If Mr Jovica Božic, a qualified civil engineering, hadn’t had the desire to launch a private business in order to create something large, this company with 500 employees wouldn’t exist today
Božić i Sinovi [& Sons] and company Gowi have been members of the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce for many years and have always supported the promoting of British-Serbian business ties, economic links and trade relations. They have also simultaneously served as good examples of how to work in practice.
Stories of successful people are usually referred to as realisations of the American dream, but not in your case, as you’ve realised your own personal dream. Could you tell us how you stepped into the world of private business?
— When I opened my first company, being a private operator wasn’t popular.
But I didn’t want to only work for a wage, rather I had the desire to go my own way and create something bigger. Anyone can realise their dream in Serbia today, provided they are prepared to work hard and fairly. In business, you have to be better than the competition and supremely professional.
You have been declared one of the most frequent travellers along the route between Belgrade and London, because you are linked to Serbia not only through family and friends, but also through a whopping eight companies that have spent many years operating successfully. What are all the things that you deal with professionally?
— It was way back in 1979 that I fell in love with an English woman, whom I married a decade later. My business was based in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Germany, while my family was in England. I started with a tyre-fitting service, progressing through the trade in used tyres and second-hand computers, and software development, to recycling, furniture production, the construction of the Bozholidays tourist resort, property management, beer production, distilling and fruit growing… We today successfully head eight companies with 500 employees.
One of your partnerships was launched under the slogan – Serbian brains with English management and sales. Have you recognised and utilised the best of what Serbia and the UK have to offer?
— I’ve never worked in England, because I saw greater opportunities in Serbia, or in the relationship between England and Serbia. I monitored the trends emerging there and attempted to transfer and adapt those ideas to the Serbian market. We began importing second-hand computers. We are proud of that period. We consider that we contributed a lot to IT literacy in Serbia, because we made computers available to everyone. That directed us towards also launching software development, so at the start of the year 2000, together with my friend Mike Smart, I founded the Gowi Group LTD. We had approximately 120 young IT experts and received a Microsoft Authorized Refurbisher license. We then ranked 15th on The Economist’s list of the 300 most profitable companies.
With the slogan “Serbian brains, English management”, we created a collaboration in which we produced software in Serbia that the English then promoted and sold in the UK
I’ve always believed that Serbian education is at a high level and that it represents a key asset for work and success. I also recognised that the English are good merchants and promoters of their businesses, so I sought to combine those qualities and that’s how the slogan “Serbian brains, English management” emerged, and we created a collaboration in which we produced software in Serbia, which the English then promoted and sold in the UK. We were equal partners with a common vision that was even recognised by BBC World.
Your company is a premium member of the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce. What are you brought by that premium membership? Do you think the BSCC represents the best example of cooperation in diplomacy and trade between our two countries?
— Božić i Sinovi, together with Gowi, have been members of the British-Serbian Chamber of Commerce for many years, and we have always been involved in and supported the promotion of British-Serbian business, economic and trade relations, while at the same time we have served as a good example of how things should be done in practice. The BSCC has grown to become a serious organisation that helps strengthen both British companies in Serbia and Serbian companies in Britain.
I can state unreservedly that the chamber has advanced a lot in recent years, with president Dr David Landsman at the helm, as well as with executive directors Jadranka Dervišević Kitarić and Richard Robinson. They also received a lot of assistance from HM Ambassador of Great Britain to Serbia H.E Sian MacLeod, whose term ended recently.
Good economic relations and interests, coupled with mutual economic growth, are crucial to coming up with many political solutions, or at least that’s how they think in the UK
As a man who comes from the Diaspora (as a former member and representative of the UK in the Serbian World Economic Council for the Diaspora) and a longstanding member of the BSCC, I can say that – given that Serbia doesn’t have Diaspora Serbs in the UK Parliament – the BSCC is actually the organisation that provides maximum support and protects economic and trade relations between the two countries. I also think that those of us that are members of the BSCC have also contributed to the fact that British Airways recently restored flights along the London-Belgrade route after a break of 13 years. We also launched a large petition calling for visa-free travel to the UK for Serbian citizens.
Good economic relations and interests, coupled with mutual economic growth, are also crucial to coming up with many political solutions, or at least that’s how they think in the UK. I believe that the new ambassador, H.E. Edward Ferguson, will also take more positive steps in terms of improving bilateral cooperation.
You have three sons. How important was their education to you?
— I often introduced myself to people in England by saying: I’m a wealthy man because I have three sons and am happily married. I’m happy that my sons, despite being born and resident in England, have perfect knowledge of the Serbian language and that they love our culture and customs. They completed their studies at renowned schools, colleges and highly- ranked universities.