Wednesday, 26 August 2020

INA's Layoffs Decision Is Business Decision, Says Minister

ZAGREB, Aug 26, 2020 - Economy Minister Tomislav Coric said on Wednesday INA's decision to lay off 250 workers was a business decision, and that INA recently submitted a proposal to the Strategic Projects Commission to declare the Sisak biorefinery a strategic project.

Asked by the press to comment on the announcement that 250 INA workers would lose their jobs, Coric said there was no satisfaction if people lost their jobs at the end of a process of transformation, but that INA's business decisions of several years ago were going in that direction.

"The thing that we can express satisfaction about, is that the workers are leaving with relatively favorable severance packages."

The oil company said earlier this week that, given the circumstances of operating during a pandemic, the INA Group began organizational changes and that the restructuring would cover a maximum of 250 workers. This news has caused great concern in the town of Sisak and the Sisak refinery, whose workers have warned that the layoffs would halve the refinery's staff.

Asked about the layoffs, Coric said the company's direction was its decision and that the global oil business was in trouble because of the coronavirus and other circumstances.

He said he was pleased that INA's proposal to declare the biorefinery in Sisak a strategic project, was recently submitted to the Strategic Projects Commission.

We are pleased about that because I think that the direction which INA is taking in fact - a sustainable, green direction - is the right one, Coric added.

INA council to discuss Lazard's final report soon

The minister said the government received Lazard's final report on INA. The company is the government's advisor on the possible buy-back of MOL's stake in INA.

He added, however, that the make-up of the council on negotiations with MOL on the possible purchase changed last week. "In the weeks ahead, that report will be presented to the council members and then we will go a step further."

Asked if the political decision to buy back the stake was still on, Coric said the government decided to do that in 2016 and that the decision was confirmed in the HDZ's platform for this year's parliamentary election.

"We will try to enter into talks with the other side, present our offer and try and restore Croatia's ownership of INA."

A member of the press remarked that consultants said the buyback was not worth it. Coric said that he did not have that information.

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Friday, 24 July 2020

Croatia First in World to Use Contactless Card Payment Tech for Online Customer Reviews

July 24, 2020 - Croatia first in the world to use contactless card payment technology (NFC) for online customer reviews, a game-changer for business globally

In the modern era, there's no better promotion for your business than online customer reviews. Comments and ratings on platforms like Trip Advisor, Google and Facebook have replaced slow and unreliable word-of-mouth recommendations in the digital age.

But, how to get those reviews? A huge proportion of goodwill from satisfied customers is lost forever the moment they step out of the door. They can forget every detail of your business, their experience or maybe they just don't find the time.

Review Booster Pro, an innovative platform from Dubrovnik, offers the best solution yet. It uses NFC – the same technology used by credit cards for contactless payments – to facilitate on-the-spot online customer reviews in super-fast time. It's a simple solution that could be a game-changer for business globally.

“I'm the CEO and owner of the Mint Media digital agency,” explains Ivan Ivušić who has developed Review Booster Pro.”We work with a lot of clients in the tourism sector. Over the past few years, we got a lot of requests from clients about how to improve their online reputation. Their main concern was how to improve their ratings and increase their number of reviews of Trip Advisor, Google, Facebook and other platforms, in order to get more visibility and more customers.”

“We tried many different solutions; business cards with QR codes, something you scan with your mobile phone which would take you to a web page where you write reviews. But, the main problem was the speed. Once customers leave a venue, they don't find the time to write reviews or they don't remember the name of your business. So, the conversion rates were low. So, we needed something quick and simple, so customers can leave reviews on the spot. This is what the market needs.”

Their solution was to employ NFC - Near Field Communication, the technology you use to pay contactless with your credit card. All newer mobile phones are fitted with this technology. Businesses signed up to Review Booster Pro have RBP boards, which they present to customers after their experience – for instance, while you're waiting for your restaurant bill. You simply wave you phone over the board, the phone's operating system reads the chip, your web browser opens automatically and takes you to the RBP landing page of the business you're in. You then select which of the platforms you're already signed up to - Trip Advisor, Google, Facebook etc. - and leave your online customer reviews.

