By: Norhan Mahmoud and Maydaa Abo El-Nadar
CAIRO, Dec. 5 (SEE)- Shifting between translation, diplomacy, and navigation has aided Aliki Potonou to acquire distinct knowledge before focusing on her business match-making career. In fact, Potonou’s life rotated when the economic crisis broke in Greece. The risk-taker had to return back to her homeland Egypt in 2010 to find herself ahead of another unrest.
Potonou is the Founder and CEO of Gamma Invest, a company that operates in a unique business sector. Despite all the calculations, Potonou launched her company from Egypt’s famed revolutions square ‘Al-Tahrir’ amid the unrest, but she insisted to keep going.
Her recent contribution is being the brains behind proposing the establishment of a Greek Zone in Egypt and an Egyptian Logistics Area in Greece.
Wanna know more about her adventurous business journey? Just scroll down.
• ‘Gamma Invest’ is a unique firm, could you explain to our readers your business approach?
Match-making and serving Egyptian and Greek investors is the core point. I intend to bring businessmen together to brainstorm and share ideas. We need to promote relations, increase awareness and enhance networking. Gamma, as a word, means gathering and that what I am trying to do, we need to cooperate not to compete.
‘Gamma Invest’ is also an agent to a Cypriot university, an Australian company and Greek and Cyprus real estate developers.
• What was your career’s breakthrough moment?
It was a business delegation with the Egyptian Junior Businessmen Association with Omar Sabbour, Hossam Farid, Ahmed Mashhour, Mohamed Tera with Athens Chamber of Commerce, which is the largest chamber that has more than 80,000 members. We signed MoU which was very significant as both countries were in crisis.
• How did your company survive the recent crisis in Egypt? What was the best lesson you learned from the situation?
Everyone used to blame and criticize me at the beginning, but actually these crisis motivated and pushed me forward to prove that my ideas will stand out. I learned that there is always opportunity in crisis and for me it was the time to create my own working environment and implement my preparations.
• How do you foresee the Egyptian-Greek Relations in light of successive presidential summits?
I don’t want to exaggerate, yet I wholeheartedly believe that we are witnessing a golden era. The current change is promising, but in business we put politics aside and focus more on boosting economic performance.
• But, political crisis, for example revolutions, affect economic activities?
I don’t believe that revolutions will occur again. El-Sisi is combating terrorism on a wide scale. All the dual agreements are amongst the largest worldwide, but we are awaiting plans to be put into actions and develop ourselves.
• What will make the Greek zone and logistics area stand out?
Historically, Greeks and Egyptians hold a unique bond; both people are similar and alike in many ways. This deep understanding and harmony is what will guarantee success and distinguish the dual business environment. Greeks are experts in the navigation sector and shipping and this will be a win-win scenario. Especially, if maritime businessmen visit the new Suez Canal, they will get impressed.
• What motivated you to propose the ideas?
I have my own vision. I always expected that cooperation is on its way as the rich history of both countries suggested so. I was determined that Cairo and Athens will survive from the crisis. In fact, the available resources highly suggested that Egypt and Greece had a high potential. Governments do not have to do everything; people themselves should be more pragmatic.
• So, regarding the ongoing crisis in both countries, do you feel depressed?
We all face depression and I get upset but the ongoing reformations and mega projects are motivating. President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is too supportive especially with women and youth. Egypt, specifically, is witnessing a turning point. Actually, there are many achievements unknown to the public; we need more propaganda.
• What are the obstacles faced by an investor?
The routine and bureaucracy. Any businessman looks for security, low taxes and cheap labor. I can see that the way is being paved for these three necessities in Egypt after attending presentations at the ministry of investment.
• Which Greek investors are keen to come to Egypt?
Surely, Food industry, their CEOs have strong intentions to come. The same is with building materials, maritime services, shipping, water desalination and renewable energy companies.
• What products/fields will be of benefit to the Egyptian Greek cooperation?
The oil sector would benefit both countries. The Mediterranean has a vast wealth of gas and Egypt is expected to be the main gas exporter globally. Also, the food industry and building materials are promising.
• Could you rate the new investment law?
It is very efficient. I was overwhelmed while attending an orientation at the investment authority that reviewed how one investor can establish his own company in just 9 hours in one place if you have all your documents in hand. Lawyers, Trade Chamber members and banks are now assembled under one roof. This is truly amazing.
Another thing is that investors were skeptical about transferring their profits, but now all issues are solved. Also, international firms no more need an Egyptian partner to set up their business. There is more freedom now.
• What are your upcoming projects in Egypt?
I am working to organize an EGC businesswoman conference between Egyptians, Greeks and Cypriots to cover three main sectors: trade, investment and tourism. Females have so much power and ignite positive energy wherever they go. I also plan to organize more meetings to increase awareness.
• What is your advice to female entrepreneurs?
Don’t Give Up and keep going .They should read a lot, not only books but also news articles and reports to build a vision. To know about anything you must read its history.
• How did you manage to succeed as a woman in a male-oriented society?
Conversely, because I am a female I received much support in my early beginnings. I know that this not common but I was fortunate. In fact, there are campaigns that urge women to speak up and share their stories.
• What is your Favorite Greek proverb/ saying?
Whenever I read Socrates’ saying “The only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing” I feel that it speaks of me.
• What keeps you going?
My sense of responsibility do. I do not believe in the one-woman show, we should erase such ideas, teamwork is a must. A well-managed team is one of the keys to success.
• What can we, here in Egypt, learn from Greece’s flourishing tourism sector?
Here, we have to utilize the opportunity and give special credit to the very active Greek Minister of Tourism Elena Kountoura who was successful to attract 32 million tourists this year to Greece which is almost 200% more than the country’s population.
I would like to draw tourist’s attention that there are more than 3000 outstanding islands not only Mykonos and Santorini.
• In your own point of view, what would make Egypt’s tourism sector flourish?
There are signed agreements between the Greek and Egyptian counterparts, we need to activate these MoUs and re-consider the proposal of the Egypt-Greek marine transportation and tourism.
Journey of the holy family inclusion in the sector is also a good plan. In Egypt, there are 25 points at different govern-orates in Upper Egypt that the holy family traveled through. If this idea of religious tourism is considered, the sector will not only flourish but boost other sectors as well.