offer has been given for the replacement of all the lamps in the streets with LED. We would suggest that this should proceed further, so that the lamps are energized by solar panels units.

The interview was held in the cozy and hospitable area of Caffé Nero in Yermasoyia.

At the age of 43, George Georgiou is a proud dad. He is accustomed to working endless hours, just because the ideas and plans never stop unwinding in his mind. Nevertheless, he seeks to spend as much time as he can with his 3-year-old son, Andreas, and his wife, Katerina.

Perhaps the role of "a silly dad" may be the only stereotype he hasn’t reversed. He did reverse the stereotype that wants the average student, the naughty boy, to not have any progress in life. He has also reversed the stereotype that implies that the public and the semi-governmental sector is the only safeguard for one's future. Above all, he has reversed the stereotype that wants the entrepreneur a distant, stiff and merciless person. The people he works with, are probably the largest investment he has made until now.

Today, he may be running a company with very significant partnerships in Cyprus and abroad, and he may be the Vice President and a member of the Executive Committee of the Employers and Industrialists Federation, Chairman of the Energy Saving Association, Chairman of the Energy Committee and an active member of several associations and organizations. However, George Georgiou, knows that he still has a long way to go. And if something fills him with confidence for the future, it is the belief that on this path, he will always have people with whom he will be sharing the same vision, the efforts, the joys and the sorrows of this course.