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© Review Booster Pro

“The RBP boards are around the size of a large mobile phone – and these can be presented to the customer or even positioned permanently on every table in your bar or restaurant; hotels, dentists, hair and cosmetic salons, retail stores, tourist guides and agencies are also some of our clients,” explains Ivan. Aside from encouraging simple and super fast reviews, businesses using the RBP platform obtain other benefits. On their RBP landing page, where they can place their branded logo and individual text, they can also use banner advertising space to promote existing partners or market different sections of their business. For instance, while a customer is leaving a review of the hotel bar, they will be shown the details of what's on offer in the hotel's spa.

Business owners can measure the clicks on each individual board they have. Therefore, a restaurant owner will be able to see which of his staff is obtaining the most reviews. Previously, such information would have been complete guesswork, unless an individual server is specifically named by a customer in a review.

“All of our current clients were already well aware that this is exactly what they need,” says Ivan. “It took about 10 minutes to sell each of them this product. In our extensive preliminary testing, businesses that were averaging 3 reviews a day went up to receiving 15 reviews per day. It's really a game-changer.”

Future plans for RBP are extremely exciting and they are already searching for ways to move the technology into different forms – imagine having the RBP chip implanted within a laminated page at the end of your restaurant menu. But, for now, the next step is to be recognised by one of the biggest three review sites.

“Trip Advisor has a separate platform (RCP) which you can partner with, to offer projects that will get them more reviews,” says Ivan. “Our product will be particularly beneficial to them because it not only increases their number of reviews, it also increases user acquisition.”

“We are processing our application to become one of these partners. They have different tiers of partners, so if you are successful and reach the top, Trip Advisor then promotes you as a solution to all the businesses worldwide who hold accounts on their platform. That's our goal. And I have every confidence we will reach it because all other solutions rely on software, many on downloading a separate app. We found no other solution in the world right now that is using NFC technology for this.”

Tuesday, 28 April 2020

Has Coronavirus Crisis Revealed Croatia's Ability for Efficiency After all?

As Ana Blaskovic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 28th of April, 2020, much like if Croatia was placed under a strong magnifying glass, the coronavirus pandemic has showcased the many inefficiencies and the illogicality of the current Croatian system surrounding the economy.

At the same time, it has shown us that a change for the better is indeed more than possible and that the efficiency of the Croatian public apparatus is not a mere myth but a possible reality. What a shame it has taken a global pandemic to bring that to our attention.

When there has been no alternative, government institutions have proven their ability to be fast paced, their readiness to embrace digital processes and to become goal driven. Although whether or not the grants of 4,000 kuna for job retention are an optimal measure or not, the decision has been made and the application and payment process have carried out very well by the Croatian Employment Service and the Ministry of Finance.

The rapid introduction of e-passes (e-propusnice) shows that Croatia is ready at all levels to introduce and implement modern and digitised processes, but at the same time, the number of issued e-passes points to an over-fragmentation of the territorial organisation.

The introduction of Andrija showed truly excellent cooperation between Croatian and foreign companies in the creation and perfection of a smart and innovative technological solution. The state apparatus is enormous, and the number of people who can truly complete actual projects and tasks sought by the public is very modest, which makes it seem as if Croatia is not taking full advantage of its opportunities and potential at all.

If the ongoing coronavirus crisis has taught us something, it's that Croatia can indeed be efficient and orderly, and our biggest fear now should be us simply going back to our old and outdated ways under the pressure of the loud and self-serving minority who don't want to evolve or respond to change.

After the initial hesitation, the aid measures for the Croatian economy aimed at the right goal. The proposals were addressed to the Croatian Government from various institutions, and in fact, these economic measures should make the Croatian economy agile, fast, resilient and ready for the upcoming market struggle.

