- Data management
- Data Analytics
- Internet of things
- Artificial Intelligence
- Software Factory
- Customer Experience
- Data-driven ESG
- Case Studies
Improving efficiency is one of the most important ways to solve many of today's corporate problems. They want to deliver better products to clients at lower costs, especially now that we are in the midst of an energy crisis. "Everything is based on data - historical data, current data, predicted data, predicting the future. We help customers play with different options and different scenarios of the future. This gives them an overview of what will happen and allows them to make decisions," says Pavel Kysela, CEO of Adastra Czech Republic, in the Business Wisser podcast of the German-Czech Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
- Why are there so few Czech companies that dare to expand abroad and are successful?
- How can companies achieve savings and optimization of their processes thanks to data?
- How does Adastra help clients to reduce emissions?
- What keeps Pavel Kysela in the company after 20 years?
Listen to the podcast
Read the podcast as an interview
Kristian Linkov: Ad Astra means up to the stars. But actually, the Adastra Group is a company with very grounded, down to Earth solutions in data and digitalization. And Adastra is a Czech company with Czech owners and a company that has gone worldwide in numbers. More than 2000 employees and consultants around the globe and a turnover of more than €162 million. It’s all about data and technologies to improve business results. Welcome to the podcast Business Wiser of the German Czech Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Our today’s business wiser is Pavel Kysela, CEO of Adastra Czech Republic. Welcome, Pavel, to our premises on Wenceslas Square in Prague.
Pavel Kysela: Thank you very much for such a nice introduction and for having me here today.
Kristian Linkov: Great to have you here. Thank you. The Adastra Group is, by the way, also a Premium partner of the German Czech Economic Forum 17th of October. If your dear listeners don’t have tickets yet, visit our website GCF.eu. This is your fast track to being part of this great business event where everything revolves around efficiency and resilience. Pavel, your business revolves around big data from the collection to the information management, but also artificial intelligence, software development, mobile apps, and consulting. But what’s the core?
Pavel Kysela: It’s hard to explain and to explain everything. What we are doing would take much more than we have today. But I would say that everything we do is somehow connected to data. Since the company was founded in 2000, it was focused on business intelligence and data warehousing, which means collecting the data from various systems, putting them together, and creating something called a single version of truth for the companies and trying to help the companies to benefit from data and turn data into information. So that was our core business. And as new technologies emerged, we have added many new topics and competencies to deliver to our clients something I called a one-stop shop for digitization, meaning that we would like to provide like full scope of services that are required in the modern era.
Kristian Linkov: So, which company leaders and which industries should listen carefully to our today’s podcast with you?
Pavel Kysela: I believe that digitalization is relevant to almost all industries. As we started more than 20 years ago, our main clients were banks, insurance companies, retailers, and telco operators. But during that time, we realized that we are more and more relevant for manufacturing, automotive, health care, e-commerce, logistics, and all these industries because they are becoming increasingly dependent on data and data-driven decision-making.
Kristian Linkov: So manufacturing is also the core business actually of the German economy. This is a very important part. Adastra connects the analog world with the digital world. Please give us some, let’s say, best practices and some use cases of your solutions. Where and how could you improve business results?
Pavel Kysela: I would pick one project as an example project we have delivered to ŠKODA AUTO, which is, I believe, a well-known company in the Czech Republic.
Kristian Linkov: And not only in the Czech Republic.
Pavel Kysela: Not only in the Czech Republic. Thank you. And it is somehow related to very common topics nowadays, meaning ESG, environment, and efficiency. This project was focused on, let’s say, the best space utilization of containers because ŠKODA AUTO is distributing a lot of its parts worldwide, and they are using containers. And the goal of the project was to use artificial intelligence to fill each particular container most efficiently. And, till now, all this work was done by, let’s say, experienced people. But we realized that by utilizing the best AI technology, we could be much more efficient. And I can say that within the first year, applying artificial intelligence saved more than 150 containers per year, corresponding to more than 80 tons of CO2 emissions, which was saved just because of the technology. So applying this smart digital solution can save money and help our environment, which is also quite important.
Kristian Linkov: This is a business model you could apply to many companies with many articles to import and export.
Pavel Kysela: Exactly. This is very well or easily applicable to any logistics company with massive export, import, and export.
Kristian Linkov: This project was developed in cooperation with ŠKODA AUTO. Or did you have this idea before?
