George Margonis has been the General Manager of Philip Morris Bulgaria since 2016. He has more than 18 years of experience working in Philip Morris International. He started his career in the company in the Sales Division of the Greek affiliate of the corporation. At that time Margonis held different positions in the Sales and Marketing division. In 2009 he transferred to the company headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland where he took the position of Regional Manager for Sales Strategies for the EU region. In 2014 Margonis was appointed Director for Sales and Distribution for Greece, Cyprus and Malta. He has a degree in marketing and management from the Тесhnоlоgісаl Еduсаtіоnаl Іnѕtіtutе in Athens. Margonis also holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Кіngѕtоn University in the UK.
PHILIP MORRIS IS DESIGNING A SMOKE-FREE FUTURE IN BULGARIA
- How did the business model of the company in Bulgaria change upon launching the first tobacco heating devices IQOS and what investments have you made so far?
When two years ago we launched the tobacco heating device we had to be ready to meet the needs of the adult consumers and those needs significantly increased. Therefore, we started transforming our business model and expanding the small Bulgarian office of the company. As a result, Philip Morris Bulgaria now employs approximately 100 people and partners with more than 400 mobile coaches who work towards increasing the awareness and understanding about the tobacco heating system. All of these people are now dedicated to designing a smoke-free future in a new environment where the launch of the IQOS tobacco heating device is not only about “covering” the market with a new product, but it goes hand in hand with innovation, technology and customer care. This entire infrastructure should be in place and function efficiently so that we can address the needs of the adult consumers. Such a change in the business model and such expansion requires big investments. New stores are being open in the big cities along with the so called IQOS “pop-ups” in the large city malls in addition to the partnerships with the retailers in the smaller towns. Recently a new call centre has been opened in Bulgaria managed by Concentrix – a global technological company. The employees of the call centre will provide services to customers in Bulgaria and Italy.
- As of the beginning of October this year IQOS is available on the US market. Tell us more about this.
We are pleased that IQOS is now sold on the US market. This is the only tobacco heating nicotine delivery system that passed the premarket tobacco application procedure of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which issued an authorization for sale in the US on 30th April, 2019. Being granted such authorization is very important as FDA is probably the most stringent regulator in the world. Hence, this will impact the other markets in the world. On 4th October the first IQOS store opened in Atalanta, Georgia which was the first step on the US market.
- How will your presence on the US market impact the sales and consumer perception in the markets globally?
Let us not forget that the US is the second biggest market in the world after China. There are 40 million adult smokers in the US and it is important that they have access to a new alternative that is scientifically proven to be better than traditional cigarettes. Most probably, the US users have already seen the product in other markets. It is associated with innovation and technological advancement and the adult smokers in the US who would not quit smoking deserve to have access to this smoke-free alternative. Our smoke-free device is available in 51 markets around the world and has more than 12 million IQOS users.
I should reiterate that tobacco use is not risk-free, but our research data show that IQOS generates up to 95% reduced levels of harmful chemicals compared to the smoke of conventional cigarettes= This does not necessarily equal to 95% reduced risk. IQOS contains nicotine, which is addictive, and the product is intended only for adult smokers only who are not willing to quit and would continue to smoke.
- The new IQOS 3 DUO has recently been launched on the Bulgarian market. What is different in it compared to the previous version of the smoke-free device?
Two years ago, when we launched our first IQOS device we promised our consumers to constantly improve the device. This is technology and we know that technologies develop fast to catch up with consumers needs. Our main goal is to address all issues that our users report.
Around this time last year, we launched IQOS 3. It was a dramatic change compared to the previous version of the device in terms of technology, design, charging time and robustness. A couple of weeks ago we launched IQOS 3 DUO, which is developed based on the users’ feedback. IQOS 3 DUO allows for two consecutive experiences without waiting for it to recharge and the time for charging the holder is significantly shorter. The new version also features additional LED lights that show the time until the next charging of the holder. These are all changes that we know that our customers expected compared to the previous versions.
The interview is published with the support by Philip Morris Bulgaria.