Jan Karas

CEO OF OPAP

Greece 2022  I  Gaming  I  Interview

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_BIOGRAPHY serving as OPAP’s CEO since December 2020, he is a senior professional, with significant experience in different countries and industries. He is passionate with customer-centricity, innovation, the delivery of positive change, and the development of high-performing teams.

“WE ARE GENUINELY COMMITTED TO SOCIAL CONTRIBUTION BECAUSE WE FIRMLY BELIEVE THIS IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO.”

YOU HAVE BEEN APPOINTED CEO OF OPAP IN 2021 AND HAVE LAUNCHED THE FAST FORWARD STRATEGY, A BOLD INITIATIVE THAT WILL TRANSFORM THE FUTURE OF THE COMPANY. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT THIS AND OTHER ACHIEVEMENTS?

 

OPAP is a company with a rich history and remarkable prospects. Having been with OPAP since 2014, it’s an honor for me to serve as its CEO. Of course, it’s also a deep responsibility, given the current challenges.

The Covid-19 pandemic and recently the war in Ukraine have disrupted business and social normality. Yet, OPAP has shown great resilience. We have successfully adapted to the new operational and health and safety norms imposed by the pandemic. We have effectively protected our financial position and promoted growth initiatives for our retail and online business. Overall, we came out stronger than before and we are well-positioned to deal with any possible future challenges.

 

These achievements were based on two factors. Firstly, the hard work, commitment, and passion of our people and partners. I am really thankful for their efforts throughout this difficult period. Secondly, the consistent implementation of OPAP’s Fast Forward strategy, which was launched in 2021, with the aspiration of reshaping our customer focus, culture, and way of working, among other things.

 

Overall, the Fast Forward strategy sets out clear ambitions for OPAP’s long-term success, focusing on six main areas: 1) putting the customer at the center of our focus in everything we do; 2) enhancing and strengthening our brand; 3) maintaining the strong position of our retail network and exploring growth opportunities; 4) becoming a top-tier online player, turning our online activities into a strong business pillar; 5) exploring technology to deliver better solutions and improve our productivity and efficiency, and 6) engaging our people in line with our overall business plans.

 

THE COVID PANDEMIC HAS BROUGHT NUMEROUS CHALLENGES AND OPAP HAS SUCCEEDED IN ADAPTING ITS BUSINESS MODEL. HOW THE INVESTMENTS IN DIGITAL AND INNOVATION HAVE IMPROVED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?

 

The successful evolution of our business model is a broader strategic “exercise”– it isn’t just driven by the pandemic. We have a specific vision of what success will look like in the future and our relentless focus on meeting and exceeding the ever-evolving customer expectations is key to this. We always factor in trends like the growing use of smartphones, the fact that more and more customers play in both retail and online channels, as well as their expectations of rewards and engaging digital experiences.

To this end, we leverage the power of data, CRM solutions, advanced AI and machine-learning capabilities, to come closer to customers, understand them better, be more relevant offer them personalized experiences, and interact with them in innovative ways and channels.

 

Moreover, we disrupt the traditional in-store customer journey, promoting a fully digital, paperless, and cashless experience, and allowing our customers to have fun and enjoy the game, rather than filling papers. Today, a visit to our stores is much more than just placing a bet – it’s all about entertainment. This is especially evident in our newly launched OPAP Store App, which allows retail customers to play and collect winnings digitally, without visiting the cashier, as well as in our OPAP Rewards loyalty program, through which 700,000 registered customers get rewarded for their play. Last but not least, we continue to invest in our network, with cutting-edge audiovisual equipment being installed across our retail estate for a full digital experience in our ambience. We also implement a comprehensive commercial plan, which takes into account the pandemic’s specifics (e.g. lower footfall by occasional players) and aims to attract more customers, through new product, promotion and communication activities.

 

OPAP HAS MANAGED TO ACHIEVE RECORD NUMBERS IN THE ONLINE GAMING INDUSTRY, A SECTOR THAT HAS ENORMOUS POTENTIAL IN GREECE. WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY FOR THIS SECTOR?

 

In the online market, OPAP is implementing a dual strategy, providing for both the development of our OPAP-branded online business, and tapping the benefits from our strategic investment in Stoiximan. We are pleased with the fact that OPAP’s own online activities report historic highs in terms of active customers and revenue. This achievement is clearly based on our ongoing commitment to making our online proposition more entertaining and personalized, adding new betting content and exciting games to our portfolio, and leveraging CRM to better connect with our customers.

 

At the same time, Stoiximan reports double-digit growth over the past few years, and we have every reason to believe it will continue its upward trajectory, contributing to the overall performance of our group. Moving forward, our ambition for our online business is clear: We want to accelerate our growth, capitalizing on the positive momentum we have gained in the last few years. To this end, we have specific priorities. In the casino segment, we will leverage and optimize our new, in-house developed, frontends, as well as introduce new content, which will be coupled with innovative UX, UI and gamification features, making our offering even more relevant to our customers.

 

In sports betting, following our success with online casino and Tzoker.gr, we are focused on upgrading our technology platforms, to deliver a highly competitive product, with better and faster live betting, upgraded front ends, UX and UI, and personalized reward schemes. Another major point of focus has to do with the development of our iLottery portfolio. We plan to expand our offering with more games and create an online entertainment destination, which will be attractive for a wide array of audiences, with a focus on occasional and social players. Across all verticals we build clear USPs that help us compete and keep growing our market share.

 

GIVING BACK TO SOCIETY IS PART OF OPAP'S DNA SINCE IT WAS ESTABLISHED AND THE COMPANY IS ONE OF THE MAIN SOCIAL CONTRIBUTORS IN THE COUNTRY. CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR INITIATIVES?

 

At OPAP, giving back to society is part of our vision. We are genuinely committed to social contribution because we firmly believe this is the right thing to do. This defines our identity as a company, and we are proud of the fact that OPAP is recognized as a “champion” of social contribution in Greece. Overall, our comprehensive CSR strategy is guided by a key issue for Greek society: Building a better future for the younger generation – the country’s most valuable asset. To this end, we focus on three pillars: health, sport, and employment.

 

Recently, we concluded our long-term and ambitious initiative for the renovation of Greece’s two largest children’s hospitals. After eight years of hard work by everyone involved, we delivered to the Greek State and society two hospitals with modern healthcare infrastructure and an upgraded treatment environment. Of course, the most important thing is the support offered to thousands of children. This is the greatest reward for us! Moreover, our innovative OPAP Sports Academies program stands beside 178 football and basketball academies, which involve 18,000 children across Greece, by providing equipment, scientific and training support. Additionally, our OPAP Forward program has been supporting 59 dynamic and fast-growing SMEs, in their efforts to grow, contribute to the economy and generate new jobs. Our commitment to social contribution is as strong as ever.

 

CAN YOU TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE IN GREECE'S BUSINESS SECTOR?

 

I am in Greece for eight years now, and I am delighted to have had the opportunity to work in the country and interact with great executives and amazing people. I highly appreciate the mentality, passion and commitment of Greek people and I really enjoy working with them. I also admire their ability to overcome difficult situations. Greece has pulled through various crises over the past few years, managing to demonstrate resilience and strength.

 

Overall, I believe Greece has significant potential and opportunities for doing business. The Greek State and companies are focusing on promoting innovation and productivity, to stimulate growth. This sets the foundations for leveraging the country’s well-educated human capital, as well as enhancing its standing in the global environment. Greece is not just about tourism – it certainly has the possibility to succeed in the much broader world of business.