Coronavirus came knocking at Croatia's door when it was in a totally unprepared state in many ways. The idea of working from home, while popular, isn't adequately regulated in Croatia and this is one of the issues that needs to be addressed urgently independent of the coronavirus pandemic, since working from home is a trend that absolutely must survive even after this threat is history. It's a way for working parents to cope better, and it's a way to give young people more flexibility.

Croatia is also missing a real grasp on the idea of putting people on ''standby''. In fairness, the country did have something similar during the war, and we'd do well to incorporate an upgraded version of that in the present extraordinary circumstances. Slovenia put its workers who were unable to go to work on a ''standby'' basis and secured 80 percent of their wages, freeing employers from too much burden, who were already struggling to preserve their business bases.

AmCham also demanded that such workers in Croatia be allowed to receive, if not the Slovenian, French or British variant of the payment of 80 percent of their net salaries, or the Czech Republic's payment of 60 percent of their net salaries, then the amount provided by the CES, with certain employer obligations needing to be met along with it.

Although the argument against that is the fact that the Croatian solution allows for the payment of 4,000 kuna net irrespective of whether the employee is working or not, the employer has an obligation to pay the rest of the person's wage up to their usual full pay, and it is therefore still necessary for them to go through the whole long and exhausting administrative process with workers who aren't currently working in order to reduce the salary in these circumstances when all the time available should be focused on keeping the basics of the business, retaining customers, suppliers and employees who are still able to work.

Croatia has chosen the egalitarian principle of support for maintaining jobs with a net cash sum of 4,000 kuna. The argument for such an approach is certainly the simplicity that allowed for its speed of implementation. Despite its shortfalls, this measure protects, above all, lower-paid jobs and lower-valued industries.

However, this approach increases the chance of seeing highly specialised professionals become unemployed, and as such weakening Croatian firms in the aftermath of the coronavirus crisis when they return to the market. In addition, better-paying jobs, on a regular basis, contribute more to the budget, so it would be fair for them to be able to get more in the crisis.

How can we re-launch the domestic economy?

The tax and contribution write-offs for those affected by the coronavirus crisis are only for small businesses with a high turnover decline. Such a measure doesn't allow other companies a good start with re-beginning business operations, but instead becomes a heavy weight. Retaining workers with a delay or the partial write-off of taxes and contributions means that months or years after the re-launch of ''normal'' business, companies will continue struggle with the burden of these fees.

Large companies with a fifty percent or more drop in turnover, which is already a bankruptcy threshold for them, are allowed a proportional write-off of their regular taxes and contributions.

Given that it is crucial that in the period following the cessation of these special coronavirus-induced circumstances, economic operators must be able to initiate economic recovery rapidly. So it must be considered essential that economic operators aren't continually burdened with the tax liabilities that arose during the crisis. Coronavirus could finally bring a more significant cut in para-fiscal levies as a measure of easing the burden on the economy.

Make sure to follow our dedicated section for more on coronavirus in Croatia.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

Croatia's Entrepreneurs Use Guile, Luck To Fight 'Coronavirus Economy'

April 4, 2020 — Runner, entrepreneur and tourism innovator Berislav Sokač saw the early warning signs when governments called off punishing 24-mile races.

“Oh, I knew when things were going to be bad… when the Tokyo Marathon was canceled,” he said.

The founder and head of Run Croatia, a platform focused on sports tourism, is used to the pain-gain logic which binds suffering and improvement. He is, after all, one of the country’s most-accomplished runners.

But his Zagreb-based business hasn’t encountered a challenge like COVID-19. The ban on public gatherings and large groups put the kibosh on all scheduled events and runs. More than a cough and fever, the virus cut the legs off the nation’s largest running platform.

