At the stage that we are entering now, our priorities and guiding principles stay the same: safety of all our people, customers and consumers as well as business continuity and its acceleration in this new environment.
Since this unprecedented situation occurred, our moto was to prepare ourselves for the worst and hope for the best. Our energy is focused now on how we may support the smooth on trade reopening in a safe way, which secures financially healthy foundation of these outlets, said Nikos Zois, Managing Director of HEINEKEN Serbia.
With COVID-19 affecting different markets and industries around the world, how do you cope with this crisis, as Heineken Serbia?
At the very beginning, we have clearly stated and followed two main guiding principles. First, the health and safety of our people are of utmost importance. This does not only mean that all our people are safe and sound at every moment, but also that each and every of us do everything we can both personally and professionally following all the precautious measures so as to avoid any contact or spread of the virus. Second, we did and are doing everything we can to safeguard the continuity of our business and maintain our breweries operational, which means also regular timely payment of all our employees in Zaječar, Novi Sad and Belgrade, with no layoffs or reduction of workforce, as well as supporting the business continuity of all our customers and suppliers. We believe that this approach and way of working supports recovering of the entire economy much faster and we are glad to see that so far all the measures and steps we have taken are proving to be right choices and brings us smooth everyday operations.
How much this health situation affects your business globally and locally?
One of the difficulties we had to manage to adapt to, here in Serbia is the volume impact, especially from On trade sector which was closed, as all over the world. At the same time, limited working hours of retail resulted to difficulties for replenishment and higher demand of our products at a shorter period. Both globally and locally, HEINEKEN has secured business operations and maintained cooperation with suppliers, thus contributing to the continued functioning of the market and the economy and therefore “moving to a new normal”. This applies to how we think about our business in the future, our ways of working and our employee’s safety and health. It is a careful balance we want to get back to work but we also need to make sure we do it in a way that ensures the safety of our people and is in line with continuing public health measures.
What additional safety and precautionary measures have you taken at the company and how your employees reacted to this?
We place our health and safety as well as that of our families and partners above all else. Therefore, we have tested our networks and organized working remotely by shifting all the internal conferences and meetings to on-line platforms and allowing the employees to take all business assets to facilitate their work from home. We purchased and installed additional hygiene requisites such as disinfectant dispensers for instant hand hygiene and protective masks and we measured regularly the temperature using contactless thermometers at all our locations.
We also established clear and strict process to check visitors or contractors to our premises before they enter. With regard to the overall situation, we have crisis team meetings every day, where we make decisions and put them in action at lightning speed. Furthermore, we communicate with our employees on regular basis, for we believe that regular business updates and preserving the mental health is as significant as physical health.
Because of working from home, do you notice any changes in work productivity? How do employees cope with working remotely?
For the last few months, we have all been in various stages of managing the current situation within our businesses day-to-day and even hour-by-hour. We have had to adjust to fast changing circumstances and restrictions that have tested our business and us individually. I am very proud of all HEINEKEN Serbia employees, their flexibility, efforts they put on daily basis and their approach to work. In these rather unusual circumstances, they are truly dedicated and are genuine HEINEKEN ambassadors. On behalf of all of us in Zaječar, Novi Sad and Belgrade, I may share that we all feel how this time actually has brought considerably higher engagement and our bonds become much stronger during this crisis.
In order to provide full security to all our employees, HEINEKEN committed until the end of 2020, not to carry out, any structural layoffs because of COVID-19.
HEINEKEN Serbia donated 12 million for supply of respirators. How important is to be socially responsible in such times?
These are challenging times where solidarity and collective efforts are vital to fight against the spread of Covid19. From one hand, staying responsible and loyal employer caring for the employees and, thanks to all the efforts from our employees, being a role model company in all the recommendations, presents a support to the Government in these times of crisis.
But, one more step ahead and a helping hand, for sure, was a donation of 12 million dinars to the Government in their effort to cover the needs for more respirators in our hospitals to treat those in the biggest need.
On global level, HEINEKEN donated 15 million euros in order to support the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Many other activities are taken as well, including donation of water and non-alcoholic beverages and the production of hand sanitisers.
Our hearts go out to all who have been hit by this disease, and we need to stay active, supportive and optimistic.
Zaječarsko TVC was very noticed among consumers, with many comments. What do you think has touched consumers in Zaječarsko TVC?
At the beginning of state of emergency, we all found ourselves trying to adjust to a new reality.
We felt obliged to make a bold statement, which shows how important it is to stay involved and encourage the others to stay strong and give our best to safeguard each other, by promoting solidarity and care. Through Zaječarsko brand we have kept on communicating relevant messages of optimism and responsibility. The fact that it is not important which beer we drink, as long as we are all safe. It shared optimism and sent hart-warm message that it is the matter of time when we will all gather around the table and drink our favourite beer with our loved ones. We looked forward to this moments, and so did our consumers.
What is your plan for the future and returning to normal?
I am glad that we may see the light at the end of a tunnel. At the stage that we are entering now, our priorities and guiding principles stay the same: safety of all our people, customers and consumers as well as business continuity and its acceleration in this new environment.
Through our local and global experiences, l believe we may contribute for the local surrounding in supporting on trade sector and all our customers and consumers to find the relevant models that helps them stay operational to meet the increased demand of this summer period.
But, before any financial impact, people come first. The vital thing for us is to continue managing to keep all our colleagues, all our customers and all our consumers safe at the level and to the highest extent that we could contribute.
What will you and HEINEKEN Serbia do first, once the pandemic is over?
I would like to thank to all the heroes of these times, to all of those who were tirelessly working and giving their time and their best for the benefit and safe life days of all the others. Special thank you goes to all our employees in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Zaječar for being on the top of things and showing enormous courage, trust and unity day after day. I look forward to the day that we all meet again and cheer over a glass of Zaječarsko.