Last year, tractor factory IRUM Reghin celebrated its 64th anniversary, and this historic moment had to be marked in a special way. And the Oltean family knew exactly how to do this. At the end of October, IRUM presented the first Romanian agricultural tractor – a project on which Mircea Oltean worked for several years, and the support he got from his wife, and especially his son, was of great help.
Before the launch of the Romanian tractor, 10 years after Romanian tractor production had stopped, we should explore the way the Oltean family came to take over, restructure and develop a hallmark of Romanian industry that was one step away from bankruptcy.
An example for millions of Romanians
Originally from the village of Jabenita, near Reghin, Mircea Oltean went to university in Brasov. After his apprenticeship, Mircea Oltean seemed convinced that he would stay in Gheorgheni, where he had become a chief engineer at a local factory. But his wife, Violeta, asked him to come back to Reghin. „I was transferred to IRUM, but as a Supply Service Chief. At first I was afraid I would lose my professional skills, but it was actually an opportunity, because I was able to learn about the commercial side of a business, as it was back then,“ says Mircea Oltean. The young engineer had the chance to learn what the entrepreneurial spirit meant at home, too. His father had never worked in a state factory in the communist era and he got authorised to work at home, where he had a small carpentry workshop where he made windows and doors. Mircea Oltean learned in this workshop that he had to work hard if he wanted to make money. In those years, some Saxon friends, who had emigrated to Germany, invited the Oltean family members to the West. They stayed in Nurnberg for a few days, and then found work near Frankfurt. They were working at a vineyard, but the greatest gain of those years was not the money, but understanding how the capitalist economy worked. The Oltean family returned home after a month, and then for another four years, Mircea and Violeta Oltean, together with their son, Andrei, returned to work in Germany each fall. „When we went there the first time, Andrei was five years old. He was saying he wanted to become a tractor driver back then, and now we’re making tractors,” Mircea Oltean recalls.
Two decades at IRUM
In 1993 in Reghin, Mircea Oltean and his wife created a firm they called MAVIPROD. The name is inspired by their own names: M-Mircea, A-Andrei and Vi-Violeta. The company was selling parts and becoming increasingly profitable. In 1996, because IRUM was doing badly, both of the Oltean spouses quit their jobs in order to take care of the firm. The decision seemed rushed, and it was seen as a real tragedy by Mircea Oltean‘s in-laws: they couldn’t understand how someone could earn a decent living without having a job. But two years later, when the Romanian state decided to privatise the Reghin factory, Violeta and Mircea Oltean had the courage to take a loan in the impossible conditions of those times and buy the majority stake. And after a lot of work and massive investments, IRUM began revving its engines.
THE CENTENARY LAUNCH
As mentioned above, this fall, IRUM launched TAGRO, a new, 100 percent Romanian agricultural tractor. „It was the first project in which Andrei was involved more than I was,“ says Mircea Oltean, proud that he was able to awaken in his son the same passion that made him take risks that seemed unimaginable to many of his closest friends in the 1990s. „The switch to agricultural tractors production was a logical one. The global forestry tractors market totals 7,000 per year. The market for agricultural tractors needs over two million units per year,“ says Andrei Oltean. For now, IRUM Reghin makes 500 tractors per year, and the plan is to grow organically and increase exports. For 2018, IRUM Reghin is counting on a 20 percent increase in turnover, while the tractors made in Transylvania have reached markets like Croatia, Slovenia, Belgium, France, Spain and South Africa.