Although the current size of Nordic companies’ investments in Serbia is below the potential, as is economic exchange between partners, both sides see great opportunities for further cooperation. Serbian Government support to the Nordic business community is appreciated as a way of creating a more transparent business environment. While Serbia is not in the focus of the most advanced Nordic companies, there are good chances that this will change in the future. The Nordic Business Alliance (NBA) in Serbia has a number of initiatives aimed at bringing Nordic investors to the region, says Andreja Pavlović, NBA Executive Director.
How do your members assess the quality of the business environment in Serbia and what are the most important challenges they face in everyday business?
– The general impression of NBA members is that Serbia represents a very successful investment location when it comes to the quality of the business environment, despite the shortcomings present in the form of symptoms of a transitional society. Evidence supporting this opinion lies in the fact that, whenever possible, our members invest additional funds in their operations here every year. The challenges we would point out as obstacles to all members are matters concerning a lack of transparency, the occasional occurrence of unfair competition and, where applicable, slow administration.
How satisfied are you with the possibilities to cooperate with the Government of Serbia in resolving such obstacles?
– The Serbian Government has shown a readiness to discuss and support initiatives coming from the private sector. We’ve had a number of successful initiatives realised thanks to their support in the past. They have an open approach and good understanding of the challenges we face while investing in Serbia and/or doing business. We expect cooperation and support from the Serbian Government to continue in the future.
Which digital services of the state could facilitate the operations of companies in Serbia and which Serbian institutions would you point out as good examples of introducing e-services?
– Business operations in Serbia would be greatly facilitated by the introduction of more digital services by the State. Here I primarily mean services like wider application of electronic signatures, e-accounting, automated support programmes for SMEs and so on. As a good example of the introduction of electronic services provided, I would single out the Business Registers Agency and its electronic database.
There are many debates about the quality of foreign investment in Serbia, including the attitude towards the state, domestic partners and employees. What did the Nordic companies bring to Serbia?
– Nordic companies have a good reputation in Serbia. They are valued because of their habit of sharing knowhow and innovating with local stakeholders. If we were to look at it across the board, Nordic companies are usually at the forefront of their respective branches in terms of standards of quality, business ethics, competitiveness, social awareness and sustainability. Deconstructing the base values of the Nordic business culture is the best way to decipher how it is already influencing our day to day way of doing business, both in Serbia and beyond. Nordic companies take care of their employees – everyone is significant and their voices are judged solely based on merit. Deliberate and ambitious actions to support sustainable development are integrated at all levels in the business enterprise. Detailed process analyses, in terms of energy consumption, raw materials, chemical use, recycling etc.; transparency, trust and honesty; a very low level of corruption in international terms. At the same time, the main drivers in decision making are long-term perspective, optimal efficiency and maximal performance.
Nordic investors present in the country see Serbia as a very successful investment location when it comes to the quality of the business environment, despite the shortcomings present in the form of symptoms of a transitional society
Where do you see the most room for cooperation between Nordic and domestic companies?
– I see plenty of room for greater cooperation between Nordic and domestic companies in all areas. The current state of affairs is that Serbia hasn’t been on the radar of mainstream Nordic business. While this is a sad fact, with ad hoc exceptions to the case, the fortunate thing is that when Serbia receives the focus it deserves, we predict big growth of interest in terms of trade and investments. I consider, however, that the greatest potential for development lies in the IT sector, sustainable development and energy. Cooperation in these fields, and the adoption of the Nordic business model, will bring many benefits to Serbia.
The Nordic Business Alliance (NBA) is organised with the vision to become a platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences between the Nordic business community and Serbia. In which areas do you see the greatest interest in Nordic business experiences and how often are you contacted by Serbian companies interested in doing business in Nordic countries?
– As I already mentioned, Nordic companies enjoy a great reputation in Serbia, and interest in cooperating with them is very high, especially in the areas of sustainable development, energy and the IT sector.
In which areas are your members seeking the most support from the NBA and which of the NBA’s previous activities have proved most attractive to members?
– Our members in Serbia most often seek the opportunity for public-private dialogue and the expansion of their business network to include companies from related industries. These are the areas that have proved the most efficient and can be considered the most attractive for members in the previous period. We also pride ourselves on having a hands-on approach, so we are there to support our members in their efforts from the planning phase, through implementation, to execution.
What are the NBA’s ambitions in the period ahead?
– Guided by the potential we’ve recognised and the priorities we’ve set, we are bringing the Nordics here through both good practise and literally. We are in the process of implementing different projects that will use Nordic knowhow as a key value, but we’re also planning on organising different activities that will yield direct results, key among which is our doing business & investment conference in Stockholm. With a target of attracting 200-plus companies, with the support of partners in the public and private sectors, both Nordic and Balkan, we are working on creating the biggest Nordic-Balkans business event to date.