Danka Selić, General Manager Of The Belgrade Fair:

Be Worthy Of Imagination

Being at the helm of a company like the Belgrade Fair, with an 80-year tradition, is an honour, a responsibility and a slightly surreal experience

Danka Selic

On one side, this experience means facing business challenges and obstacles on a daily basis; a cramped, almost physical struggle for market survival and profit that means life; the inevitable daily assessment of the abilities and opportunities of yourself and others – personal, collective, joint, corporate, social, economic, state; a vortex of corporate demands and obligations …On the other, more dominant side, the awareness that you are who you are, made of flesh and blood, with flaws and virtues, knowledge and prejudices, you find yourself in the place of the last, golden link in an eighty-year-long chain of incredible events, magnificent successes, but also tragedies, eternalised in each of the links before yours. Privileged and honoured by this fact, that in the year during which the Belgrade Fair marks its 80th anniversary, I am completely occupied with some raw statistics about “my Fair”, and at the same time I am able to personally enhance and upgrade them.

And those statistics show that the gates of the company I run “to me” have been passed by more than 60 million visitors, that more than 3,000 fair events have been organised, with an average of 20,000 people “per event”, that it has hosted about 500,000 exhibitors from 180 countries. And also that it was a kind of foundation for the economic development of as many as seven countries that emerged “around it” in the meantime.

Every dinar that exhibitors invest in fair event participation is returned to them at least twofold immediately, and over time by as much as eightfold…

This can be recalled thousands of times and the result is no less wondrous. This is about, for example, already legendary figures linked to the first fair of 11th September 1937, which show that during the first three months of that year as many as 26 pavilions were built at the new Belgrade Fair, that the first fair included the participation of 883 exhibitors, including as many as 390 from abroad, that the fair was then visited by about 300,000 people from the country and around 10,000 from abroad – more than Belgrade then had inhabitants. Or the data during the second post-war birth of the Belgrade Fair in 1957, which – along with the incredible, then globally valuable construction endeavour – recorded at the first fair event 1,500 exhibitors, 650 domestic and 850 foreign, from 28 countries around the world. That was then a European record that stood for a long time in relation to domestic and foreign exhibitors at some fair, with foreigners in the majority. The fair was already the whole world back then. During the ten days of the fair, instead of the expected 500,000 visitors, the fair was attended by a fantastic 1,150,000 visitors.

And, how can I find professional and moral satisfaction in myself, with such a starry sky above me?! What do I need to know and do to be worthy of the history, the mission and even the day-to-day functioning of the company that I manage and admire immeasurably? And not just me, but anybody in my place. Studies of finances and accountancy, professional exams of “European Finance” and “European business and marketing” at IFAM University in Paris; membership in ASCI and ACI Serbia and Montenegro, for financial and foreign exchange trading; there is also a Forex certificate, and professional training for acquiring certificates for public procurement officers… Twenty-odd years, as they say, experience in the profession. Is that enough only for one side, or for both sides of the medallion called the Belgrade Fair?

And then some other irrational deadlocks on the highway return some other figures. Actual. The total economic effects of the company I head, with 180 employees, in the last year was estimated at 12.7 billion dinars of goods and services sold, and 4 billion dinars of gross value added – a full 10 per cent more than the previous year. Over 2.4 billion dinars of total tax revenues were secured. Every dinar realised by the operations of the Belgrade Fair is multiplied at the level of the national economy by up to 11 times. Every dinar that exhibitors invest in fair event participation is returned to them at least twofold immediately, and over time by as much as eightfold… The company doesn’t owe anything to anyone and fulfils all of its obligations, while our fairs and programmes have long since had global repute…

I wonder if there is actually anything more realistic than that!