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Ana Grujović, Execuive Director of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce, SSCC

SSCC Has Adapted To The Challenges

So far, our webinars have been implemented in cooperation with member companies, but as of September 2020, we will provide new insights about the situation in the region and in Switzerland as well, in cooperation with S-GE and Swiss bilateral chambers from the region

We’ll know what kind of impact COVID-19 had on the operations of our member companies in the second half of the year. Until then we are striving – with precise information, seminars and individual support – to make it easier for members to organise their operations in the best possible way.

“We’re trying to extract the maximum benefit out of the existing situation, i.e. to minimise the negative consequences of COVID-19 on our members,” says Ana Grujović, Executive Director of the Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SSCC). Like all other organisations, since the outbreak of the pandemic, the SSCC has respected the prescribed rules of safe behaviour, with the aim of ensuring the protection of health. Many members have switched to the mode of remote working, while most SSCC activities take place via applications for webinars, online communication and video conferencing.

“One of the first measures taken, immediately upon the declaring of the state of emergency, relates to the joint initiative of 12 bilateral foreign chambers of commerce and organisations in Serbia, including amongst them the SSCC, in the form of sending an open request to Finance Minister Siniša Mali for the implementation of additional support measures for small and medium-sized enterprises,” says Grujović.

In addition to this, the chamber took on the role of an info-centre in order to inform the business community in a timely manner about regulations adopted during the pandemic, economic measures to support the economy, as well as all current information relevant to the conducting of business activities.

How have you been able to help Swiss companies that are newcomers to this market, such as Regent Lighting, which only recently started operating in Svilajnac?

The latest Swiss investment in Serbia relates to company Regent Lighting, based in Basel, which is engaged in the production of electric lighting. The investment is worth approximately 10 million euros, and the symbolic laying of the foundation stone for the construction of the factory in Svilajnac was carried out in June this year.

With regard to the advisory function of the chamber, the SSCC has a signed cooperation agreement with Switzerland-Global Enterprise (S-GE), the Swiss organisation for the promotion of investments and exports, within the scope of which we’re obliged to provide free initial consulting for Swiss companies showing an interest in the Serbian market.

You’ve announced that the results of a survey on the consequences of COVID-19 for Swiss companies operating in Serbia will be revealed in September. Can you nonetheless tell us what kinds of issues members most often asked for your assistance with?

Yes, the survey is planned for the second half of the year, in order for us to gain better insight into the impact of COVID-19 on the operations of our member companies. Most of the inquiries we received were related to economic measures for supporting the economy, ways of ensuring the protection of the health of workers at work, as well as conditions for travel between Switzerland and Serbia.

Our strategic plan for this year implies liaising with Swiss bilateral chambers in the region, the first of which is the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber.

What are the most important topics of the webinars you organise and for whom are they intended?

Our webinars are realised in cooperation with member companies, such as the Cyber-security webinar in cooperation with company Sky Express, aimed at providing additional support to members in ensuring safe work from home. Then there is the series of HR webinars in cooperation with company Adecco, as well as webinars on digital business, in cooperation with agency Smart Point. In addition to this, we organised more detailed explanations of economic measures to support the economy thanks to the active participation of member companies TSG Law Office and Confida Consulting.

For the second half of the year, we will provide members with insight into the situation in the region, thanks to cooperation with bilateral Swiss chambers from the region.

Furthermore, it is also my great pleasure to announce a webinar that we plan to realise together with Switzerland Global Enterprise in September 2020, which will provide us with additional insight into the situation on the Swiss market.

To what extent can SSCC plans for 2020 that were made prior to the outbreak of the pandemic be adjusted to the conditions of online activity, and which objectives will have to wait for better times?

We’re trying, of course, to extract the maximum benefit out of the existing situation, i.e. to minimise the negative consequences of COVID-19 on our members. At our General Assembly in February 2020, we announced a focus on HR topics this year, and we are very happy that we have maintained and implemented this direction of action in the form of webinars.

We introduced, for the first time this year, the electronic publication “Member2Member”, in cooperation with the Belgian Business Association in Serbia and the Hellenic Business Association. In this way, members are provided with the opportunity to additionally promote products and services, and to do so within the scope of the wider business community. Likewise, members of the Board of Directors and the office itself remain available for all questions and consultations over the phone or through online communications.

Of course, the part of activities related to physical gatherings of members or visits to member companies will be realised again once adequate conditions have been created to ensure the health protection and health safety.

We introduced, for the first time this year, the electronic publication “Member2Member”, which enables members to additionally promotion products and services, within the scope of the wider business community.

Flights between Switzerland and Serbia were reintroduced recently. Do you expect there to be more physical contact between business people in the period ahead, or are they reserved only for exceptional cases?

We are witnessing that conditions of travel are changing on an almost daily basis and that, as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and its health consequences, changes to travel plans are often being made. In accordance with that, it is to be expected that the volume of business travel will be reduced, especially considering the existing travel restrictions. The reactions of governments to the unfolding situation continue to change, thus our recommendation is to frequently check the news and publicly available links to government websites, in order to get the latest information.

How much room has there been in the previous period for cooperation and exchanges of experience on organising work between Swiss chambers around the world? What is the most important lesson when it comes to maintaining active communication with members?

Our strategic plan for this year implies liaising with Swiss bilateral chambers in the region. In accordance with that, in cooperation with the Bulgarian-Swiss Chamber, we are preparing joint activities for the second half of the year, while we are working intensively on also connecting with the other chambers in the region.

In addition to this, we have offered our member companies additional online media visibility through the project “SSCC success stories”, in the form of interviews to be published on the business portal and the SSCC website. The first interview was published with Mr Mićović, SSCC president and Sky Express CEO. I’m glad that the mentioned project has attracted great interest among members, and all interviews published to date can be found on the official SSCC website.