The first Leoni facility in the country opened in Prokuplje 10 years ago, after which this German company decided to continue with further investments in Serbia. Leoni is today the biggest industrial employer in Serbia, with nearly 9,000 employees
Leoni continues to invest in Serbia in large part due to the openness of the Serbian Government and the availability of the workforce, a good work ethic and the level of expertise of people here. After hearing about Leoni’s positive experience in investing in Serbia other German companies deciding to enter the Serbian market and invest in the country.
You are this year celebrating a decade of doing business in Serbia. The first Leoni facility in the country opened in Prokuplje, the second was established in the municipality of Doljevac, after which a factory was opened in Niš and one in Kraljevo is currently under construction. Is all of this in line with the company’s initial plans for Serbia?
– Yes, this is a jubilee year for Leoni Serbia. In May we had the great pleasure of celebrating the 10th anniversary, together with our company’s representatives from the headquarters in Germany, employees, local institutions, business partners and media, and the feedback we received from many guests praised us for how fast everything has been progressing.
I have to add that we, as a company, are really proud that at our plant in Prokuplje, where Leoni started in 2009, we today have 240 of our first employees still on board. We started first in Prokuplje, but decided to continue with further investments in Serbia, as listed above, thanks in particular to the following reasons: workforce availability, the great work ethic and level of expertise of people here, as well as the openness of the Serbian Government.
Today we can say that we are in line with all of our activities in business which we already produce and in line with activities related to our new factory in Kraljevo, which is under construction.
Leoni has both jobs for workers with the lowest level of qualifications and for prospective engineers who develop new products. Does Serbia have enough workers to satisfy the needs of Leoni?
– I wouldn’t say that Leoni has jobs that require the lowest level of qualifications. That even applies to jobs in production, where producing wire harnesses requires a good qualification and a high level of concentration and discipline. The wire harness business delivers a product with a high probability of failure, so people need to be specially trained.
On the other hand, higher qualified people, engineers, are required when it comes to improvements to and development of our products. We, as a company, feel that the labour market in Serbia has changed and nowadays especially higher educated people are offered more career opportunities on the market.
Leoni in Serbia mainly works for BMW and Mercedes Benz, which are both recording production and sales growth. Does this mean that your investment in Serbia is safe and stable?
– I would like to remind readers that Leoni is also producing for Jaguar Land Rover, another premium car company, located in the United Kingdom. We currently produce the highest content for BMW and in the future will produce slightly higher content for Mercedes Benz too.
What is good for us, at Leoni Serbia, is that we are producing for the biggest platforms in the customer portfolio of both brands, BMW and Mercedes. So, even if the global car market were to fall, Leoni here in Serbia is protected in producing high-quality products and so we can say that our business is stable.
If you manage to implement all plans, Leoni will become the largest employer in Serbia’s industrial sector next year. Does this serve as a good recommendation for other German companies to invest in our country?
– Leoni is already the biggest industrial employer in Serbia, with close to 9,000 employees. Based on the fact that Leoni has been on the market here for more than 10 years and has invested over 111 million euros, many German companies have contacted us and asked about our impressions and, ultimately, about conditions for business activities in Serbia. We know that some of them decided to come and to invest in Serbia after hearing about our positive experiences.
You are proud of your scholarship programme for the best students at the University of Niš. How have the scholarship participants who started working at your company proved to be as workers?
– We grant scholarships to the best students not only from the University of Niš but also from the University of Kragujevac’s Faculty of Civil and Mechanical Engineering in Kraljevo. We already have two generations of 23 scholars. Eight of them already started working at the company and these young people proved to be very agile, hard-working and creative, which is very important in this business. Some of them work in our HR department, some in Finance and IT, while most of them are in Engineering.
We started and continue with this programme because we believe it is really important to give an opportunity for young and educated people to start professional careers in their field, so they can stay in the country and plan their future here.
How much progress has been made on the planned establishment of the Leoni Serbia Research & Development Centre? Is it intended to serve the company as a whole, or just the company’s plants in Serbia?
– Unfortunately, Leoni is not forcing the progress to implement the planned Research&Development Centre, due to the actual labour market in Serbia as mentioned above. Currently, the situation on the labour market here is pretty challenging – on one hand, there is lack of highly-qualified people, mostly engineers, while on the other hand, the competition is also really huge and strong.
We believe that the situation on the labour market will naturally reach a certain level of stability and when that happens we will be able to reconsider and continue with plans for R&D activities. So, to conclude, this initiative has not been stopped but is currently on hold.