By recognising the importance of digitalisation even before the outbreak of the pandemic, the Swiss-Serbian Chamber was prepared to face the new circumstances and organised a series of activities of interest to the membership, including networking with colleagues from the region and dialogue with the Government of Serbia and other actors. In the period ahead, special emphasis will be placed on the further development of Swiss-Serbian cooperation in the economic sector
Switzerland and Serbia are this year commemorating the 30th anniversary of the establishing of development cooperation between the two countries. The 2014 establishment of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce primarily provided a significant contribution to strengthening business cooperation between companies from the two countries.
In addition to this, the SSCC plays an active role in promoting Serbia’s domestic market as an attractive destination for potential Swiss investors. As the latest example of successful work in the area of networking, SSCC Executive Director Ana Grujović notes the arrival in Serbia of Swiss company Regent Lighting, which has launched the construction of a factory for the production of lighting elements in Svilajnac.
Our interlocutor emphasises in particular that the work of the SSCC – through the implementation of various activities, from gathering members together, to staging conferences that enable public-private dialogue – has enabled the creation of a dynamic and firmly connected Swiss-Serbian business community. “And finally, we strive, in cooperation with member companies, to promote the concept of “Swissness” and the implementing of basic Swiss values, such as quality, reliability, integrity, transparency and others, in the daily business activities of companies,” says Grujović.
You have contributed to the advancing of digitalisation through bilateral cooperation and through your own work. What would you single out as future goals where the Chamber can provide a significant contribution in these areas?
The ICT sector is acknowledged as being one of the leading sectors for the further improvement of Swiss- Serbian economic cooperation. The great potential of business activities in this area is confirmed by the fact that the SSCC membership includes a large number of companies from this sector. Our basic goal during the current year is to form an ICT Working Group, in order to enable exchanges of experience between member companies, but also to enable them to have a dialogue with the state and other relevant stakeholders.
Our basic goal during the current year is to form an ICT Working Group, in order to enable exchanges of experience between member companies, but also to enable them to have a dialogue with the state and other relevant stakeholders
Then, in November, we are planning to stage the second webinar covering the topic of Serbia’s ICT sector, which will be organised in cooperation with Switzerland Global Enterprise, our institutional partner from Zurich. During the course of this event, the benefits offered by the Serbian ICT sector will be presented to Swiss companies. Finally, I would like to mention last year’s conference “Digital Transformation of Health Ecosystems”, which was held at the initiative of SSCC member company Roche.
What have your most important activities been when it comes to supporting members?
The SSCC recognised the importance of digitalisation to the further development of Swiss-Serbian economic relations even before the outbreak of the pandemic, and accordingly organised a series of events on that topic.
We have endeavoured, since the beginning of the pandemic, to utilise the benefits of doing business online, which was imposed on us by the pandemic. Among other things, webinars were held with guest appearances of experts from Switzerland, such as representatives of Economiesuisse and Swissmem, on the topic of the impact of COVID-19 on the Swiss economy. Organising this type of event in the form of an “offline” conference would certainly be more demanding in an operational sense, because it would require greater logistical effort.
The way the SSCC works moving forward will depend on the course of the pandemic. We certainly also plan to organise in-person gatherings among members, with respect for all healthcare rules, as well as online events.
One of the main challenges that we’ve faced during the pandemic is compensating for the loss of connections that are built through direct contact. Did that impact negatively on your cooperation with the Government of Serbia, domestic institutions and other bilateral chambers, and, if so, to what extent?
The opportunity to meet with business partners, and even friends, is indeed one of the basic challenges imposed on us by the pandemic. I have the impression that it is due precisely to this kind of unexpected situation, which none of us has previously encountered, that all SSCC business and institutional partners have exerted additional efforts aimed at maintaining and strengthening cooperation. For example, an online working meeting was held in May 2021 with representatives of the Serbian Ministry of Finance and the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, entitled “Macroeconomic developments in the Republic of Serbia in the context of COVID-19”. This event was co-organised together with other bilateral chambers: the Hellenic Business Association in Serbia, the Slovenian Business Club, the Croatian Business Club and the Belgian Serbian Business Association.
The publication “Member 2 Member” was also prepared in cooperation with the aforementioned bilateral chambers and contains special offers of products and services that are available to the member companies of these associations. This publication was created with the aim of offering support to companies in the precise area of compensating for the loss of links that are built through direct contact with potential business partners, and ensuring their additional visibility.
We’ve established extremely important cooperation with our colleagues from Swiss chambers in Bulgaria, Romania and North Macedonia
You recently held the first regional event entitled “Operations of Swiss companies in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and North Macedonia”, as well as announcing that similar events will be held in the future. What can you tell us about the topics of these future events?
One of the goals of our work, defined prior to the outbreak of the pandemic, was to establish cooperation with the Swiss bilateral chambers of the region. I can state with satisfaction that this goal has been achieved and that, for a start, we’ve established extremely important cooperation with our colleagues from Swiss chambers in Bulgaria, Romania and North Macedonia. We also had honour of our online event “Operations of Swiss companies in Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania and North Macedonia”, held in April 2021, being attended by four Swiss ambassadors from the region, including Swiss Ambassador to Serbia H.E. Urs Schmid.
When it comes to the topics of future events, they will certainly include digitalisation and the application of innovative business solutions.
You recently organised the first in-person gathering of members since the pandemic began. From today’s perspective, in your opinion, what is the best formula for combining offline and online resources?
Every type of event has its own pros and cons, and it is necessary to find the right formula that will maximise the usefulness of both physical gatherings and online working meetings.
Our first physical gathering since the outbreak of the pandemic was held in the form of the SSCC Business Networking working lunch, which was held in Vrdnik. Our guest of honour on this occasion was H.E. Ambassador Schmid.
In addition to this, staging webinars that include guest appearances of top experts reduces the costs of logistics and the time required to organise events, and this type of gathering has its convenience. For September this year, the SSCC is planning to implement both online and offline events, in cooperation with member firms and institutional partners, both in our country and in Switzerland.