Since its inception, the role of the Croatian Business Club has been to provide companies coming here with information about the market and help them start a business in Serbia.
“As a business association, we have been here for 15 years, supporting our members, monitoring the situation, and providing adequate and timely information. Also in times of crisis, we try to provide all the necessary information and contacts to overcome this critical period as easily as possible,” says Marija Radulović, President of the Croatian Business Club (CBC), in her interview for InFocus Croatia.
This year, the Croatian Business Club is celebrating its jubilee, 15 years since its inception in Serbia. What has changed over the years in terms of business?
It’s quite a success that all these years we have not only survived, but also significantly increased the number of members. Currently, we have about 40 renowned companies as members, as well as small and medium-sized enterprises are interested in exchanging experiences and know-how at our gatherings, but also beyond. Of course, the business and economic environment has changed in the past fifteen years, and since then a large number of Croatian companies have come or returned to this area. Back then, some Croatian companies came to Serbia again with their products and services, while many came later, expanding their business to the region, and were welcomed again here.
Since its inception, the role of the Croatian Business Club has been to provide companies coming here with information about the market, conditions for doing business, customs regulations, as well as help them with finding adequate business premises and establishing business contacts. Today, the CBC supports small and medium-sized companies, both Croatian that are opening in Serbia, and local ones that want to cooperate with them in any way, be it on the Serbian or Croatian market.
What do you think about economic cooperation between the two countries and are you satisfied with the Croatian investments in Serbia?
During the previous period, we witnessed various political disagreements, but economic cooperation has been going well, which is good for both sides. There are a lot of big investments in Serbia that are not that known. They have been made since the year 2000 and even earlier. For example, the Rasco Company, which was founded 30 years ago and does business in five continents, has made a very successful acquisition in Senta, where it operates under the name Rasco Tump. Here, the company produces utility equipment and fittings. A very successful investment is the Rotografika printing company in Subotica, while one of the most successful investments in the region was made by Atlantic Group. These are just some of the examples that business and money know no borders and do not agree to political barriers.
Which industries would you single out as the biggest investors and which business segments could do with more investments?
At the moment, we can single out the Nexe Group as one of the largest investors. Of course, there is still a lot of room for cooperation, be it new technologies or having joint production in smaller companies, especially when it comes to cross-border cooperation in Vojvodina and Slavonia which is something that our Club’s members have shown interest in. There is also a need regarding the implementation of joint projects in energy, environmental protection, and waste disposal and processing. A number of other possibilities can stem from this, especially when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises.
What problems do your members here usually face and how do you help them so they can invest without problems?
There are no special aggravating circumstances for companies coming from Croatia, compared to investors from other countries. Thanks to the good cooperation between the CBC and the representative office of the Croatian Chamber of Commerce with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia, we have very quickly and efficiently managed to dispel any doubts and problems regarding breaking into the Republic of Serbia’s market.
How are companies coping with the COVID-19-induced crisis and how much did it affect the stability of business, especially in small and medium-sized enterprises?
Small and medium-sized enterprises have been facing serious challenges, starting with the drop in demand for their services and products, through the need to reduce the number of employees. We should not forget that in Serbia alone, small and micro enterprises employ about 630,000 people. The situation with the pandemic and the consequences it brings reflected on the families of the employees, but also on the small suppliers whose very existence depends on such companies.
“We always plan our activities for the coming period so that we are always up to date with new trends and that we can inform our members about our findings”
There are a large number of small and medium-sized companies that have faced a decline or complete cessation of activities. A total of 12 bilateral foreign chambers of commerce and organizations have suggested that the authorities adopt additional economic measures aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises, such as postponing the payment of tax and social benefits for small and medium-sized enterprises, easier access to bank loans, subsidies or repayment programmes and guarantees for liquidity. Special measures for severely affected sectors such as tourism and catering, cultural industry and international transport have also been proposed.
Do you expect to see new challenges in the coming period and how do you plan your activities?
We always plan our activities for the coming period so that we are always up to date with new trends and that we can inform our members about our findings. New technologies as a rapidly evolving trend bring with them considerable dangers to business, so we, as a business club, have joined the Initiative for Development of Information Security, which brings together companies and business associations that can contribute to raising awareness of business risks in the digital environment. Our goal is to keep abreast of the dangers, but also the ways of prevention and the possibilities of financial compensation when it comes to damages from cyber attacks and social engineering, as well as to contribute to general security by disseminating information.
Of course, we must coordinate all activities with the circumstances caused by the pandemic, but we believe that those who adapt more easily to change can more easily face difficult situations. There will always be challenges, and it is up to us to overcome them and be as responsible as possible to ourselves and our environment.