It puts Sokač and many other members of the Glas Poduzetnika (Voice of Entrepreneurs) in the unenviable position of trying to keep their companies afloat with zero revenue. The organization of small business owners, artisans and self-employed emerged in March to advocate economic measures meant to ease the pandemic's effect on entrepreneurs.

Business owners in a series of interviews with Total Croatia News expressed a mix of uncertainty, grit and hope in the face of fluctuating conditions. Despite a daily drumbeat of new infections and deaths.

For some, vital agreements fell through, reverting them to a one-man-show operation. Others shut down operations, kept workers on the payroll and are negotiating with landlords and creditors.

They, like Sokač and many others, expect pain with no promise of gain.
They welcome early interventions by the government and hope for further action. Quick thinking and a bit of luck have them predicting survival and even long-term renewal — whenever this grim period ends.

Inadvertently prepping for government help

Orlando Lopac ordered equipment for his fitness company, but it ran late at the end of February.

The founder and owner of Zagreb’s ubiquitous Orlando Fitness Group knew delayed shipments from US-based companies often betray a bigger problem in the production chain. A few phone calls to suppliers in Taiwan and talks with colleagues in Italy confirmed the worst.

“That’s when I understood the seriousness of the whole situation,” the 48-year-old said.

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The equipment at Orlando Fitness now sits untouched.

The ensuing weeks included whirlwind preparations, all-hands meetings and planning: provisions made in case of forced closures; financial plans drawn if clients couldn’t go to one of OrlandoFit’s three Zagreb locations.

Communications strategies — bulletins, social media posts, emails — drafted in late-night writing sessions, laying out in plain language how memberships would be prorated to a later date.

“We always tried to be three days ahead of the virus,” Lopac said. “People have put a lot of trust in us.”

Then, on March 19, the government ground public life to a halt, closing all businesses that didn’t sell food or medication.

Lopac’s fitness centers would be dormant indefinitely.

The prepared social media posts and emails were met with understanding by customers.

Lopac and his crisis team laid out a financial strategy to keep the company’s employees on the books. It called for painful cuts in wages. Then, an all-hands meeting to break the news.

“We told them what’s coming is very hard,” Lopac said. “We told them our cash flow would dry up.”

Byzantine bureaucratic labor rules meant just one worker’s dissent would topple the plan, setting off a daisy chain of ugliness which would kill the company.

His 30 full-time employees would need to annex their contracts and become minimum wage workers. Then, stay at home and hope the pandemic wouldn’t last longer than the two months-worth of salaries the company could cover.

Lopac spent more than an hour presenting the plan to his workers, explaining the maths and answering their questions.

“Because we made the presentation face-to-face, and spoke directly and took the time to answer questions, they all accepted,” Lopac said. “If I sent it all in a long email, I wouldn’t have a company right now.”

Then, a stroke of luck.

The Croatian government on April 2 unveiled a second set of economic measures designed to prevent massive private sector layoffs.

Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said all minimum wage employees’ salaries would be covered, while raising the minimum to 4,000 HRK. The plan also added three months of tax breaks for qualifying businesses.

Lopac’s two-month lifeline and pay cut became a great idea.

Business owners greeted the government’s measures with open arms. Labor Minister Josip Aladrović said within days 69 employers signed up, keeping over 410,000 employees on their books for March.

Most applicants were from the catering and service industries, Aladrović added, reflecting the 53 percent drop in overnight stays last month. The nationwide shutdown of hospitality businesses also forced a 90 percent drop in turnover in the industry at the end of March. Croatia was emptying.

The measures offered some leeway for the marathon runner Sokač and fitness guru Lopac. Both will use them to their full advantage.

“It wasn’t easy giving someone pay while they sit at home and do nothing,” Lopac said.

By reducing employees’s compensation to minimum wage, they avoided layoffs. With the Croatian government covering wages, they can shift that loss off their books.

“Now, we aren’t saddled with any large expenses and production costs,” Sokač said.

