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Ana Grujović, SSCC Executive Director

By Working Together We Grow Stronger

SSCC is in a good position to identify the interests and concerns of its member companies and relay them to officials and decision-makers. To achieve this, SSCC creates platforms for public-private dialogue by organizing conferences, the last of which was held in October 2016 – ’’Conference on SMEs’’.

Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce (SSCC) is well recognised by the Swiss business community, both when it comes to companies already active in the country or potential investors, as their first point of contact for relevant information.

Furthermore, SSCC strives to contribute to improving local framework conditions for business activity by creating opportunities for an exchange of experiences and lessons learned from both public and private sector actors, says Ana Grujovic, Executive Director.

How do Swiss investors evaluate the economic environment in Serbia?

At the beginning of 2016, SSCC conducted a business climate survey among the members of the Swiss-Serbian business community in order to gain fresh insight into their evaluation of the business climate in Serbia. The survey’s results confirmed a positive change in their perception of the local economic environment when compared to the previous year, and definitely showed more optimism among these companies.

How is the SSCC facilitating the dialogue between the Swiss community in Serbia and the Government?

The Swiss-Serbian Chamber of Commerce aims to be recognised as the Voice of the Swiss-Serbian business community. SSCC is in a good position to identify the interests and concerns of its member companies and to relay them directly to government officials and decision-makers.

In order to achieve this, SSCC organises conferences in order to build interactive platforms for public-private dialogue and further consultations and discussions with all relevant stakeholders.

Switzerland has been an independent country since 1499 (apart from a brief French occupation between 1798 and 1815)

For example, SSCC recently held a “Conference on SMEs” in the context of the “Year of Entrepreneurship” in Serbia, with the objective of contributing to the strengthening of the competitiveness of local SMEs and to emphasise their importance for the future development of Swiss-Serbian economic relations.

On this occasion, we were honoured to have the Ambassador of Switzerland to Serbia, H.E. Philippe Guex, and the Economy Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Goran Knežević, as our keynote speakers. Following keynote addresses, opportunities and challenges related to SME establishment and growth were addressed during the panel discussion, through an exchange of experiences and lessons learned from both public and private sector actors.

What kind of requests related to the local economic environment do you receive from potential Swiss investors?

We are now witnessing a growing interest in the Serbian market among potential Swiss investors, especially in the ICT, wood processing and mechanical sectors. They often ask questions about administrative procedures related to opening a company in Serbia, such as information and documentation that needs to be provided, as well as indicative timing and costs of this procedure.

Then there are many questions related to the general characteristics of the Serbian market, such as average operating costs, free trade agreements, financial benefits and incentives and labour legislation. Moreover, we often receive requests about specific customs procedures and operations in Serbia.

How does the SSCC promote Swiss values in doing business?

The “Swissness” concept represents SSCC‘s core beliefs about how to conduct activities, and we strive to promote basic Swiss values, such as quality, integrity, reliability and transparency. In September 2016, SSCC launched a new project entitled “SSCC success stories”, with a view to further promoting the concept of “Swissness”.

This marketing project consists of giving an opportunity to all SSCC members to share their business stories and experiences, as well as their company’s corporate values and principles.

Interviews are being published in the digital media and shared with the public. For example, the first interview was conducted with Mr Edin Dačić, President of the Assembly of the company “Standard Furniture Serbia”, who emphasised the importance of quality and reliability as key factors in becoming a local supplier to an international company. “Standard Furniture Serbia” is IKEA’s only local supplier.

The recent survey among the Swiss business community operating in Serbia confirmed a positive change in their perception of the local economic environment when compared to the previous year and definitely showed more optimism among these companies

Please tell us more about SSCC’s activities aimed at bringing the economies of Switzerland and Serbia closer together.

The traditional instrument used to connect the economies of Switzerland and Serbia is the “Swiss-Serbian Business Forum” – the last of which was held on October 2015 in Belgrade. On that occasion, we welcomed a trade delegation from Switzerland that had an opportunity to learn more about the business climate in Serbia during the Forum.

Also, B2B meetings between Swiss and Serbian companies were held in order to build new business connections and explore potential Swiss-Serbian partnerships and cooperation.
Then, SSCC also organises networking events. For example, SSCC and the Swiss Embassy in Belgrade co-organised the “Swiss Business Networking Event” on December 2015, with a view to strengthening ties between the members of the Swiss Business Community in Serbia.

During this event, it was emphasised that Swiss companies in Serbia had contributed strongly to fostering a more competitive environment in Serbia by promoting key Swiss values, such as quality, knowhow and work ethics.

Which SSCC services would you single out in particular?

SSCC today counts approximately 70 member companies, while we continue to receive new membership application forms. This clearly shows that SSCC has been recognised as a reliable partner to companies wishing to contribute to fostering Swiss-Serbian economic relations.

One of the main benefits of SSCC membership lies in our role to enable the efficient exchange of business information amongst members, and to provide them with practical guidance based on the experience and expertise of other members of the SSCC community. For this reason, SSCC has held internal workshops with its members and identified their main interests and concerns, which were then addressed during the Conference on SMEs.

I would say that one of SSCC’s main services consists of ensuring that the interests of all SSCC members are equally valued and that their concerns are addressed adequately.