Plovdiv-based medical and aesthetic equipment manufacturer BTL Industries has seen impressive growth in revenue in recent years. Though the company did not remain unaffected by the COVID pandemic in 2020, it managed to more than compensate the slight drop and nearly double its turnover in 2021. Its profit also surged 2.5 times, ensuring a margin of over 32%. The growth was driven mainly by aesthetic equipment sales and strong demand in the European Union and the United States, where the company's core markets are.
Starting as a small production facility in 2006, BTL Industries today has more than 500 million levs revenue and the number of employees is planned to reach 1,000 next year.
For a medical equipment maker, one could expect strong performance in times of pandemic. But it was actually the aesthetic line that drove BTL Industries' business last year. Some 40% of all sales came from such solutions and more specifically from Emsculpt Neo, a product combining several therapies that shape the body and build muscle. The price of the basic model is 100,000 dollars - and goes up with add-ons.
"There was a boom in demand for that product and that was one of the reasons why we were so successful last year. If you ask me why people bought aesthetic equipment during the pandemic, I cannot say. But they decided to be beautiful and the aesthetic business skyrocketed," BTL Industries CEO Georgi Petkov told the Capital.
Sales were up in the company's two other lines of business too: cardiology and rehabilitation solutions. But as people rushed to healthcare facilities after the first shock of the pandemic waned, that brought about shortage of equipment.
With the growth in business in the past few years BTL Industries has run short of space at the premises it currently rents. Therefore the company has started the construction of its own production building that will ensure its further expansion.
The Bulgarian factory is the only production facility of Czech owner BTL, so all products for the world markets are actually manufactured in Plovdiv. The problem at present is that the different operations - assembly, production of metal components and logistics - are scattered at several locations in the city.
In order to house them under one roof, BTL Industries is building a new 25,000 sq. m factory near the center of the city. The investment in the project is assessed at 30 to 40 million levs depending on the construction costs. The building will be equipped with a 1-megawatt solar park that will meet the company's energy needs.
The new building will not house BTL's Bulgarian R&D center, which is located in the capital Sofia and is one of five such units of the group worldwide. "The rest are in the Czech Republic, Russia and India and another one is planned to be opened soon," Petkov said but did not specify the location. The R&D center in Sofia focuses on improvements and innovations in aesthetic and rehabilitation equipment and has a team of 50 employees.
Catching up with staff
The construction of the new production facility will accelerate the company's growth. The factory is planned to open in the second quarter of 2023 and by then BTL Industries hopes to increase its team to 1,000 employees. That is another measure of the company's fast development so far: from a staff of 100 people or so some 10 years ago, it currently has 500 employees and the number will reach 600 by this year's end. That includes production workers, as well as employees in the logistic, administrative and service divisions.
According to production manager Veselin Karavasilev, one of the most important and difficult tasks is to make sure that the hiring and training of employees catches up with business growth. "We are now actively building up the company's structure and adding new managerial positions in order to prepare for the growth we expect in the coming years," Karavasilev said. At the same time BTL Industries can boast a very low staff turnover: about 7%, compared to 15% in the industry.
The constant need for more trained workers is the reason why BTL Industries actively supports local vocational education by providing modern equipment and internship programs to schools. "We have developed the curriculum and we are training pupils for the entire industry, not just for our production needs," production team leader Alexander Ivanov explained.
Back to production and development
The company's philosophy is to reinvest its profit directly in expansion and R&D. BTL Industries aims to offer a new medical equipment product every two or three years and to constantly upgrade and adapt the existing models to the market needs. The company manufactures most of the necessary components itself: some parts are made in Plovdiv and others in Prague. These are the most essential components for the products, which minimizes the company's dependence on external suppliers.
BTL Group operates in more than 100 countries and has own offices in some 60 countries worldwide. The latest additions have been the offices in Bangladesh, Myanmar and Nepal. The company sees potential in the Middle East, where it is already present in Iran, Iraq and countries on the Arabian Peninsula, as well as in Africa.
"We examine the market, the local conditions and the situation. If there are no obstacles, we just enter," Petkov said. Once established in a given market, BTL starts expanding its product range there.
With the start of the war in Ukraine, BTL has lost its market in Russia. Nevertheless, in Petkov's words, that has not affected the group's results substantially.
Therefore the expectations for 2022 are positive. Judging by the orders and market trends so far, sales will increase by some 30% and BTL Industries will have another year of strong performance.