Pavel Kysela: This project is the specific application of, let’s say, the general concept of optimization, which is based on our own and our company-developed optimization platform. And this is just one particular case of how this platform can be used. So, generally speaking, optimization is one of the topics we focus on within AI. And this is the application.
Kristian Linkov: And this is probably not the only project you have and lead right now in automotive, isn’t it?
Pavel Kysela: Yeah. This is just one little example of what we are doing, but it just gives you an idea. Just in the Czech Republic, ŠKODA AUTO works with more than 100 of our colleagues and involves another 200 people working just for those two companies. So we are proud that we can work for them.
Kristian Linkov: To increase efficiency – we were just talking about it – is one of the most important ways to solve many current problems of companies. From your point of view, would you agree that efficiency is the key to the future from nowadays?
Pavel Kysela: I agree 100%. I think all the companies are trying to find ways to deliver better products at cheaper costs to their clients and find them to be more efficient. This is priority number one, and especially now, when we are in the middle of a so-called energy crisis, many of our customers are asking us to help them increase their efficiency.
Kristian Linkov: Pavel Kysela, you mentioned the energy crisis. We also have a huge climate crisis. Decarbonization has become a major task for every company. Decarbonization is also a huge part of the growing part of your business. How and in which way? I don’t know if you can help every company, but at least many.
Pavel Kysela: We can help many companies in this aspect. And actually, we are helping some companies from the automotive industry, and we are again utilizing some planning methods and artificial intelligence where we were using prediction and optimization. We are trying to predict the future of production and CO2 emissions. And at the same time, we try to optimize the processes and some decisions within our clients to, let’s say, fulfill all the regulatory expectations and other things related to CO2 emissions.
Kristian Linkov: Is this based on data analysis and/or technologies?
Pavel Kysela: Yeah, exactly. Everything is based on historical data, actual data, predicted data and anticipating the future. And we are also helping our customers to play with different variants, different options, and different scenarios of the future. So. They can see what happens and make some decisions based on those predictions or models. It’s a combination of several competencies because, as a basis, you need to have data you can play with. Based on that, there is some planning software that helps you to plan the future. And on top of that, you can use statistical or artificial intelligence methods to predict the future or optimize various scenarios.
Kristian Linkov: Pavel, you and Adastra, that’s the story of a long journey of, I think, more than 20 years, you mentioned that. How could you describe yours and the company’s evolution over time?
Pavel Kysela: I would say it was dramatic because when I joined the company, it had, like, maybe less than 50 people, just one office in the Czech Republic in a small villa on Vinohrady. And since then, it’s developed enormously. We expand to many other countries. Now we have offices in 12 countries. We are delivering projects in more than 30 countries. We have regular customers in North America, Europe, and Asia. And from those 50 people, we have more than 2000 and are still growing. You mentioned our revenue was roughly 4 billion crowns. Now it’s five, and we believe, we plan it, next year it could be more than 6 billion crowns. So it’s expanding, not in terms of just the size, but also terms of competencies. And I mentioned that earlier. We started with one single focus on business intelligence and data warehousing. And nowadays, we provide a wide set of competencies covering all digitization topics.
Kristian Linkov: You mentioned the expansion of Adastra. Adastra also expanded its business to Germany, Wolfsburg, Munich, and Frankfurt. There are not too many successful Czech companies abroad. There are some lighthouses we all know. Why are so few Czech companies encouraging themselves to do this step and be successful? And if they are successful, then it’s mostly about digitalization. Why are the Czechs so good at that?
Pavel Kysela: That’s a nice question. I hope that you are right and we are good at it.
Kristian Linkov: I’ve got the feeling.
Pavel Kysela: I believe we are, and I think it combines different factors. I still believe that we can leverage good education systems, at least in mathematics and programming, a tradition in the Czech Republic. I believe there is still a good price-performance ratio for foreign countries, but the price is not the biggest motivator. I think the concentration of talent in the Czech Republic is huge, and we can see it in several companies coming to the Czech Republic and building their shared services centers here. And I’m proud to say that one line of our business is helping companies, especially from Germany, to establish their presence in the Czech Republic. And we are working and Commerzbank, Deutsche Börse, and companies like that and helping them establish their premises in Prague.
Kristian Linkov: When aware of this fast growth of your company, are there some distinctive features of Adastra that you are proud of that have developed through the years? What makes the company unique, let’s say, compared to competitors?
