The founder of Alias Group consultancy company, skillfully balances between finance and cinema
When an Italian decides to open a business in Bulgaria, their best decision will be to seek the services of Alias Group consultancy company. Alias Group's competent team of professionals is invaluable in strategic consulting and company establishment, property buying and management, assets acquisition, consulting and access to EU funding. The company also offers sustained support for international operations in Bulgaria. We wanted to learn more about Alias Group, so we talked to its founder, Francesco Frattini, a finance consultant with over 30 years of experience in Italy and Bulgaria.
Why and how did you start doing business in Bulgaria?
I arrived in Bulgaria in 1990 because of love, as in Italy I had met a Bulgarian girl who I later married. As I was travelling to Bulgaria frequently for years on end, because of my family, I was able to notice the opportunities for business that this quickly developing country was providing. In 2005, I helped some Italian clients who wanted to invest in real estate in Bulgaria to sign a property deal here. I founded Alias Group so that I would be able to service them. One step at a time, we built a portfolio of over 200 client companies. In 2009, I moved to Bulgaria. Today our team numbers over 35 and we are the largest consultancy company working with Italian companies in Bulgaria. So far, we have serviced 700 companies.
Is making business in Bulgaria different from making business in Italy?
The differences decreased significantly over the years. Years ago, it was much easier, but also riskier, to make business here compared to Italy - there were less control and more entrepreneurial and bank freedom, but also more risks and freedom for the unhonest players. Today, thanks to stricter European laws, an unhonest entrepreneur cannot any longer use the doors in local laws or weak banking control to make business "on the edge." This inevitably improved the level of foreign investors to Bulgaria. My clients in Italy are mostly interested in paying as little taxes as possible. In Bulgaria, the taxes are mere 10% and this is very stimulating.
What does Bulgaria look like as a place for investing in 2023?
Bulgaria remains an interesting place for doing business, as its business climate is good, the labour force and the energy are cheap and the Middle Eastern markets are close. The main problem is that it is increasingly difficult to find people, mainly for mid- and low-level positions: workers, seasonal workers, employees. This is why for years we have insisted that the government should open preferential channels for import of labour from Third World countries. Garment workers for the Bulgarian clothes industry, for example, could be imported from Bangladesh, like Romania is doing. The same goes for manufacturing and even more for agricultural seasonal workers. Construction and real estate are another interesting field with potential for development. Their current boom can last a couple of more years.
What is the profile of Italian companies in Bulgaria at the moment?
Today, in Bulgaria are interested entrepreneurs who want to manufacture low tech goods, and labour and energy are still an important factor, as in Bulgaria labour still costs less than half than that in Italy and in some fields it is even one third of what is paid in Italy. They, however, are inevitably restricted by finding workers, so we are talking about SMEs that need less people, or staff of about 10-15. Above this number finding workers gets very difficult. There is interest in property and alternative energy, most of the investors are interested in photovoltaic facilities. The IT sector, like digital startups, is also attractive because it offers highly specialised and educated employees at lower costs, and because it lays less taxes compared to other EU countries.
Why does an Italian company that is stepping in Bulgaria need the help of Alias Group?
Alias Group, compared to other consultancies in Bulgaria, has several strong sides that make it almost unique for the local market. First is my year-long experience in economy and finance. I have been engaged for over 27 years in consultancy first in Italy, and then in Bulgaria. The contributors working at Alias Group have over 15 years of experience. Many of them have been with us since the very beginning or at least for 10 years. All of them are fluent in Italian which guarantees proper communication with our clients. Last but not least comes the fact that after so many years on the local market we have an in-depth knowledge of the Bulgarian realities and institutions, and have developed excellent relationships and recommendations from the main financial institutions, state agencies, Italian organisations etc.
Which are the most popular services of Alias Group among your clients?
Our main field of activity, where we are best prepared and the proudest with, is helping startups. We can serve entrepreneurs at any moment, by guaranteeing that all local laws will be respected, that we will avoid problems, red tape delays, linguistic misunderstanding and others. We guarantee to all entrepreneurs who decide to trust us that with us their company will start working quickly, in full compliance with the law and without any unpleasant surprises. I believe that this is the foundation for the future success of any Italian entrepreneur who decides to open a business in a foreign country.
Of course, the business's success depends entirely on the entrepreneur's talent and skills. Our greatest source of satisfaction is that for over 18 years in Bulgaria NOT A SINGLE Alias Group client has declared bankruptcy and had unpaid debt to local financial institutions. NEVER. The entrepreneurs who have closed their businesses choose to do it either because they decided to go out of business altogether or because of problems with the Italian mother company. This is what makes me proudest.
What else, besides business, gets you excited about living in Bulgaria?
I am proud that last year I had the opportunity to dive deep into the world of cinema. I wrote the screenplay and produced a movie here. Block is about the interconnected stories of the residents in a Sofia apartment building during lockdown and about the power of feelings. It was shot by a Bulgarian team entirely and without any state funding. I am proud of the result. Block was already screened during the International Sofia Film Fest and the Golden Rose festival, and its official premiere was on 31 March. I am satisfied with the result - after 27 years of working with numbers and finance, it was a great pleasure to change my cloak for some time.
Sofia, 14 Georgi Benkovski St
phones: +359 2 983 20 71, +359 2 983 35 96