KRASIMIRA HRISTOVA: FEMALE ENERGY IN THE CAR INDUSTRY

interview by Bozhidara Georgieva; photography by Nelly Tomova

The manager of TSAKI Ltd, is on a mission for a greener world

tsaki krasimira hristova.jpg

Antifreeze, AdBlue® diesel exhaust fluid, windshield wiping fluid, grease... When drivers and car mechanics in Bulgaria and the Balkans buy such crucial products, they often choose one brand in particular. TSAKI has been around since 1989, but had only started manufacturing products for the car industry in the late 2000s. This crucial change took place under the helm of Krasimira Hristova, the second generation of managers in this family owned company. Under her leadership, TSAKI has become a widely recognised name in and outside of Bulgaria, and its products are held in high esteem because of their excellent quality. Mrs Hristova is not only engaged with the growth of the company, she is also active in the public sphere. This year, she joined the Bulgarian Association of the Producers and Importers of AdBlue® as one of its founding members.

A woman in the industry for car products... How was TSAKI founded and how did it grow?

TSAKI is a family tradition, an incredibly strong energy that keeps on empowering both our family and everyone who is a part of our team.

My mother established the company in 1989, and for 30 years took active part in its daily activities. I joined it in 1999. Initially, TSAKI Ltd specialised in distributing spare parts for Russian cars. Later, it changed its focus towards selling chemical products for cars. In 2009, we started making AdBlue® diesel exhaust fluid. The moment we changed from a trade company to a production one, the more interesting part of TSAKI Ltd's history began.

Traditionally, women have dominated our family owned company. Since day one they have had the initiative, have made the first step and have led the organisation in times of crisis. When I chose to continue my professional career in TSAKI, I promised myself that someday I will make it internationally recognised. This would have never happened without the production of AdBlue®. A new product, a new market... It was hard, but along with our hard and diligent work, it helped us reach the place we are today.

I feel wonderful as a woman in this industry. I am surrounded by men, but I have a strong female team behind my back.

What was the biggest challenge that you had to overcome as the manager of TSAKI?

I would say it was to change our perspective. From the emotional style thinking, typical for a family company, to a more corporate way of thinking. You have to take out the emotions from the equation and face challenges in a cold and pragmatic way.

The other challenges, both big and small, are part of our everyday routine.

For me, personally, the biggest challenge was deciding how to continue my career. After I graduated in Brussels, in 1999, I was offered a job at a bank in Luxemburg. I had to choose between Bulgaria and Western Europe at a time when young people were leaving our country en masse. I do not know if I made the right choice, but I have never felt sorry for it.

Where can we find your products today?

You'll mostly find us in the Balkans: Greece, North Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Moldova. In the past two years, because of the natural gas crisis in Europe, we have also expanded towards Western Europe. Our presence there is mostly on retail products and we typically only sell packages up to 20 litre containers.

You started making AdBlue®, a licensed product, after striking a partnership with one of Germany's main producers, KRUSE K.G. How did this affect your business?

The partnership with KRUSE K.G. was key for TSAKI Ltd. In 2007, we were selling chemical products for cars and our clients, rather naturally, expected us to offer diesel exhaust fluids. One day, a client of ours had questioned us about a "blue additive," which prompted us to look into. Back at this time, the European companies that were manufacturing AdBlue were too busy with their own national markets and did not have the capacity nor energy to think about foreign markets, least of all – Bulgaria. It took us three months to land a meeting with Mathias Kruse, manager and owner of KRUSE K.G. On the following day, after the meeting, we started importing AdBlue® in Bulgaria. We quickly realised that we could not be competitive on the market, by importing the product, so in early 2009 we started our own production of AdBlue®, under a sublicense from KRUSE K.G. I am grateful that we learnt from the best in the industry, this helped us expand our business. Later on, a partnership with Shell and Total would encourage us to get our own licence from VDA, or Verband der Automobilindustrie, the German Association of the Automotive Industry, and to continue our growth independently.

What are TSAKI's most popular products?

In the past couple of years we started manufacturing antifreeze, windshield wiping fluid, AUS 40 and several other products. However, TSAKI's flagship is AdBlue®. AdBlue® is a trademark of "water urea solution/AUS32," used as an agent for reducing NOx emissions emitted by diesel engines through a system for selective catalytic reduction (SCR). The product is licensed; only companies authorised by VDA can make and use the trademark AdBlue®. TSAKI Ltd is its first licensed manufacturer in Bulgaria.

How do you guarantee the quality of TSAKI's products?

TSAKI Ltd is one of the few manufacturers globally with its own certified laboratory for testing of AdBlue®. This is our main guarantee for the product's quality. Each batch produced is analysed and certified before being released on the market. Each cistern that leaves our factory is also tested as a follow-up quality control. Our transportation vehicles are specialised for transporting AdBlue. The probability that something or someone at TSAKI messes up during production, storage or transportation has been reduced to the absolute minimum. The lab is what makes me the proudest. All serious production companies have such a facility and now we have one too.

Why did you decide to become one of the founders of the Bulgarian Association of the Producers and Importers of AdBlue®, or BAPVA?

Before the war in Ukraine, the main manufacturers of urea, the raw material for AdBlue®, were Russia and Ukraine. Now that the Ukrainian factories are closed, Russia and Iran have become the only other viable suppliers. However, trade with them is currently very difficult. The 2022 natural gas crisis in Europe caused serious fluctuations in the prices that significantly affected the product's production and distribution. Many producers were forced to use raw materials that did not meet the quality requirements for the end product. The market was flooded with low quality products that could potentially damage a car's SCR system.

We need the government to establish a new control system that is focused on controlling the quality of products. We decided to create BAPVA as a way to help the state to deal with the problem and, with shared efforts, to teach the people how important it is to use higher quality AdBlue®.

If the association helps in regulating the Bulgarian market, we could further expand it in the Balkans. This will establish Bulgarian manufacturers in the region.

How is TSAKI engaged in protection of the environment?

AdBlue® is a product that guarantees that your car will produce less harmful emissions. The brand is a warranty for high quality. A similar product, sometimes with different urea content (AUS40), is used in the filtration systems of heavy industry production, also with the aim to reduce harmful emissions. By making a quality product, TSAKI is actively engaged in the struggle for securing clean air to future generations.

I, as representative of BAPVA and manager of Bulgaria's largest manufacturer of AdBlue®, am dedicated to help initiatives for law changes that will make consumers calmer and the environment cleaner. This is crucial for our health.

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