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Fiodor Caraghiaur: “Road markings are our family business!”

Interview with Fiodor Caraghiaur, owner of Ciffi-ml plus Company, conducted within the “Microinvest – a responsible lender” campaign.

Hello, Fiodor. When I was preparing for this interview and found out what your Company is doing, I was sure from the start that this interview would be read by a very wide audience. This is because the topic of road markings and their mysterious and quick disappearance from Moldovan roads interests practically everyone. So you make the road markings, right?

Right. The road signs and markings.

I should say that your Company scope of activity is quite exotic for our country. I don’t think it came about spontaneously. How did it all start?

It is my family business. My father worked in this field for 35 years. Like my mother, who has been involved in road traffic all her life, working in the town traffic police dispatch “controlling” the local traffic lights.

Actually, during the Soviet period, there were already road markings, but they were 100% made by state organizations.

Since the 2000s, everything has fallen apart and road markings have gone to private companies. The chronology of our business is quite simple. The Company was founded in 2008, and since 2015, the “steering wheel” of the business has passed into my hands. At the moment there are five employees in the Company, including me. To be honest, I really like what I do. I get pleasure from marking the roads, and I do it from the heart. I’m happy that I have found a job of my dream where I go every day with pleasure.

If you do this for pleasure, you are certainly good at everything. That’s the most important thing in a business. Tell us about the secrets of the road markings “kitchen” … To be sure, it’s not as simple as it sounds – just applying the white paint to the asphalt…

The first secret is the special road marking machine, unique for Moldova. Have you ever seen what a crosswalk looks like?

When you’re driving, you try to avoid the parts of the road under repairment… I did not draw my attention to this…

According to standard technology, “zebra” is marked with the help of wooden or metal stencils. Thus, a large part of the paint goes not just for tracing the road, but for the stencils. In our business, paint consumption is a critical factor, our income is based on this. That’s why, I decided to look for and purchase an automated machine, which allows drawing the 40-centimeter lines of the zebra without stencils. Everything is done quickly and most importantly, with minimal paint consumption.

I’m already starting to feel like a Discovery Channel reporter. Do you have any other secrets?

One more thing. Road and parking markings can be traced with paint, but there are also “thermoplastic”, preformed thermoplastic, and “cold plastic”. For example, road arrows are often drawn with pre-formed thermoplastic. The same material we used in marking the parking lots at Kaufland. The process is quite simple, the required element is unpacked and with the help of a burner, it is bonded to the asphalt. However, even this technology, taken over from the USSR period, has its drawbacks. At high temperatures, thermoplastic softens and blackens. An alternative to this technology is “cold plastic”. In fact, this is the direct translation of the name from the Russian language. In Europe, the given material is called “bicomponent” and is used in the same variant for the Republic of Moldova. A hardener in powder form is added to the paint in different proportions depending on the outside temperature. After that, we have a maximum of 10 minutes to apply the solution to the asphalt. After this time, the material becomes as hard as concrete.

If there are such “innovative” technologies, why do road markings erase so quickly? I suppose not everything is stolen. Some companies that work professionally and fairly.

Road markings are not eternal. It is an irreversible physical process. The question is elsewhere – how long they will be erased. If after a month and a half – well, the road marking was not done well. If in half a year or a year – it’s a normal period. It also depends on the condition and quality of the asphalt. If the asphalt is “worn out” and of low quality, then even the best road marking will not hold long. It is also true for the curved parts of the road, where the action of the tyres on the asphalt is higher or where loaded trucks often drive. But generally speaking, a road marking disappears in 3-4 weeks because of the low-quality paint.

You’re a private company. Respectively, this means that you provide a warranty for the road marking, don’t you?

Of course, we do. Our warranty is 6 months. Although I have sites where I have been marking regularly for a few years now. There, the paint withstands up to a year. Not in the ideal form, but the markings remain visible and perform their function after all.

How high is the competition in your business?

I can count up to 5 companies dealing with the markings. But we do not work at all in Chisinau, only with private companies. For example, parking lots in Chisinau are our niche. Here we can mention Shopping Malldova, and Kaufland, and Nr1. We’ve worked with each of them with pleasure.

Don’t you work with state institutions on principle?

Actually, we’re working with them. We have orders in several regions of Moldova: Ungheni, Nisporeni, suburbs of Chisinau – Stăuceni, Sângera, Ialoveni.

Fiodor, why yet the quality of road markings is so much discussed and not good. Practically almost everyone has spoken about this, from drivers to pedestrians. And in most cases, they are right…

Well, they all try to save on materials. In 2015 I firmly decided that I would only work with quality materials, even if at the beginning my profit would be very small. We found a factory in Bacau, with a very good reputation in terms of quality. It exports its materials all over Europe and even to South Korea, and competition there is not low. In France, Spain or Germany, you certainly won’t keep on the market with low-quality products.

High-quality paint also requires quite a large investment. How do you manage to stand up to the competition?

There are more nuances here. Starting with the fact that the price for some materials is not much higher than for Belarusian alternatives, and ending with the idea that a good paint will hold for twice as long. Our customers, especially loyal ones, take into account these small but important details.

Did you have any unusual orders? Or you do always the same?

I’ll say it again, even though marking seems a monotonous process, I do it for pleasure. However, if we talk about unusual orders, we are the creators of the intensely discussed now road markings on Mircea cel Batran alley in Ciocana sector.

It was you who drew those “mysterious” lines I saw in some photos on a news portal? What was the idea of those strange markings?

My first reaction to this project was: “What’s this?” Afterwards, the architect explained what was behind this idea. The seven lines of the marking (which then narrow) represent Seven Hills on which the city of Chisinau is located. And the purpose of these markings is to turn the walkways into a game. It really works, by the way. Children and teenagers, who playfully move along the lanes, inventing all sorts of storylines, prove that they liked the idea. It’s something new and different, I think.

We got so involved in the conversation that I didn’t even ask you about Microinvest. Because they gave me your contacts…

Microinvest will always remain the number one recommendation as a business partner. When we started to cooperate with them, my father was still working with Soviet equipment. He had a GAZ-53 marking machine, since the ‘ 80s. However, I was dreaming of a new, modern machine. Which I bought shortly. Light as a baby stroller. Besides, periodically we did not have enough resources to increase our “turnover”. Precisely in these moments, we received help from Microinvest, quickly and safely, to solve all our financial problems.

But the interests…

Yeah, the interests are higher. Many friends of mine have asked me about this, and I still answer them with a question, “Can you lend me this money now?” Nobody’s ready. With banks, the interest rate is lower, but there are much more problems when applying for a loan, plus the decision-making period is long, sometimes simply on principle. With Microinvest everything is easy. In just 2-3 days you can solve all your problems, and if the proposed interest is included in my business plan, why not work with them? The caring and friendly attitude they have towards their customers is so close to my heart.

 What else haven’t I asked you?

It’s a question that practically everyone asks me, why our Company has such a strange name – “Ciffi-ml plus”.

Fiodor, why does your Company have such an unusual name?

It’s not unusual at all. As I said, our business is a family business and its name is an abbreviation of our names. Dad, Caraghiaur Ivan Fiodor. Me, Fiodor Ivan and my mother, Maria Lupasco. And “plus” means continuous growth.

Pavel Zingan.


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