Bogdan Panainte Homplex SA
Made in Romania.
August 16, 2023

The story of the entrepreneur who in college wanted to work in a bank, but by chance ended up selling gas detectors

This article appeared in issue 169 of NewMoney magazine

Image: Laszlo Raduly

Bogdan Panainte wanted to work in a bank in college, but by chance he ended up selling gas detectors. Now he even produces them and is thinking of taking them to the stock exchange.

With the development of new technologies, construction companies have started to invest more and more in them to offer more safety and comfort. This has increased the demand for high-performance equipment to equip apartments or industrial buildings.

Bogdan Panainte (39), together with his brother Tudor (44), has bet everything on an engineering company, Homplex, which offers products and solutions in the area of safety, comfort and energy efficiency for industrial and residential customers.

Bogdan Panainte is a graduate of the Academy of Economic Studies, with a specialisation in finance and banking. Since his second year at university he has been trying to get a position in a bank. He didn’t succeed, but he still wanted to work somewhere to make money. At the time, his brother owned a plumbing company and offered to sell gas detectors. It was hard at first, but as he went along, he found he was good at sales.

For a while, he worked with a distributor of gas detectors. “Initially we bought the detectors from a local manufacturer and sold them in Romania,” recalls Bogdan Panainte. At one point he wanted to increase the volume of purchases, but was unable to get a better price from the manufacturer. After considering several options, he came to the conclusion that it would be best to produce the gas detector himself.

“If I imported it from China, I couldn’t meet the quality standard. If I imported it from the West, I couldn’t meet the price standard. So I decided to build one myself,” he says.

He started designing and developing software for it in 2013 and brought it to market a year later, offering it alongside other products to companies with energy operations. “Subsequently we started to develop the product portfolio, from detectors to taps to flexible connections. We started working with all kinds of companies that were doing gas installations,” the entrepreneur details.

Homplex does not have its own factories, but works with several manufacturing companies. About 90% of production is done through partnerships with companies in the country, and the remaining 10% – with various partners in the region. This year it has reached 50% of the production of the parts it puts on the market, which the entrepreneur says will increase.

The rest of the products he imports, but Panainte says he wants to position himself not just as a manufacturer/importer, but also as a solutions provider for gas infrastructure projects, offering expert advice to clients when they start a new project.

Growth plans

The company has reached a turnover of 6.5 million euros in 2022, and for the current year Panainte estimates an increase to almost 8 million euros. In the future he is targeting an annual growth rate of around 25-30%, although there have been times when the advance has been even higher than that. In his opinion, demand for utility work equipment will start to increase in the immediate future, as funds are expected to be absorbed through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP).

In order to have the best possible presence in the market, Bogdan Panainte has not limited itself to partnerships with companies working in the utilities sector, but has also introduced products for retail networks into its portfolio. The first major DIY chain partner is Dedeman. “They initially took thermostats from us. Then we developed with them both the thermostats and gas detectors side,” he details.

Over the years, he has also worked with other DIY stores, but does not intend to migrate much into the retail area, preferring to stay in the large construction projects segment. Even though the property market has stagnated, he believes it will recover in the coming period, including construction work. Panainte says his business has held its own in the market because he has always been willing to innovate.

“Where we feel and see that we can innovate, that’s where we actually build the products,” he says, adding that Homplex is the market leader in the gas detector segment, managing to sell about 70,000 units annually.

In fact, Panainte says that for his own products, he develops everything from design and moulds to software solutions. Last year, for example, the company also launched its first smart thermostat on the local market, which can be ordered via the internet. Even though it works with several factories where it produces its devices, it is not afraid that these could be copied, because the software used on its products is proprietary and cannot be used by others.

Homplex currently has about 1,500 products in its portfolio and around 100,000 parts in stock. In the pandemic, it has learned that it must continually place orders with suppliers so that it can provide continuity to partners who have open sites. For now, the business is focused on the local market, but it is also considering expanding abroad, targeting Eastern European markets.

He is aware that for such an expansion he would need an investor to help him, but so far he has had no discussions with investment funds. He has, however, thought about the stock market, for which he has already started preparing the company. But he’s in no hurry to do that either. He believes there is still plenty of room for consolidation in the company’s current format, and the business area he has identified since the start of the business has sufficient growth potential.

This article appeared in issue 169 of NewMoney magazine. Click here for the original version.

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