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Iosif Vangelatos, Inos Balkan General Manager

Need For Raw Materials On The Rise

The Serbian secondary raw materials industry has undergone a series of transformations over the course of the past 20 years. As the country is approaching European Union integration, new opportunities for direct foreign investments in the Serbian secondary raw materials market will be created

As Serbia approaches EU integration and the country’s legal and financial framework harmonises with the European aquis, new opportunities for direct foreign investments will be created on Serbia’s secondary raw materials market. We discussed this, but also the rapidly changing competitive landscape, with Inos Balkan General Manager Iosif Vangelatos.

Considering that the Viohalco Group has been present in Serbia since 2003, we trust that you are able to provide a good assessment of how much the secondary raw materials market has changed over the course of the last two decades?

– As I mentioned in a previous interview with CorD Magazine, the acquisition of Inos Balkan in the early 2000s was part of an integrated strategic plan of our group to expand in the Balkan area. Our Steel segment – Sidenor Group – is the biggest recycler in the region and we are always trying to support our productive investments with efficient supply chain networks.

Over the course of the last 20 years, the Serbian secondary raw materials industry has undergone a series of transformations. The competitive landscape is changing rapidly. Large European recycling firms did invest in Serbia, but they disinvested in a very short period of time, as they were unable to tackle the challenges facing them on the Serbian business environment. During the same period, we have witnessed the successful privatisation of Serbia’s major steel producer, while a new mini steel mill was established in the country. We are pretty confident that, as the country is approaching European Union integration and the country’s legal and financial framework is closing the gap with what we call the European acquis, new opportunities for direct foreign investments in the Serbian secondary raw materials market will be created.

Do you have the impression that the pandemic and the latest economic and energy crises have helped accelerate our acceptance of the principles of the circular economy? Were we lagging behind in coming to the realisation that waste is a valuable commodity and a precious resource?

Lots of words have been said and written about the transformation of the linear business model to a circular economy model, and indeed the pandemic and the latest economic and energy crisis placed a lot more emphasis on our need to adjust our way of doing business by adopting the circular economy model.

Global policymakers, along with important think tanks and organisations, have already set the path in that direction. We are today in a position to identify five major megatrends, or five transformative forces that can change the trajectory of the global economy by shifting the priorities of societies and redefining business models. Shifting economic power (between developed and emerging markets), climate change, technological breakthroughs, demographics and rapid urbanisation are already influencing and transforming our world.

The more our civilization will be looking for ways to cope up with the five megatrends, the need for raw materials will be increasing, leading to scarcity. In simple wording, there is no space for waste. The reuse / refurbishment of products after their end of life, the recovery of valuble raw materials from waste streams or even the energy recovery from waste are of vital importance.

Given that demand for secondary raw materials is set to increase exponentially, could we expect a comparable increase in the demand for an adequate workforce? Do you not have a problem with that?

– That is the million-dollar question, I guess. Your assumption is correct. The increasing demand for secondary raw materials is leading to a corresponding demand for an adequate workforce. The secondary raw materials industry is a demanding sector and, judging by my own experience, may offer challenging career paths for all kind of employees, i.e., production and environmental engineers, financial and risk managers, commercial and logistics executives and specialised workers and heavy machine operators.

We would like to further develop our industrial scrap collection and serve the local industry by providing them with efficient waste management services

The availability of such a workforce is a problem for our organisation and allow me to say that this is a rather regional problem, or even a European one, that’s inextricably linked to the aforementioned five megatrends. An ageing population and economic emigration are already reshaping the labour market in Serbia and across the whole region.

You’ve tripled the amounts of secondary raw materials that you process over the course of just the past six or seven years. What kinds of plans do you have when it comes to expanding your capacities, investing in new facilities and equipment etc.?

– We consider Serbia as a home market both for our products and for sourcing secondary raw materials. We are executing our investment plan, which consists of a plan to increase our mechanical treatment capacity of secondary raw materials and a marketing plan to increase our supply basis. We would like to further develop our industrial scrap collection and serve the local industry by providing them with efficient waste management services.

We are adopting a step-by-step approach in order to select the appropriate equipment, considering our desire to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels and create an adequate financial and logistics capacity.

It was a full ten years ago that you and your family moved to Serbia, because you believed in our potential. How does that decision look to you from today’s perspective – on the business front, but also from the aspect of your private life? Is Serbia a good place to live and work?

– Thank you for that question. It gives me the opportunity to express my gratitude for those ten years to all my colleagues, friends and, of course, my family. Serbia is a wonderful country and the Serbian people are warm and friendly. They are innovative, resilient, vigorous, dedicated and persistent, and that has enabled me to form a strong team within Inos Balkan, one that carries out its mission and overcomes any potential obstacle and difficulty.

Moreover, our children have found a balanced social and school environment in Serbia, which allows them to flourish and develop their skills and character. Despite the latest horrible shooting incident in a Belgrade primary school, our opinion is that Serbia remains a safe place for a family to live.

Finally, with your question I have the chance to publicly express my gratitude to the medical personnel of Serbia, who literally saved our daughter’s life when she was at risk. Excellent scientists provided her with state-of-the-art treatment at Belgrade’s Dr Vukan Čupić Institute for Mother and Child Healthcare of Serbia.

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