Smart cities and a sustainable future require smart and sustainable solutions! Platio produces “walkable solar tiles mounted on recycled plastic paving slabs”.
We chatted with Gábor Hamsik, the managing director of Platio, about many exciting topics from Platio’s work, combining traditional work experience with the sustainable business for a green future to preventing burnout at work. Read the article to get great insights from this veteran director.
Could you please tell us what Platio does?
The company was founded in 2015 as a start-up with three technical young guys from Hungary. The main idea behind this was to do something with the plastic which we have around and with the boring grey pavements that you see on the roadsides.
The Platio Solar Pavement uses renewable energy and recycled materials to create a sustainable building material for outdoor, walkable surfaces around buildings, homes, or public spaces. From rooftop terraces of commercial buildings and driveways of homes to pontoons in marinas or squares and sidewalks of smart cities - it can be used wherever conventional solar technologies cannot be deployed.
Our goal is to make sustainable technologies part of modern architecture and pave the way to aesthetic, space-saving and green powe rsources.
The core business is to produce the frame for the PLATIO of the recycled plastic materials, and on top of these, we put the solar panels, which we assemble at our Hungarian plant.
The evolvement of the PLATIO product started in 2015,which we are continuously developing and renewing with the support of our creative and innovative founders.
The company had got angel investors at the very beginning, but in 2018 also prominent financial investor got involved. I have joined the company after this investment in 2019.
We aim to step out from the start-up to scale-up phase and be a stable SME organization. Launching a new model, received CE and ISO certifications, and built up the production facility have been our significant milestones. We have also started to build an international distribution network consisting of 26 partners covering 45 countries. One of our major in Germany is based in Nagold near Stuttgart, but we also have other partners outside of Europe.
Can you tell us about the organization of the company?
We have 15 people working at PLATIO today. The production is based in the eastern part of Hungary, and our head office with the sales and marketing organization is in the heart of the capital city in Budapest. The team is very diversified, besides the young innovative aspects also the seniority and experience are represented.
You have a background in business management, marketing, development, and sales. What did draw you to work for a company that uses recycled plastic and solar PV?
I have always been a green guy – using more sustainable alternatives, recycling, climate change topics, finding the ways we could save the planet *laughs*. I was working in the chemical industry for the past seventeen years. When Platio found me to join them, it was a great challenge for me. What we do is “double-green”, you could say, repurposing not only plastic but also using renewable energy. The major reason why I joined this company is that I found this product innovative and attractive – not just as traditional work. It is a BiPV product that is getting more and more popular with increasing applications in architecture. One of our major challenge regarding the change is to define our product as an aesthetic building material, not only a solar panel. We want to target those we do not wish to or can not have the traditional solar panels on their roofs for various reasons.
I see; I think it is great that you are addressing that gap in the market; this brings solar energy to more people.What would you say is the biggest challenge that Platio is facing?
Our biggest challenge is introducing the world our product; to show its existence; to educate people about its workings. This is generally a different product category that you need to build up. First, you need to create awareness of the product; then, the purchase order will arrive. This is one of our major challenge and activity today.
I saw Platio’s video about the solar mobile charges on benches, and I was intrigued by it; I think it very nicely shows the practical and immediately usable aspect of it.
Yes, but that is only a small portion of our work. We primarily focus on solar pavements that people can install in front of their garage, house, office. We have a couple of installations for mobile chargers; that’s probably the video that you have seen, but they are only in Hungary and a very small percentage of what we do.
I think it still gives a great message about the immediate availability of energy. Even though you have the solar pavement in front of your home, as you said, sometimes we have a hard time grasping the concept of how it goes into our grid and how close the energy is to us.
It is important to mention that there are two kinds of installations: off-grid and on-grid. We have one big application of a bicycle path in Hungary. It is installed in a way to feed the lamps on the side walk. This is an off-grid solution.
Many news outlets were fascinated with Platio and what you as a company have been doing. Would you say that this is a natural reaction to the relevance of the product, or would you attribute it to the marketing efforts?
We need to make substantial efforts in terms of marketing, yes. The structure of our product is its topping is glass, and to many people walking on a glass pavement sounds weird, but this glass is hard-tempered and slip-free. This is something we need to convey; it works like a typical pavement.
Are there any future products, or will you stay focused on the current products first?
Of course, there are future ideas that we like to explore, but it is vital that we also stay focused and work out solutions step by step.
Do you have personal dreams or projects regarding the future?
When I was thinking about what to do about a green industry, renewable energy and I always arrive at a point that I believe that Platio is the right one for me. There are advantages and disadvantages to building a company from scratch with an unknown product line, but you need to understand and love what you are doing. This is a hectic and stressful life, but if you can not cope with it, you should rather leave. Each day is a huge new challenge for us; we need to adapt, and the case put the excellent change in place.
You are very passionate about your job, and you are also very committed to sports, as I understand. How do you manage to do it all? And keep it in balance?
That’s a very good question. What I always use to mention that you need to find the proper work-life balance to avoid burnout. Burnout is something very dangerous, and once you are burnout it is too late. So it is essential to find the balance. Sports are a perfect example. I professionally play tennis, meaning that I also take part indifferent competitions, tournaments. It keeps me balanced. What I say is If you need to go for a walk, just go for a walk. If you want to take the half-day off, do it. People need this to keep batteries charged.
It is vital to have someone like you take care of their people, let them know that it is okay to take breaks, the off-time is off-time, and the vacation is vacation. Unfortunately, I have to say this is not very common.
Yes, many leaders might forget that people are THE primary value for a company. If you can’t manage them, they will leave, and the cost and time of the replacement will “eat your energy”. However, I consider myself a transformational leader, meaning fostering a positive environment, stimulating creativity, radiating passion and enthusiasm. I encourage people to share ideas, or if there is something you don’t understand, tell it, ask it rather than keeping silent and doing the wrong thing, making bad decisions.
It sounds like you are feeding off the good energy and give it back to your people. I think this is an excellent business vision.
Yes, I am proud that even we had hard times in the past two years, the fluctuation stayed very low, even at our production facility. There were days without production, but the people are the same.
Thank you very much for your insights and this lovely chat. We believe your vision and your attitude towards sustainable businesses and work culture will be inspiring for our readers.Thank you for sharing Platio’s vision and work with us; it is a company that we will be watching closely.
If you are interested in reading more about Platio's work, please visit their website here.
This interview was made by our audience contact manager Carolina Garcia; transcribed and edited by Merve Özcaner.