I think it is extremely important for business associations and companies assembled under them to collaborate and exchange experiences, because those experiences are practical and real, to say the least. Based on these experiences, we can find out what is good and bad in the Serbian market, and what to do next
Although the DSBA is the youngest business association in Serbia, we have already made acquaintances and established cooperation with almost all other business associations in Serbia. I must say that we have been very well received by all our colleagues. On the other hand, the Netherlands has been the largest investor in Serbia in the last nine years, investing over 2.5 billion EUR in Serbia and employing over 15,000 people. The experiences of the companies gathered in the DSBA are very substantial and significant, and in cooperation with other business associations, we are trying to highlight the things that need to be corrected. The plan is to organize joint events with other business associations in 2020. I am confident that this cooperation will only deepen in the future, said Đorđe Petrović, DSBA Director.
The Netherlands is one of the largest investors, as it has invested over 2.5 billion euro in the past nine years in Serbia and Dutch companies employ about 15,000 people. What else can Serbia do to attract Dutch investors?
As you mentioned, The Netherlands has a significant business presence in Serbia across different industries. The experience that Dutch companies have with doing business in Serbia is quite positive and almost all companies operating here have constant growth. Existence of the DSBA is an important indicator for the potential new Dutch investors in Serbia because it signals that the country is a good choice to invest in, that there is already a group of successful business people with whom they can share experience, exchange knowledge and learn how the business is done in Serbia. An important factor is also the involvement of the Dutch embassy in Serbia, who is promoting Serbia through various activities to the Dutch investors but also providing them support in starting their businesses here.
We are really proud that for the short time we managed to gather almost 40 members in the DSBA
As with any other things, there is also space for the improvement of the business climate in Serbia and we see one part of our role as DSBA in providing a feedback from the field to the Serbian government and institutions and suggesting some ideas.
If we compare the reaction of the Netherlands and the protective measures for the Dutch economy against the consequences of the coronavirus, and on the other hand, the measures implemented by the Serbian Government, what parallels can we draw? To what extent have Dutch companies in Serbia responded to the crisis and what does their business look like today?
Both countries in our opinion did the best they could, having in mind resources that they had available. The main goal on both sides was to save jobs and to provide short term help to companies in order that they could survive this crisis. As all Serbian companies, the Dutch companies in Serbia faced the same problems. Depending on the industries they are operating in, some companies were hit harder than others. We recently had a video conference, organized by the Dutch embassy in Serbia, with 36 participants from the Dutch business community, where we could hear experiences from other colleagues, how they were affected with the crisis and what they did in order to overcome the challenges. As with the hits the companies took, that depended on the industries, the same is with recovery. Some sectors are recovering at a fair speed, while for some it will take more time.
The Dutch-Serbian Business Association was founded a year and a half ago. Although a young association, it seems that you have implemented a lot of projects, established many contacts and carried out quite a few activities so far. What are you most proud of and what are the Association’s future plans?
We are at this moment the youngest bilateral business association in Serbia. Despite our age and the fact that we do not have employees in DSBA, but all the work is based on volunteering, as you kindly noticed we’ve organized a lot of events. We had great support from our colleagues, from other business associations, who shared their experience with us and helped us in many ways. The crucial was, and still is, the support that we have from the Dutch embassy in Serbia who is unselfishly supporting everything that we do and I would like to thank them in the name of the whole DSBA for that.
We must keep in mind that “it is not the strongest, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one that is most adaptable to change”
We are really proud that for the short time we managed to gather almost 40 members in the DSBA, ranging from small companies to big corporations, and that together we really did a lot of good things, based only on volunteer work. We expect that with the experience which we gather for this time, in the coming period we will be able to achieve many more great things, both for our members, but also for the community and Serbia as a country.
In November last year, Dutch companies visited Serbia. How did that go and are new visits and exchanges of experiences planned?
The trade mission, which took place in November, was a huge success. After that trade mission he government of the Netherlands and a consortium of eleven companies representing the Dutch soft fruit sector have developed a public-private partnership called “Netherlands Soft-Fruit Solutions”, which will assist in developing an efficient, sustainable soft fruit chain in Serbia. The partnership is a 3-year-long project within the program Partners for International Business. Through this project, the Dutch soft fruit sector – which is a world leader in applying the most modern techniques in a sustainable way – will contribute to the improvement of Serbian berry production. With this project, the Netherlands aims to conclude cooperation agreements with Serbian soft fruit growers but also with relevant knowledge centers in the fruit sector in Serbia. The project includes setting up of three Dutch demonstration pilots in three major production areas in Serbia with different microclimates – Intensive orchards with state-of-the-art technology.
The pilots should offer local producers a sneak peek into the Dutch “kitchen” of fruit production technology and know-how, a showcase of the latest varieties, state of the art growing techniques, innovative harvest and post-harvest handling in the soft fruit world.
We really exist about this project and we expect that it will hugely intensify cooperation between the two countries in government, knowledge and business level.
What are your predictions regarding the business sector in Serbia and the Netherlands, as well as at the global level, in light of the pandemic and current economic trends?
At this moment, there are still a lot of things we do not know and it’s hard to make predictions. We all hope that the recovery of the global economy will have a “V” shape, but that will also depend a lot on will we have a “second wave”. As with any big disruption, some businesses will grow and some will disappear. We must keep in mind that “it is not the strongest, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one that is most adaptable to change”, hence we need to be prepared to adapt, regardless of circumstances.