I was in Romania last week as some of you know. What I learned in a nutshell:
- Romania is still less developed than I expected. 20 minutes outside of downtown Bucarest, horse and buggies are still common. I have not seen that in Europe before in a meaningful way. Ahead of India, but still 15-20 years of development to get to mid-European norms is my guess, at least in the countryside.
- Change is coming fast according to my friends who have been there for several years. It is far more developed than it was 3-5 years ago. They are more optimistic than me about the growth path in #1. They would guess 10 years.
- Romanians (basically) consider Moldova to be part of their country that was split off by outside forces. Moldova is where Romania was 10 years ago in terms of development. I did not go there.
- Like all offshore locations, software talent is now more difficult to find. This is a change that has occured in the last 3 years due to the BPO boom and it is consistent with my experience in India. It is a big, meaty topic worthy of further discussion
- As cliche as it sounds, Romania really is a great place to film a Dracula movie. When the fog rolled in as we went to see where the Danube split Romania and Bulgaria on rural roads with burned out factories, it was spooky. I can only imagine what the Carpathian mountains look like in the fog!
- Like Cyprus has stray cats, Bucharest has stray dogs. What sends one city to the cats and the other to the dogs, I have no idea!
- Food is expensive which is bizarre given low land costs, low unskilled labor costs (150-200 euro / month + 60% social taxes), plentiful water. Likely culprit is the breakup of Communist era agriculture into highly fragmented and inefficient producers. Bet on consolidation and outside investment here.
- CeauÅŸescu liked his buildings big. The presidential palace is the 2nd largest building in the world after the Pentagon and giganticism is probably the best word to describe the governmental architecture.
- I will be back - 3 days was not long enough
Thank you Nicolas K for hosting me and Alex L & Simona L for putting up with me during the day!
I will post some pix in a subsequent email when I have them off my camera.