Equally important for both, they feel the small business community became the fulcrum of public policy at the national level for the first time.

“The government was ready to listen,” Sokač said. “The entrepreneurial establishment was heard. That’s a lot of small gears holding up the economy.”

Lopac expressed a more befuddled view.

“What angers me the most… were we really supposed to come to a pandemic to get to a normal level of communication between the government and entrepreneurs?” he asked. “Did it have to come to this?”

Guessing government’s next pool of measures has become a favorite parlor game for economic watchers and business owners.

Some belt-tightening already began this week.

Plenković put a moratorium on new public sector hires within his government. He also froze the second search to buy fighter jets.

Even the seemingly recession-proof local Croatian public sector experienced cutbacks. City administration employees in the City of Pag, for example, will see 20 percent pay cuts. Ditto workers at city-owned companies.

What’s left to cut? Many eye the mandatory fees charged to business owners every month — forests, water, radio and television frequencies, among others. Early rumors suggested the government would scuttle the levies. They remain for now.

How bad can it get?

drazen-tomic-ictbusiness-by-damir-brkic.JPGDražen Tomić greeted 2020 with a slate of 17 conventions ahead of him. The media guru, journalist and editor owns and operates a collage of sites, including ICTBusiness, GamePerspectives, a production company and two YouTube channels

Events around Europe and rest of the world develop the contacts and stories his bundle of media companies churns out at a substantial clip. The gatherings are all on hold or canceled outright — as Tomić expected.

“Those who understood anything about virology knew that the virus would leave China,” he said.

Worse than the conventions, the photography and video gigs garnering additional revenue have all fallen through, leaving an immeasurable hole in his company’s finances.

“If someone asks me what’s my revenue now, I have no idea,” he said. “Some jobs were already agreed upon. Some were in the works. Some are renewed every year. Some were a head nod and promise to get something done. They’re all on hold now.”

For Sokač, Run Croatia’s numbers are grim. He forecasts a 70 percent drop in revenues this quarter, and a 40 percent drop if the crisis lasts into autumn.

A blow to the tourism industry would be devastating. He pointed to a race organized in Novalja, where 70 percent of registered runners would come from outside the country. Closed borders would leave him reliant on the 30 percent of Croatian participants — if they show up.

A continued moratorium on public gatherings would cancel the race — a 100 percent loss.

“Worst case scenario, we’re looking at an 80-90 percent drop,” Sokač said.

Holding onto employees

Tomić’s company relies heavily on him, one full-time employee and eight others working in a freelance capacity.

That circle is tightening.

“I have a small firm,” he said. Halting isn’t an option. “In this company, a lot of things rely on me. I either work or I don’t work.”

He doesn’t expect layoffs.

Sokač first reached out to the social media influencers and people he outsources to, telling them the races earning them money may be canceled. Then came the “crisis meeting” with employees, a common response with nearly all the business owners interviewed.

He told his workers they’d weather the pandemic using whatever measures were available, keeping Run Croatia alive in some iteration.

“I’m not prone to panic,” Sokač said, adding his employees share his demeanor. “I’m lucky that the people who work for us also live for what we do.”

He knew the run-friendly business would likely fall off significantly. Luckily, he created an alternative stream of revenue.

Smart Planning and a Dash of Luck

On Jan. 15, Sokač added another wing to the Run Croatia ecosystem he’s built since founding the company in 2015.

“It’s important to create a platform. The stronger the platform, the higher your immunity to crisis,” he said.

That addition was a web shop — exactly the sort of operation exempt from the restrictions put in place to fight the pandemic. Traffic to the site jumped in March, as soon as people were told to stay at home.

Suddenly, Run Croatia had a lifeline.

“It was totally by accident,” Sokač admitted.

Lopac said now that wages are off his mind for the short term, he’s trying to renegotiate deals with his financiers and landlords, using the same transparent approach he took with his employees. Early signs show promise.

