The Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia (JBAS) currently has 32 members and is growing. JBAS gathers together Japanese companies, but also Serbian companies that cooperate closely with Japanese companies or which wish to establish closer collaboration with the Japanese business community.
JBAS members are active in various industries and most of them have chosen Serbia as a hub from which they cover their business activities in the region and further afield. JBAS members operate in the automotive, healthcare, IT, food&beverages, electronic, mechanical and services industries.
For this special issue, we spoke with Danijela Čabarkapa, JBAS Executive Director, about the Alliance’s activities and plans for 2019.
In a practical sense, what does joining the network of international Japanese Chambers of the Japan Chamber of Commerce & Industry mean for the Japanese Business Alliance in Serbia?
By becoming part of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) network of international Japanese Chambers, JBAS has been listed as one of the main points of contact for Japanese companies in Serbia when it comes to business cooperation and is recognised as a relevant and reliable JCCI partner.
The JCCI network is an additional source of information for our members regarding opportunities to establish closer cooperation with the Japanese business society, but also a channel for sharing information about developments and potential in Serbia. With this collaboration, one more step has been taken towards strengthening the institutional support to advance bilateral business cooperation between Japan and Serbia, which was one of our goals for this year.
Together with strong support from the Embassy of Japan in Serbia, and in close cooperation with the JETRO (Japan External Trade Organisation) Vienna Office, which is in charge of cooperation with Serbia and the Balkan Office of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) – with both organisations also being JBAS honorary members – joining the JCCI network has enabled us to establish clear channels of support with all relevant Japanese institutions dedicated to providing support to developing business cooperation.
JBAS has fulfilled all goals set in 2018 related to the establishing of clear support channels with all relevant Japanese institutions dedicated to providing support to developing business cooperation.
Which challenges do JBAS members most commonly face and how can the Alliance help them?
The challenges faced by our members differ depending on the industries in which they are active, their business approaches and the size of their business, which is why the type of support offered by JBAS also differs. Our support includes a wide range of activities – from creating networking opportunities, targeting potential partners, providing information about the specific legal framework, procedures, regulations and potential business opportunities, to providing opportunities for enhancing knowledge regarding certain targeted areas of importance for doing business, which are just some of the services worth mentioning.
In order to provide the best possible support to our members, and to shape activities by targeting the needs of members, we have also created a number of industry groups within JBAS. Their aim is to increase the involvement of Japanese business circles in the creation and further improvement of conditions for doing business in Serbia by targeting areas for improvement and providing recommendations and support from JBAS members through the consideration of successful examples and practises of other countries where our members operate, as well as Japan itself.
Which activities do you organise for your members?
The activities of the association are created in accordance with the main goals of the Alliance: to provide support for the business activities of the Alliance’s members, promote Serbia as a business destination and support the advancement of the Japanese business presence in Serbia, increase the involvement of Japanese business circles in the creation and improvement of conditions for doing business in Serbia and to promote the Japanese business culture and values. This includes creating networking opportunities and providing links to potential business opportunities through collaboration with partner organisations and the organising of seminars, conferences, delegation visits and activities within our industry groups.
We are experiencing an increase in the number of inquiries related to opportunities for doing business in Serbia, mostly related to the automotive, machine and metal industries
What kinds of questions are most often posed to you by Japanese companies considering the possibility of starting to do business in Serbia?
It is very important to emphasise the fact that Serbia has to be constantly promoted as a potential location for doing business, along with its potentials, among Japanese business circles in order to ensure the availability of relevant information and the interest of Japanese companies when it comes to the potential establishment of cooperation with Serbia. This is and will remain, one of JBAS’s goals aimed at supporting the increasing presence of the Japanese business society in Serbia. This also clearly shows the importance of institutional cooperation, both with Japanese and Serbian institutions.
Last year we had a Japanese business delegation that came to Serbia with JETRO for the first time after almost ten years, while this year we’ve already had two such delegations, one accompanying Japanese Prime Minister Abe on the occasion of his visit to Serbia, and the other related to the Japan-Serbia Business Forum. Experiencing a positive trend when it comes to the increasing interest and presence of Japanese companies in Serbia was one of the reasons why JBAS was established, and this positive trend is even stronger and more noticeable following the PM’s visit. We are experiencing an increase in the number of inquiries related to opportunities for doing business in Serbia, and they vary from general questions about conditions for doing business and requirements related to operating in certain industries, to inquiries related to the tangible realisation of investment projects. Most inquiries are related to the automotive, machine and metal industries, but also the energy and environmental protection sectors.
How do you cooperate with other bilateral chambers of commerce?
We must say that in this first year of our active work we have enjoyed great cooperation with colleagues from other bilateral business associations and chambers. As members are always seeking networking opportunities and opportunities to remain up-to-date and to learn something new that will enhance their business activities, we often combine our strengths to support members. This cooperation includes the organising of seminars, thematic presentations, lectures, speed business meeting events, international business receptions and other networking platforms. The feedback we receive from our members is very positive and we will definitely continue such collaboration and try to find ways to enhance it further and define additional areas for establishing closer cooperation to our mutual benefit.