What types of activities will overcome the crisis
caused by the COVID-19 pandemic most easily?
Will it perhaps be hairdressers or maybe beauticians?
It may sound pretty odd, but the waiting lists are already being made, for all of us have become like hermits
in a way, and at the same time, we should go out among the people and look decent.
Then, we have car mechanics who take care of our vehicles; they fix and patch to make things last longer.
The list is not short, just think about everything we need to work and live in the modern world.
Since this is a story about success, I present to you a domestic company which is successfully expanding
all over Europe through franchise concept.
I hope that some of the readers will be inspired to be more courageous and to believe their instincts.
“Serbian company ‘Hydrogen Technologies’ has launched a unique technology for removing soot from ICE engines and
exhaust systems of machines and vehicles. As a basic “energy source” for cleaning the engines, a large amount of HHO gas
is used (hydrogen and oxygen), which is obtained by the electrochemical process of water electrolysis. A machine was made
for that purpose in which in addition to power assemblies, the very “heart” of it is a high capacity HHO gas generator.
All of this is a product of domestic expertise.
“Hydrogen Technologies” has originated in Serbia and now operates successfully through franchises in Macedonia, Slovakia,
the Czech Republic, Germany and Hungary. Their machines are located in England, Sweden, Hong Kong, Bosnia and Herzegovina
and Denmark as well.
Branko Hinić, CEO and founder of “Hydrogen Technologies”,
and a man with a vision, was my interlocutor for this interview.
Branko: During a recession, people are less likely to buy new cars, which means they have to service and maintain their existing
fleets better. Also, what is a logical consequence of the recession is the tendency to reduce the costs of maintenance,
depreciation and fuel consumption.
Many companies will not consider renewing their fleets and purchasing new vehicles.
The news from the automotive industry is that already ordered vehicles are being canceled.
A corporation from Germany with a fleet of 100 vehicles will replace only the vehicles of high priority (about 20 units for example)
for the management or those that covered the largest number of kilometers. They will set aside 30 to 40 cars for the next year
and 30 to 40 again for the year after that.
The process of decarbonization (cleaning the engine of soot using hydrogen) provides noticeable quieter operation,
higher output power and a huge percentage of vehicles recorded lower fuel consumption. Therefore we contribute to
the reduction of air pollution.
After regular treatments, you can expect that your car lasts longer,
saves you money and pollutes the air incomparably lower.
Bojana: Since this is a blog about franchising, my first question is how and when did you decide to develop your business
Branko: The idea of a franchise has existed since the very beginning. We were the first in Europe and the second in the world
to start developing this technology. Over time, others appeared, but our goal was not to compete in the number of machines sold.
It was difficult at first, primarily because we were from Serbia and then from the reason we did not have the money to appear
at fairs and present our machines. In the third place, it was a new technology and it was easier for customers to buy a machine
rather than franchise.
Bojana: It obviously didn’t discourage you even if it put the idea on hold?
Branko: When I thought about the way of selling our machines I knew what we had in our hands in terms of durability,
reliability and quality. It was not some machine assembled from Chinese parts according to a scheme downloaded from
the internet, but we invested time and energy in the construction and testing of each and every part.
We knew what it could achieve and how much value it could bring to the customer.
My goal was not just to sell machines, but the entire know-how,
which is a condition for this technology to bring maximum results
and benefits to the customer.
This includes daily support, advice and adjustment to the market, not just the user manual and warranty card that goes
with the machine.
It is not of less importance that we built a world known brand step by step through the franchise system in this branch of ours.
There were extremely interesting questions such as: “Wait a minute, what kind of franchise? You sell a machine and
how do you know what someone is doing with it? How can you do a franchise like that?”
However, we have developed technology from the beginning so that we can monitor the operation of each individual machine
anywhere in the world. It is IoT (Internet of Things) technology and an interface that enables M2M (Machine to Machine)
communication. We have immediately embraced the fourth industrial revolution and we follow it with enthusiasm.
Bojana: What has franchising brought you from this point of view?
Branko: I often wondered if I had chosen the harder path. There were moments when I was one step away from saying:
“Come on, I’m just going to sell machines!” And then I stop and think, I’d sell 10-15 of them and that’s it.
This is how we make long-term cooperation and our brand is developing in foreign markets. New franchise buyers are coming
and in addition to one-time sales, we have long-term inflows from each of our franchises.
Bojana: You are pioneers in the development of engine decarbonization systems and you started in Serbia
with very limited resources and great will.
Branko: There was a domestic company in our market that was engaged in the development, production,and installation
of hydrogen generators. Those are small devices that are installed in the vehicles themselves to improve combustion in
the engines and reduce fuel consumption and emissions of harmful exhaust gases as well. I was their dealer, and then became
one of the partners and then a co-owner.
In 2013, the company was in a challenging situation – financially exhausted and with a lack of ideas for development
and market entry. While the owners at the time wanted to get out of this business, I recognized the opportunity and potential,
and I took risk and bought their share in the company.
