With news on the Greek economic climate changing on a daily basis, we spoke to two MBA alumni living and working in Greece to find out their views of the current situation and the day to day implications of living in a country in crisis.

Nikos Megas (MBA International Business, 2002), is Category Manager for Greece supermarket chain AB Vassilopoulos;  Katerina Kiapekou, (MBA, 2000) has a background in project management in the shipping, real estate and construction industries and also worked for the Organizing Committee of the 2004 Olympic Games. In 2010 she became a francisee of Fairynails, an established brand name of nail bars in Greece.

Nikos and Katerina

Nikos: ‘If I were to choose one word to describe the feeling of the Greek debt crisis, it would be “Rollercoaster”. The debt crisis has been going on for several years now and has been through many different stages. There have been phases where people found themselves on the brink of financial collapse,where people felt relief or comfort because the catastrophe was temporarily averted, but also times where people almost felt like everything was normal.’

Katerina: ‘Personally, I always try not to panic and this is the way I have survived. Many people are easily carried away and get panicked because of the media coverage. I did not go to the supermarket and buy supplies for a month or queue every day at ATMs. However, you can imagine waking up one day and realizing that banks are all closed and you don’t know what is going to happen to your life-time savings!’

Nikos: ‘Working for a supermarket, the impact is obvious. Consumers have changed their behaviour and become even more price-sensitive, moving to cheaper brands, or heading for the special offers. This has made it very important for procurement departments to make better more competitive deals.’ 

Katerina: ‘It was a shock back in May 2010 when we signed the first Economic Adjustment Programme and the situation starting deteriorating. There were hundreds of businesses closing, multinationals transferring to other countries, decreasing salaries and lots of people not being able to pay their depts. That year I had just opened my business. I was discouraged and thought I made the biggest mistake in my life but then with really hard work, the business has managed to grow every year to a healthy profitable business with no debts.  However, we saw a recent drop in business by 35% which is only normal when people were suddenly were left with little cash and were trying not to spend it easily.’

Katerina: ‘There is fear and uncertainty across the country. Even young kids of four or five realize what is happening and ask “Do we have money mom?” I was shocked when I went into a bookstore and found books written for children with titles such as Why dad is unemployed, What is a crisis? and Why mom and dad are not happy. It was a shock for me realizing how deep this crisis has affected our families, how differently kids grow nowadays and what an important role this situation plays in our relationships. It is not fair!

‘Greeks are losing hope given the psychological and economical war we have been involved that past few years. Governments change, people rebel and along with the increasing unemployment they all turn to business opportunities abroad.’

Katerina: ‘We can only hope for the best. Hopefully, the public sector will gradually downsize, the markets will open and a new generation will be motivated to stay in the country and work harder. We can invest in shipping, agriculture and also tourism which is our main profit and has been affected the most.’

Nikos: ‘Life recently has been like living on an Alton Towers Rollercoaster, and all I can say is “I don’t enjoy rollercoasters”. I think it will be a bumpy ride!’