We started our first full day in Budapest with an early morning business visit. We visited GFK, or Growth For Knowledge, which is a multinational business with an office in the Pest side of the city. Formed in 1925, GFK focuses on market research and intelligence. Dr. Ákos Kozak focused his speech on two topics: the Hungarian economy and GFK strategic plan. While we had learned about some of business challenges of Central and Eastern European countries while in the Czech Republic, it was interesting to compare and contrast the different CEE countries with specific data about population, GDP, and purchasing power. Hungary joined the EU in 2004, and the country is experiencing 5% real GDP growth and low unemployment rates. Some challenges within the economy include a small middle class and a declining population due to low birthrate and immigration to Western European countries like Austria, Germany, and the United Kingdom. The current economic debate in Hungary, which is similar to themes we heard in the Czech Republic, is whether to continue to focus on the manufacturing industry or turn to a new strategy for more educated and skilled labor. Dr. Kozak stated that to adjust to trends of artificial intelligence and automation Hungary's economy may need to expand beyond manufacturing.
After our brief introduction to international economics, Dr. Kozak spoke about the new strategy for GFK due to the increase in both competition and technology in the market research industry. The new vision has shifted “from a traditional market research company to a trusted partner for prescriptive data analytics.” GFK will combine artificial intelligence, behavioral science, mathematics, and marketing to provide smart data for better business decision making for their clients. GFK is excited about its new approach and the future of the organization around the globe.
After our morning business tour and a local lunch, our group started a tour of the major cultural highlights of Budapest. We started our tour at Hero's Square. Here we saw a monument for the unknown soldiers who died in WWI and WWII. The statues around this square include founders of the city, religious symbols, and important kings.
While driving around the city, our tour guide, Gergo, spoke about Golden Age of Hungary, the effects of WWII, and the communist regime. It was interesting to see how the city's architecture reflected these different periods in history as many buildings were built in the Golden Age of the 19th century, and some were damaged in the bombing of Budapest by Allied powers in WWII.
We crossed the river to the Buda side of the city to see beautiful views of the city and visit the castle district. Here we experienced beautiful parks, residential areas, and several political offices.
We are excited to be more familiar with the history and layout of the city as we continue to explore this beautiful country!