How to adapt and stay relevant in a changing industry - An interview with Ioanna Gavrielatou

Business Transformation
Industry Trends

In recent years Sunlight Group Energy Storage Systems has gone through a rapid transformation, necessary because energy transition demands more sustainable batteries. Sunlight’s business model therefore had to radically change direction. Marketing Director Ioanna Gavrielatou is part of the small Leadership Team responsible for implementing this difficult, but necessary, change at the company: “When the journey starts, even if the road ahead is unknown, the certain thing is that you don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities.”

Gavrielatou Ioanna

Edenspiekermann helped Sunlight Group with their digital transformation. Why was this necessary?

“The battery industry that we are part of is evolving rapidly. Batteries are at the center of the discussion revolving around electrification, and the transition towards ‘smart cities’ and a sustainable, all-electric, carbon-free future has changed our world. At Sunlight, we used to produce a traditional heavy-duty industrial product, but with the introduction of Lithium batteries we had to rethink our whole business and, consequently, our communication strategy. We had to transform an old-school manufacturer into a contemporary cutting-edge technology company. And this transformation needed to be 360 degrees, including digital transformation. Because it was the only way for us to move forward, given our goal and commitment to act as a responsible global leader in our area of expertise.”

How important is a digital foundation for Sunlight?

“It’s more than important. It’s essential.”


“Because it affects pretty much every single aspect of the company. Digitalisation for a manufacturing company is a completely different process than for a software company, for example. I think you could compare our transition to the automotive digital transformation journey. I remember reading about the challenges that the automotive industry was facing with their transformation. And that transformation, which was meant to only take one year, took them six years in the end. And you know what their biggest challenge was? What’s anybody’s biggest challenge, really? It’s changing people’s mentality. At Sunlight Group we started from scratch and gave transformation time to permeate all aspects of the business. Some of them adapted straight away, while others followed later. Our transformation has been an interesting and sometimes bumpy, but necessary journey for us.”

To start from scratch sounds like a tough journey.

“To give you an example, if you look at the Marketing Division, the people comprising the department really need certain key assets to work with. But at the beginning of this process, they didn’t even have a website suitable for their and the company’s needs. We did, of course, have a working website, but not necessarily one that offered a great customer experience, so we had to transform the whole customer journey. We are a B2B business, so customers are not daily visiting our website to find out about our products. But even that, however, is now easily available for the users. That was not the case before, and I don’t really need to emphasise how important a good customer journey is these days.”

Was it hard for the organisation to follow this new direction?

“We are still going through challenges, understandably, but we’re mostly there. The journey towards this position, however, was very hard. We had to create new roles, find the people to fill those roles, and make huge investments in terms of infrastructure. There were delays, budget issues and various other glitches. But, when the journey starts, even if the road ahead is unknown, but both exciting and challenging, the certain thing is that you don’t want to miss out on all the opportunities.”

Was it hard to get alignment with stakeholders?

“It wasn’t hard, and there’s a reason for that. We’re a small leadership team that takes decisions based on data and trends. I worked in big multinational firms previously and the decision-making process in such outfits may take months. At Sunlight,  we’re a team of ten people who sit around a table, challenge each other, and come up with decisions quickly. So, I’d say that onboarding stakeholders was the easiest part. If everybody supports each other and goals are clear, it really helps with the decision-making process. Shareholders and stakeholders are much more supportive because they understand we all have the same goal: to make our company a global leader in ESS and the electrification of industrial vehicles. Our dream, after all, is to positively affect people’s lives.”

So, there were only ten people responsible for this transformation?

“Yes, every leader of each of our ten divisions, because we all see the value off supporting this journey. And of course, every division leader had a team supporting them.”

Do you think because it was such a small team it was easier?

“There are two things, in general, that I think helps us move forward fast. One, the fact there is indeed a small core team. And second, that we’re all very well prepared to execute the plans we draft and agree on, and help the company. This helps the process a lot.”

Did you follow a strategy to overcome challenges?

“We started with a pretty solid strategy, but we had to adjust and revise it along the way. And that meant also having to change the execution plan.”


“Because of budgets and timelines. Because when reviewing the resources, we sometimes noticed we had to speed up certain processes. And other processes, respectively, had to be delayed, because we were searching for the right people to empower certain teams. But let’s not forget we also had to deal with COVID from 2020 onwards, and there’s still a war raging in Europe. Both of these major events had an impact on logistics, because a lot of equipment and other resources come from abroad. So, we definitely experienced some challenges there, as did our entire industry. And the entire world for that matter.”

What had the most impact on the organisation?

“The greatest impact of the transformation we went through was on the infrastructure in the production plants we operate. When everything was put in place and set, we recorded amazing operational efficiency. And with our operational model expanding globally, we’ll see even more impact across Group operations. But what we already see, that helps a lot marketing-wise, is the upgraded experience that our customer journey provides. We all like to move in a certain direction and marketing is getting this process on the way. It’s a quick win, but the real game changer for us are our people and the brand new and automated machinery and the other new equipment installed in the plants.”

Does a lean and mean team also mean it is easier to adept to the challenges that happened along the way?

“Absolutely. It helps a lot. But I also think we just brought the right experts to the table, and we’re all in this environment learning from our peers. We have a great Leadership Team wherein each member knows what we’re doing to achieve Sunlight’s goals. Our people and our teams are the ones who overcome challenges, make the most of opportunities, and at the end of the day make a difference. Sunlight Group is growing so fast; it’s a completely different company compared to 2020 when we started this transformation journey. We used to be a smaller company with only one business unit, developing, producing, and selling lead-acid batteries. With the addition of more sustainable lithium-ion batteries and energy storage systems, we’re entering a new phase. And not only that, but we’re also installing a pilot line for the production of our own prototype lithium cell. That’s a really big deal for achieving a complete battery value chain in Europe. The production of our own lithium cell will pave the way for a lithium cell gigafactory which is unique for Europe, and quite unique for our industry.”

What are the next steps in the transformation of Sunlight Group?

“I think our focus now must be on excellence of execution because we’re still in the middle of this journey, and being challenged daily. We need to meet our goals and move forward. I’d also like us to keep focusing on educating people and keep trying to get the best result possible. We’re a technology company with a big R&D Division, employing two hundred expert researchers and engineers. And the purpose of that extensive division is to constantly push ourselves to stay on top. Today it’s lithium; tomorrow it might be something else, and we need to make sure we stay ahead of the game.”

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