Pavel Kysela: For me, it’s a company culture, and it’s inherited from our owners, and I’m doing my best to keep it in the company and maintain it and develop it. And part of this culture is honesty and fairness towards our clients, employees,r store, and partners. And we believe in a long-term partnership. So some kind of fairness and mutual trust is essential. And another thing, which is very important for me, is that this company was always full of very intelligent and experienced people. And even though I have been here for more than 20 years, there are still many people who inspired me, and I can learn a lot from them. So this is why I’m staying so long and not thinking about leaving.
Kristian Linkov: Actually, this was very unusual when I saw your CV that somebody in the branch of digitalization and modern technologies for such a long two decades, more than two decades in one company, that’s unique.
Pavel Kysela: I have to say that I always had the opportunity to do what I wanted and to try what I wanted, so I didn’t have a real reason to go anywhere else. And I think this is part of our culture, and I like to provide the same opportunity to all our employees to create some entrepreneurship organization. Getting this gives the space for our people to try new ideas and develop themselves and try new ways that we can help our customers.
Kristian Linkov: I think you have 500 people in the employees and the Czech Republic roundabout.
Pavel Kysela: More than 850.
Kristian Linkov: Okay. This is developing very fast. Your revenue is expanding within one day, and the numbers of your employees, too. So our research, we have to update that. All these people were working for you. Are they working mostly remotely because of company culture? I think the home office is a kind of threat to company culture. At least you have to deal with it as a CEO when the company culture is very important for your business and your company itself. So how does this work at Adastra?
Pavel Kysela: This is a very good question. Thank you for that. And this is a topic we have been discussing heavily, at least since COVID started. Yeah, previously, it was a mixture that part of our employees was working on the customer side – because customers usually want to have our people as a part of their teams. And part of our employees is working from our premises. Since COVID, everything has gone online, and at the beginning, it looked perfect that everything was very efficient.
Nobody has to travel, I mean, anywhere. And some people moved to their cottages and worked from there. But quite soon we realized that it also has some costs. And as we are like a project-based company and project organized, it’s much more difficult to establish new teams in the online environment and introduce new people, especially junior people, to the new teams. And as I mentioned earlier, we are covering a lot of different competencies, and I believe that the best value is created when we can mix those competencies. So to mix these competencies and create new ideas, people must meet together and have formal chats, and those ideas emerge during those chats. So what we are trying to do at the moment is to find some kind of balance between the freedom based on the home office and/or working from anywhere and having people at least two or three days a week on our premises and letting them meet. And I think that our new office also helps do that because we try to create a space where we connect different teams, and it helps to create those interactions.
Kristian Linkov: I confirm that you have nice premises. I’ve been there, and it’s perfect. It’s a perfect space from business wiser to best service. I don’t know if you know that this is the German word for a no at all or smart ass. What do you know better today as a manager and person than, say, a year ago?
Pavel Kysela: I think we are all learning every day. I don’t know if I can describe what I have learned during the last year. But in the last or last three years, we have been facing many different so-called challenges, crises, or whatever you want to call them.
Kristian Linkov: Maybe just problems.
Pavel Kysela: Problems or things to solve. Yeah, Yeah. Which makes our work more interesting. Definitely. So I gained a lot of experience because, you know, during normal times, everything is going well, and you are doing just what you usually do, but during the crisis, you typically have to improvise and find a new way to approach problems. So, from this perspective, we learned a lot during the last three years.
Kristian Linkov: Yeah. Finally, in this time of external shocks and insane flexibility, I would say, how do you keep yourself resilient? I think one of your brothers is an Olympic champion, isn’t he?
Pavel Kysela: Yeah, he is. David.
Kristian Linkov: Maybe you have one in the family. Running in the family.
Pavel Kysela: Exactly. I’m trying to keep my exercises at least three or four times a week. It gives me some way how to focus on something else. And yeah, relax. Maybe mentally, not physically, but it helps me energize and keep going and focus on important things.
Kristian Linkov: And switch off the mind from time to time, I think.
Pavel Kysela: Yeah, exactly.
Kristian Linkov: That was Business Wisser, the podcast of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce. Our today’s business wiser was Pavel Kysela, CEO of Adastra Czech Republic. Thank you so much, Pavel. Thank you.
Pavel Kysela: Thank you for having me.