As a socially responsible company, we have focused our R&D resources on the development of a vaccine against the new COVID-19 virus
Despite the crisis and reduced production volume, we have managed to save all workplaces, maintain our loyal consumers and support Serbian economy, having all the time a clear strategy for further development and growth.
“What we can and must do, is give our best effort to maintain business continuity, as well as the safety and wellbeing of all our employees. Investing in our people and their skills by ensuring trainings for their further development, made us ready for the ongoing global digitalization. We are very proud of being able to achieve all that in Serbia and that we are continuing with the further improvement of production and investments in our factory in Vranje. In the following period, some of the most respected brands in our portfolio will be produced in Serbia, due to the fact that this production facility is considered to be one of the most reliable in the BAT system. As a result, our focus will shift from the predominantly import market to exports“
You took over the function of General Manager on January 1st this year. Could you please tell us about the biggest challenges you’ve faced during these six months?
Such a significant role in one of the leading companies in the world is, above all, a great pleasure and an everyday challenge, but also a privilege on a personal level – being able to further develop career in a multinational company and on such challenging markets. As for the last six months, it is difficult to single out the biggest one, since the world economies have faced unique difficulties caused by the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Therefore, I believe that it will take some time before the world comes back to where it was before, both socially and economically.
How has the virus affected tobacco business, and markets in which you lead the company?
Like all industries, tobacco sector has also felt the effects of the pandemic. This has come in the moment when tobacco industry is also transforming and developing new innovative products, thus more changes are definitely yet to come. Our product Glo, that heats instead of burning tobacco, is finding its way towards consumers and Serbia, the whole range of new products with potential reduced risk will be introduced soon, while we are always taking care to maintain and innovate our traditional portfolio. This is an evidence of the position that Serbia has on the global market and I am convinced that it will further strengthen in the future.
We read in April about BAT plans to work on plant-based coronavirus vaccine, also that your biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing (KBP) is developing a potential vaccine. Could you tell us more about these plans?
As a socially responsible company, we have focused our R&D resources on the development of a vaccine against the new COVID-19 virus. Preclinical trials of the vaccine have shown a positive immune response, and the first phase of the trial could begin as early as the end of June. The method KBP use generates the vaccine faster than the usual methods, which reduces the time needed to grow the active substance from a few months to six weeks.
„I believe that today this kind of corporate and human approach is more important than ever before“
Recently, BAT have donated significant funds for food supply packages to The Red Cross of Vranje. How much is important to support local municipalities and invest in society?
Social responsibility has always been one of the core pillars of our company and we have always been striving towards being a part of local community. We are also very proud that our employees have always been devoted to corporate volunteerism and participated in CSR activities, even in the time of pandemic. I believe that today this kind of corporate and human approach is more important than ever before.