28 Jan Ring in the future, the trick is in the trend
Georg Kapsch, CEO of the Kapsch Group, highlights the need for innovation
Kapsch Group is looking back on quite a challenging 2017/18 fiscal year. How do you access this performance?
Of course I am not really satisfied, but this is a situation which we have encountered and managed time and again in our more than 125-year-long history. Two of our four companies underperformed dramatically, and foreign exchange rates had a huge impact. But our main activities, including tolling, ATMS services and IT services all performed well and continue to do so.
In a speech you gave last year, you inspired an interesting topic of discussion— that digitalization is in fact a slow process and has been for decades. What are your current top three trends in IT and communications?
IoT, security and mobility are the main trends at the moment.
Kapsch is a market leader for tolling technologies and IT services. How will the arrival of the driverless car, the connected road and smart transport shape future strategies?
Kapsch is always challenging boundaries, and is ready for a future with these technologies. We provide infrastructure as well as devices for cars and platforms to manage and optimize traffic flow and safety.
“Industry is the driving force of innovation, but startups contribute with disruption. It’s a symbiotic relationship because without startups, there is no industry.” You lead a family business but what initiatives does Kapsch offer small businesses and how does Kapsch collaborate with them?
I disagree that without startups there would be no industry; it might be the other way round. But I agree that industry and startups are symbiotic, tendentially it is true that startups are the prime disruptors. Kapsch has always been an active disruptor. We have our Factory1 Accelerator program which fosters cooperation between us and startups primarily in the mobility industry. We believe in the value of startups but it shouldn’t be exaggerated.
France has Orange, The UK has Vodafone, Germany has Siemens; Austria has Kapsch.
As the head of the Federation of Austrian Industries you represent the interests of over 4,400 Austrian industry members and its related sectors. What do you see as the main challenges and strengths for Austrian businesses?
Currently the main growth-limiting factor is the lack of highly skilled people. The strength is definitely the highly trained and experienced workforce, combined with a small home market that forces companies to be adaptable and serve the world market.
The Mayor of Vienna, Michael Ludwig, commented that one of the main challenges of the labor market, business in general, and education, is digitalization. Do you agree?
I certainly agree that digitalization is a challenge, but I also think that our school system is not of the quality that society and the industry require.
You once said that a company should reinvent itself every ten to 15 years. That means roughly nine to 12 reinventions since Kapsch’s launch in 1892. What is your secret to constant reinvention?
The secret is to be open-minded and to always watch what is going on outside your own industry—the main threats and opportunities are usually found there. But this sort of observation needs dedicated strategies and approaches in how you lead and manage your company.
France has Orange, Germany has Siemens, the U.K. has Vodafone; Austria has Kapsch. When our readers hear the name what would you like them to think?
Well I would not dare to compare my company with these giants. We are small in comparison but we are strong in our market. We are at the edge of technology and solutions and we have a specific culture that attracts our employees and customers. Our size and culture create loyalty between our shareholders and employees. Anyone with an interest in tolling or connected roads knows Kapsch because we are driving the market. The same applies to railway communication systems, and even to IT and IOT solutions in Austria and its neighbors.
What is your final message to Newsweek Readers?
We are incredibly strong in the growing market sectors of tolling and connected roads. The next growth opportunity will come from the development of the driverless car.