It did not particularly come to life in Serbia, although the generator was installed in about 1000 vehicles.
We also tested the technology on buses, trucks and generated a lot of experience. We needed a lot of money to enter
foreign markets in order to get all the certificates, organize appearances at fairs and promotion. We didn’t have money at that time.
The idea of decarbonizing engines came later.
I was constantly thinking about how to make better use of the technology of good water electrolyzers that we already had
in the automotive industry. In search of ideas I came across information that a company from Taiwan (Epoch) made a machine
that cleaned engines from soot.
I knew that hydrogen removes soot in the long run, but until then I had not thought about the possibility that it would be effective
in 30 to 60 minutes with a much larger amount of gas. And so it began…
We were the second in the whole world to start developing and applying this technology.
Bojana: Was it soon tested on vehicles?
Branko: This knowledge and idea created a new enthusiasm, so I installed the existing large-capacity electrolyzers in a service center
in New Belgrade already in March 2013 and started trials.
I would take cars from my friends, relatives without telling them what I planned to do. For example, the situation is as follows –
we drink coffee and I say: “Please, give me your car for an hour to take care of something”. Then I would take it for cleaning
without mentioning that I did something on the vehicle. In the meantime I would measure the level of exhaust gases before
and after the treatment.
It helped me to measure how successful the process was – first of all weather the soot was removed from all engines and
the most authoritative data was the measurement of the levels of exhaust gases and thus the efficiency and quality of fuel combustion.
I managed to test over 40 to 50 cars from March to August 2013. All results were positive i.e. a drastic reduction of harmful gases
was recorded. I mostly cleaned diesel engines because they were most problematic due to the emission of nitrogen oxides (NOx)
and particulate matter (PM), what we all know today.
Bojana: What were the reactions of the people? Did they notice any change? Were there any fiascos?
Branko: I deliberately did not tell them anything so that I would not in any way make any influence so they could “imagine”
something that did not exist. I did not want to provoke any autosuggestion. I knew that if they noticed any major change,
they would call and ask “what have you done with my car?”
Of course, that was exactly what happened.
All reactions were positive: they either noticed that there was no more distinctive black smoke when starting the engine and accelerating,
or its presence was drastically reduced. They also noticed that starting the engine was easier, that the vehicle accelerated more lively,
that the engine ran smoother and that fuel consumption was reduced.
As I have already mentioned, I measured the reduction of harmful gases on each car. In the case of diesel engines, it is smoke density or transparency of exhaust gases.
The reduction of smoke density ranged from 40% to 92%. The average reduction of smoke density was about 70% on all fifty vehicles
that were tested.
As for the technology itself, it is completely safe and we have never had any problems. Our team deals with electrochemistry,
the technology of obtaining hydrogen from water, development of that technology, its application in the energetics
and automotive industry, and we have gained vast knowledge and experience in that area.
All questions regarding safety are quite normal and we are always willing to explain what is happening, what the process is and
what can be expected.
Bojana: How difficult is the development of new technology in Serbia?
Branko: There were a lot of ups and downs. There was a period when we had to delay the project for a month or two despite
the great desire, enthusiasm and lots of ideas. We simply did not have sufficient funds.
I was investing all my money in the business, even from my private funds. Everything that would be earned, I would return back into
business and it would be all spent pretty quickly. There was a huge dose of uncertainty because although I believed in all that, I was not
sure when and whether the investment would start to pay back. We were not perfecting something that was already present in the market,
but we were developing something new from scratch.
At one point I was doing two jobs, from 9 am to 5 pm I was regularly employed in a foreign company and after that, I was
working on electrolysis technology and engine decarbonization machines. I invested my entire salary earned in one job into another.
I don’t mention time, sleepless days and nights, vacations I never went to… All this is the price of success.
If we had serious capital behind us, it would be much easier for us. We could not get a loan because as I said, we were developing
something completely new and it was too risky for the banks to lend us money.
As we were spending everything on development, we did not have enough money for marketing and presentations at
foreign technology fairs. In the meantime some others appeared, first of all the Chinese, The French, the English,
of course with more funds and the market began to fill up.
Our advantage is that we have invested everything in the quality and certification of products, and that is recognized today.
After some time has passed, it often happens nowadays that those who have tried some machines from our competition
call us instead, want to work with our machines and buy our franchise.
Slowly but surely, the efforts pay off.
Hydrogen Carbon Cleaning is green technology.
What does that mean?
In addition to saving money and extending the life of our customers’ cars, we contribute to the protection of our
environment reducing the emission of harmful exhaust gases thanks to this cleaning process. From the global point of view,
given the times which we live in, we will have to do something urgently regarding air pollution if we want to survive on this planet.
By the way, we don’t have another one and therefore no other choice.
Cleaning the engines of cars is the first step and then comes getting rid of all air pollutants.
Take a step forward and make a small move towards a healthier future
for all of us!