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Oliver Lepori, JBAS Executive Director

Contributing – Quietly, But Steadily – To Improving People’s Lives

This year is an important milestone for the Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia, marking our fifth anniversary and, more importantly, 140 years of diplomatic relations between Japan and Serbia. We have ambitious plans for the coming period.

The state of Japanese business in Serbia is stable thanks to the dedication of each of our member companies, which represents a sure footing for continuing the activities of JBAS, says JBAS Executive Director Oliver Lepori.

2021 proved to be a year filled with events and activities in every way. “Last year was rather intensive for JBAS. We had many activities that were predominantly orientated towards supporting our members, but also further strengthening relations between Serbian and Japanese institutions, and the many Japanese expatriates working in Serbia and the region,” says Lepori.

Undoubtedly, adds our interlocutor, we will remember 2021 for the Tokyo Olympics and the nine medals won by Serbia. “Related to this event, our local victory was the opening of Sakura Park on the Sava riverbank, together with the Olympic Committee of Serbia, the Embassy of Japan and the City of Belgrade. We built it to honour the eternal friendship between Serbia and Japan,” says the JBAS Executive Director. “With Japanese cheery trees planted to form the shape of the Olympic rings, we are particularly glad that this park is also a pleasant place for sport, meetings and leisure, for all citizens of Belgrade and Serbia to enjoy”.

Recognised as one of the driving forces of the Serbian economy, JBAS participated in many business events in 2021, but also shared its vision at the prestigious Kopaonik Business Forum and World in 2022 conferences. This association also organised a lot of online and face-to-face activities and gatherings for members to address current business-related issues and trends, adds Lepori.

JBAS and the Development Agency of Serbia (RAS) have signed a memorandum of understanding with the goal of efficiently coordinating activities aimed at further supporting the improvement of economic cooperation between Japan and Serbia. What are your main expectations of this collaboration?

We last year supported RAS in the organising of the most important investment seminar ever held to promote investment opportunities in Serbia for investors from Japan. The result was impressive, with 380 participants and over 280 potential investor companies.

The economic measures of the Government of Serbia provide a sound foundation to attract potential investors, but an active approach is most welcome in order to create even better results. We collaborate with many Serbian institutions with the aim of promoting Serbia as an investment destination.

We collaborate with many Serbian institutions with the aim of promoting Serbia as an investment destination

After a year in the position of executive director of JBAS, how have your ideas about the further development of the Alliance evolved?

The essence of the Japanese business culture is a constant change for the better. This is a process of gradually but continuously improving operations that involves everybody concerned. It also provides guidance for defining new strategies and redefining visions.

With the strong involvement and active participation of our Board of Directors, we’ve improved the operations of JBAS significantly since the beginning of 2021. The range and quality of our services were upgraded, and the number of members has increased.

We have created a completely new framework for 2022, a kind of working platform where each member will be able to find their own interest in participating directly in JBAS activities and which will improve contacts and cooperation among members.

I’m glad to note that the state of Japanese business in Serbia is stable thanks to the dedication of each of our member companies that’s leading, growing, innovating, changing and improving the Serbian economy and the communities in which each of our members operate, which is a sure footing for continuing the activities of JBAS.

Many business associations that operate in Serbia are doing an excellent job of supporting their members. What distinguishes JBAS from the others; and how do you view cooperation with your colleagues?

We believe strongly in synergy and the importance of cooperation among business associations and institutions representing the international business community in Serbia. Our members operate as Serbian companies and, as such, we all operate under the influence of the same local and global economic factors. We are proud of the fact that these relations have only grown stronger since the beginning of the pandemic.

Some of the most distinguishing characteristics of the Japanese business culture shape the operations of our investor companies and the JBAS family. Japanese investments are long-term, in viable products and services, and include lasting relationships with suppliers and customers. The Japanese approach to doing business is more sophisticated than the local one. Our companies contribute, quietly but steadily, to reducing pollution, cleansing industry and reducing landfill waste, data and information safety, storage and transfer, the digitalisation of every aspect of life, including the public administration and cadastral registry, powering our cars, planes and boats, traffic optimisation, the development of agricultural and industrial technology, industrial automation and practises. We help to improve the lives of persons with special needs and provide healthcare to members of the population suffering from rare diseases. Overall, Japanese companies bring a silent, qualitative change to the communities and the market in Serbia.

Japanese investments seem to be more frequent today than they were in previous years. What are your views on their importance and effect?

Apart from bringing a qualitative change and having a strong impact on the work culture, but also an important additional impact on exports from Serbia, recent investments from Japan are expected to bring Serbia under the spotlight among many other investment locations.

At a moment of international trade disputes, energy imbalances and supply chain disruptions, existing and future Japanese investments will gain importance and require the further growth of JBAS.