HUGO VAN VEGHEL, Chairman Belgian Serbian Business Association: Stronger Together

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The BSBA is not as strong as some other European bilateral chambers or business associations, but we live by the credo “L’union fait la force – Eendracht Maakt Macht – Stronger Together”.

Belgian investors seek to be genuine long-term partners. They bring not only new technologies with applied international standards but apply decent business ethics; „Take care of your employees and your employees take care of you“ is a well known principle.

How many Serbian entrepreneurs know about their Belgium counterparts and vice versa thanks to BSBA?

– Difficult to tell precisely of course but out of 881 followers in the BSBA discussion group on LinkedIn 482 are from Serbia. We are referring in social media to our online business directory on www.bsbiz.eu almost on a monthly basis. Web analytics show us a weekly average of 14 people visiting more deeply the directory page. These figures are very modest, but for us a sign of permanent interest and opportunities for cooperation contacts. The impact of our Embassy, with whom we have outstanding cooperation, is not to be underestimated especially through the excellent work of the Office of the Trade Commissioner.

Which tools of promotion do you use to connect interested parties? What are the topics the prospective Belgium investors are the most interested in?

– Beside the individual efforts of our board members we mainly inform our members through direct mail on planned events and invite them to bring business partners as guests. On the other hand, we use social media to announce events in which the BSBA is co-organiser. However, the introduction by a satisfied member remains the best promotion. Potential Belgian investors listen to existing ones in Serbia. METECH CEO E.Rutten is inviting Belgian business partners and friends to visit the company and Serbia.
A newly COPAHOME established PASSION4BLINDS in Zrenjanin met one of their Belgian service providers, DATAPLAN, in Serbia. As said, the value of satisfied investors promoting Serbia cannot even be matched by any other means. The main interest of potential investors comes from the manufacturing sector but we see more and more service providers exploring opportunities in Serbia.

Based on experience of the Belgium companies presently working in Serbia what pros and cons of doing business with Serbia would you share?

– The cons are the still omni-present red tape issues and adequate financing is still not readily available. The pros depend on the place of investment; being business friendly with a good post-investment service of the local governments is crucial but an undoubtedly important factor is the willingness of people to work. In general investors are very satisfied with the work attitude but would welcome more skilled workforce from the start.

What values are Belgian companies bringing to the Serbian market and society and what Serbian SMS may learn from your members and how?

– Belgian investors seek to be genuine long-term partners. They bring not only new technologies with applied international standards but apply decent business ethics; „Take care of your employees and your employees take care of you“ is a well known principle. The ROI for earlier investors is clear but we hear also from the new-commers that they already developed expansion plans, meaning they do not regret their investment in Serbia. METECH in Smederevo and L.BLOCKX in Backi Petrovac have been expanding their productions constantly. METECH CEO E. Rutten once stated „We have now 20 engineers and more than 300 good educated workers, a real dream“.

How was 2018 for BSBA in terms of new members and planned activities?

– The BSBA sees a constant growth with an average of 5 new members a year. Not much as a number but it means close to 10% a year, which is certainly not bad. 2019 might be even better through the networking activities mainly steered by existing members but also through the joint activities with other bilateral chambers or business associations.

With whom you usually partner in organising activities for your members and broader public?

– We have been working together with practically all bilateral chambers and business associations in Serbia through actions like “European Initiative” and the “Council of Mixed Chambers of Commerce”. The first joint Speed B2B events have been organised together with the French Serbian and British Serbian Associations. A now annual returning event is the “Networking Cocktail” in which we were together with the Greek, German, French, Italian, Swiss, Slovenian, Nordic, Japanese, Croatian and Canadian colleagues.

We just had a successful Speed Business Meeting event with the Japanese, Canadian and Slovenian colleagues in Hyatt and the next event, a seminar with a presentation on EU funding in Serbia is co-organised by the BSBA and Greek, Croatian and Nordic colleagues, supported by the Croatian Embassy. It is a successful trend to co-organise events. The BSBA is not as strong as some other European bilateral chambers or business associations, but we live by the credo “L’union fait la force – Eendracht Maakt Macht – Stronger Together”. At BSBA we are open for any cooperation that might be of benefit for the development of the SME sector in Serbia.

At BSBA we are open for any cooperation that might be of benefit for the development of the SME sector in Serbia.

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