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Zorica Popović, CEO, Elixir Group

The Strength Of The Team Makes A Strong Foundation

Elixir Group’s production capacity is one million tonnes, the portfolio consists of 55 different chemical products, of which we export 70% to the markets of 85 countries. In the last 10 years they have invested 250 million euros in development, and in the next three years they will invest even more

When asked what it’s like when a woman leads one of our most successful companies, our guest proudly points out that she has great confidence in her team. She explains that a company is not made up of buildings and machines but people, the greatest capital that a company can build, and that if everyone is rowing in the same direction, every goal can easily be reached.

You have been in agribusiness for a quarter of a century, and at the head of Elixir Group for 20 years. You still set goals, conquer new markets, work on new projects and products with the same enthusiasm and joy…?

Our first legal entity was founded in 1990, and in 32 years it developed into a business system, through activities in almost all spheres of agribusiness, and since 2012 in the chemical industry.

Our production capacity amounts to one million tonnes, the portfolio consists of 55 different chemical p roducts, of which we export 70% to the markets of 85 countries on all continents. In the last 10 years, we have invested about 250 million euros in development, and in the next three years we plan to invest even more. These figures in themselves show the dynamic development behind us, and even more importantly the one ahead of us. This demonstrates the commitment and agility of the entire team that creates and realises this development, because without enthusiasm, great teamwork and mutual trust, this would not be possible. That team strength makes our foundations very solid, so my personal and professional enthusiasm is always at a high level.

The group consists of several members who collaborate inseparably with each other and make it stable. What areas of business do you cover, besides the production of complex mineral fertilizers and phosphoric acid?

The activities of the Business System are organised in three divisions. The chemical division is our driving force. It consists of three companies – two of which are the production complexes Elixir Prahovo and Elixir Zorka, whose main products are phosphoric acid and mineral NPK fertilizers, which are marketed through the Agrar sales network. In parallel, we are developing the Eco Energy division, which with several strategic projects will contribute to energy autonomy and decarbonisation of the sources of heat and electricity consumed in the production processes of the chemical division. The industrial services division has a particularly important role in supporting the implementation of the large investment cycle ahead of us, from the research and development qualities of our engineering team, through design, to contractor resources in civil engineering, high-rise construction, mechanical engineering and assembly and technical maintenance of the systems developed by the member Elixir Craft.

In addition to the strategic synergy of these activities, what strongly connects the activities of all our divisions are the CE and decarbonisation projects to which we are committed at all levels. This is very important in the context of global changes in the consciousness and behaviour of humanity, both in industry and every individual, towards the environment, the climate and the planet in general.

Due to the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine, the price of artificial fertilizer is continuously increasing. How do you deal with these challenges?

The energy crisis started before the war in Ukraine, and then it further deepened and spread to various market segments, including the market of mineral raw materials and fertilizers. Besides the rising trend of all prices, this year was also marked by major problems in supply chains, logistical stoppages in large seaports, and in our case, the extremely low water level of the Danube made it even more difficult. These problems were partially offset by the increased prices of agricultural products, so that the demand for mineral fertilizers was maintained in all markets, and we managed to produce and market the complete production for the autumn season.

The challenges will continue in the coming year as the market is still unstable and unpredictable. Thanks to the diversification of products and markets that we have worked on in previous years, we have the capacity to adapt to any situation in a short period of time.

At Elixir, we build a winning culture, where everyone has equal chances for development and success, in accordance with the company’s development plans and projects

The energy transition to renewable and alternative energy sources is necessary and inevitable, considering all the causes and reasons for this crisis. The green energy transition is a strategic solution for both energy independence and the price of energy, but also for its environmental and climate acceptability. These projects are an integral part of our strategy, and our goal is to completely replace the use of fossil fuels with renewable and alternative sources by 2028, and to be the first carbon-neutral industry of phosphoric acid and mineral fertilizers in Europe by 2030.

Your brother is the founder of the company, your sister is the sales director, your husband occupies a high managerial position, and your mother runs a humanitarian organisation… How is your family business model responsible for your success?

Unity and togetherness, care for each individual and each family, are part of the values we cherish, and in this sense, the entire Elixir with more than 1,800 staff is one big family. At Elixir, we are building a winning culture, in which everyone has equal chances for development and success. All this takes place in accordance with the development plans and projects of the company, but we never neglect the human dimension in these processes.

Mama has been at the head of the Human Heart of Šabac and has been very dedicated to humanitarian work for more than 10 years, with our maximum support. Because we needed to extend socially responsible behaviour to all kinds of activities, three years ago we founded the Elixir Foundation, which contributes to sustainable development projects of the local communities where we operate, primarily Negotin and Šabac, and also participates in various national initiatives and projects.

Managerial work can make a person rough, because they often have to turn off emotions, set and respect goals and deadlines. Does your family help you keep your balance?

While this is true, a balance is established over time. Experience is what makes the difference, so we handle the burden of responsibility and the decisions we make every day with less stress. Then our emotions are helpful in making the most correct decisions. We make and carry out major decisions as a team, which contributes to an objective assessment of all important aspects – business, economic, social.

I try to keep a balance, because nothing must be neglected. My family is actually my biggest support in everything and I want to return that to them in the same measure. It is very important for me to feel good in my own skin, and this is only possible if we have sufficiently realized all aspects of ourselves, business, family and personal. When the intersection of those sets is large, as in my case, then it makes everything easier.

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