The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Cooperation for Growth Project released the findings of the ninth Annual Survey of 1,000 Serbian businesses. The survey, which reflects businesses’ views on the business environment, revenues, employees, profit, and access to finance, unsurprisingly showed the significant impact of COVID-19 on doing business in Serbia.
Half of all companies surveyed reported decreases in revenue and net profits. Nevertheless, Serbian companies demonstrated their resilience – with more than three-quarters of businesses not changing their number of employees, while 12 percent even hired more staff.
The pandemic served to accelerate the expansion of eCommerce, with many companies realizing the potential and even necessity of reaching their customers and clients online. More than 80 percent of companies that have webshops now believe that their online sales are equally or more important than their traditional, brick and mortar business (compared to 55 percent in 2019).
The survey reaffirmed a recurring challenge of the last ten years, namely a lack of financing options – with 69 percent of Serbian companies complaining that they lack adequate financing options.
“By far the best tool that Serbia could use to strengthen its economic growth is the digitalization of the economy, government, and society. Fortunately, Serbia has a lot of potential in this area, with a strong talent base and government support. Serbia is already adapting to the global digital revolution,” said Anthony Godfrey, Ambassador of the United States in Serbia.
“The lack of adequate financial sources and financial management skills have affected the competitiveness of Serbian businesses, in particular SMEs during the past ten years. We hope that the first crowd investing platform – Ventu.rs, recently introduced with USAID support, will help overcome this challenge and open the door for other fintech solutions in Serbia to help start-ups and small companies accelerate their growth,” said Dragana Stanojević, USAID’s Cooperation for Growth Chief of Party. (Fintech: Businesses using technology to enhance or automate financial services and processes).
The survey’s sample of businesses mirrors the Serbian economy by region, size, and sector. It consists of 95% micro and small companies, 3% mid-size companies, and 2% large companies. Only 12% of businesses have more than 20 employees, while 54% of firms have only one manager. Every fourth company is an exporter. The survey’s full results are available at http://saradnja.rs.