Due to the pandemic, many companies were forced to explore what can be done with digitalization and new ways of operating in a virtual environment.
Like many other business associations, the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SSCC), switched to online activities, which facilitated stronger cooperation with partners from Switzerland, such as Switzerland Global Enterprise S-GE. This year, the SSCC held a webinar for its members on the impact of COVID on the Swiss economy, which was attended by the representatives of the largest Swiss business organizations, such as S-GE, Economiesuisse and Swissmem.
The economies of both countries have been hit by a pandemic. What is the forecast for the next year?
With the onset of the pandemic, the global economic system has suffered strong negative shocks to growth rate coefficients. Although being markedly different in strength, efficiency and financial potential, the economies of the two countries still found themselves dealing with similar problems, especially during the lockdown. There were issues with exports, as well as with the production and processing itself, which all suffered under due to the loss of workforce, transport communications and overall investments. Slow economic growth can certainly be expected at the global level, with some economic branches, such as tourism and the aviation industry, being severely affected by the situation, while others, such as ICT, have even experienced accelerated growth.
Has the coronavirus pandemic expedited digitalization and led to more talk about topics such as cybersecurity and e-commerce?
Digital technologies have huge potential. Right now, these are the solutions that keep a social life going, starting from e-commerce to digital government services and virtual teaching. In cooperation with our member, the Atanasković Božović Law Firm, we highlighted the advantages and challenges of e-commerce, which is a large number of companies have resorted to.
As it turns out, ensuring the validity and integrity of business data, the issue of GDPR and in general, cybersecurity, have become one of the most important topics. Namely, the number of so-called attacks on data integrity has tripled, depending on the region, and the effectiveness of attack concepts is becoming alarmingly high. Opening their communication in the process of digitalization of business is something that all companies have to do, but many of them forget to protect themselves on time and become victims of malicious attacks both online and from within.
This was the reason why the SSCC has organized several webinars with a leader in this field, Sky Express, where webinar visitors had the opportunity to learn about the latest trends in data protection, methods and tools to prepare for such escalations and what steps to take if the “intrusion” does take place.
What challenges are Swiss companies in Serbia facing and how much does border closure affect their operations?
All companies had to deal with the necessary work protection measures and enabling remote work. Everything else depends on the type of business activity that the company does. IT firms, which predominate in among the SSCC members, have even recorded an increase in the volume of business activities due to the accelerated digitalization of business. On the other hand, manufacturing firms face the challenge of improving their supply chains and changing consumer habits. Also, the closure of borders has significantly contributed to the reduction of tourism activities, both in Serbia and Switzerland.
In which segments of the economic cooperation can Serbian and Swiss companies cooperate more?
Digitalization and the ICT sector are areas of cooperation that have the greatest potential when it comes to Swiss-Serbian economic relations. Our partner – Switzerland Global Enterprise – agrees with this. Together with them, we have organized the webinar called “ICT Landscape in Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia”, during which we had the opportunity to present the potential of the domestic market in Serbia to interested Swiss IT companies, including providing information about IT clusters, average salaries and talent pool. The webinar was created as a joint initiative of three Swiss-bilateral chambers from the region.
How much will the COVID-19 epidemic affect the further implementation of the Dual Education project?
Immediately after the introduction of the state of emergency, the Commission for Development and Implementation of Dual Education formed the Dual Education Crisis Unit, who immediately started devising a plan for recording learning through work lessons and the development of a unique methodology for recording content that was subsequently broadcast on the RTS Planet national platform. During the recent SSCC online conference on dual education, organized jointly with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Assistant Minister Dr Grujić pointed out that a team has been formed at beginning of the school year who coordinates the entire process of recording material for dual educational job profiles and ensures the quality of recorded materials. We believe that the Dual Education project continues to develop successfully and is accomplishing visible results.
Switzerland is a country of innovation, serious business practices and smart investments. What can we learn from the Swiss and apply in Serbia?
Part of the answer already lies in your question. The Swiss economy is one of the three most innovative economies in the world. Quite naturally, that would be one of the most important elements for the Serbian economy to emulate. On the other hand, innovation cannot exist without developed soft skills, individual approach to any business process, and the stance that “nothing is good enough that it could not be even better”.
Economic efficiency is another important asset of the Swiss economy – constant analyses of business success, transparent and meaningful budgeting and the introduction of better lines or better production procedures.
In the end, there is the so-called ‘swissability’ element: a complex system of economic life where you, as a business person, have a sincere interest to be successful but not at any cost. Rather, you build your world of quality and sustainability through planned evolutionary steps that will eventually win over less transparent or unfinished production philosophies.
You have managed to hold webinars despite the ongoing crisis. How quickly did you adapt to the situation and how did you choose the topics?
Since the pandemic outbreak and the introduction of the state of emergency in Serbia, the SSCC has become an information centre that regularly informs its members about new measures, regulations and laws. All webinars are adapted to the current situation, starting with cybersecurity, through economic measures to support businesses and the digitalization of health, a webinar that is planned to take place in early December.
Besides, the SSCC is continuing with its regular activities, which include the admission of new members, such as the company that has made the latest Swiss investment in Serbia, Regent Lighting, which headquarters is in Basel.