“The things I am not doing: complaining, crying and waiting with hands outstretched looking for help,” he said.

But just in case, Lopac spent the better part of last week developing a promising alternative revenue model — one he’s keeping to himself.

“At this moment, OrlandoFit will be alive as long as I can keep working at the same tempo,” he said. “This will survive the same way it has over the last 30 years.”

Sometimes, the nature of the business works in one’s favor, according to the journalist Tomić.
“It’ll be hard to survive the next few months,” he said. “Thankfully, this journalism bit has strict controls on expenditures.”

The low overhead and high amount of news means Tomić’s “stay at home” lifestyle remains uptempo. He admitted to sometimes hammering away close to 17 hours a day.

“At this moment, the volume of available content hasn’t been greater,” Tomić said joylessly.

Looking Ahead with Hope

Tomić knows that this pandemic, like most calamities, will pass. The real challenge, he said, will be the recovery. A wrong turn or lackadaisical response could lead to “an economic death spiral.”

“When we come back, it can’t be at 90 percent. Or 100 percent,” he said. “It has to be at 150 percent.”

Lopac’s forecast for his company is somber: between two and three years to be back at full force. He admits fitness centers grow quiet during summer months. Many members disappear until autumn.

The bigger problem is the economic aftermath. A downturn leaves people clutching their wallets. Luxuries like personal trainers and fitness center memberships are among the first expenses discarded.

There’s also the nagging caricature of gyms as dens of bacteria and sweat.

“I know our fitness centers have the highest level of hygiene you can image,” Lopac said, spelling out the protocols and culture of cleanliness at his gyms. “I can tell you it’s cleaner than any grocery store. But the perception and thinking of the public might be different.”

Sokač, the marathon runner, admits to being an optimist. His kids, he said, are a testament to the positives this coronavirus has wrought.

“I see on this digital schooling a lot of attention is being given to physical fitness,” he said, pointing to new online courses and curriculum. “These are all changes we can keep.”

The pandemic? It’s just another challenge.

“You have people who are negative and depressive and they can’t function,” the 45-year-old said. “No matter how hard things get, you have to find something that works."

Friday, 17 January 2020

Made in Croatia: Milky Pancakes Spread from Dubrava to Tirana and Beyond

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Sasa Paparella writes on the 16th of January, 2020, just a few months after graduation, young Ivan Milkovic decided to transfer the theoretical knowledge he acquired at the Faculty of Economics to doing business in Zagreb, and opened Milky pancakes in Dubrava back in 2014.

He used an easy-to-remember derivative of his surname and went into business with 12,000 euros in family savings. In the first five years of its establishment, its brand has expanded not only in Croatia, but also in the surrounding countries - Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania.

In all these countries, he designed a pancake chain that employs more than 200 people. Three Milky's have been opened in Zagreb so far, two in Split, Belgrade (Serbia) and Sarajevo (BiH), and one in Banja Luka (BiH), Mostar (BiH), Nis (Serbia), Novi Sad (Serbia), Novi Pazar (Serbia), Podgorica (Montenegro), Bar (Montenegro), Tirana (Albania), Skopje (Macedonia) and Kragujevac (Serbia). Milky pancakes are planned in Istanbul (Turkey), Vienna (Austria), Ljubljana (Slovenia), and Zurich (Switzerland), and a couple of inquiries have arrived from Germany. Although there are about fifteen different pancake shops in Zagreb today, only Milky pancakes has made it abroad.

After the Milky pancakes brand managed to establish itself regionally, most of these pancake shops now operate as franchises. The money invested brings given know-how and marketing, and the biggest expense for any potential investor is the pancake room. Milkovic retained a 50 percent stake in the shops in Belgrade, Banja Luka, Bar, and the one set to open in Istanbul.

"Belgrade is doing great, we employ 40 people there, it's amazing how much Serbs spend on going out! The prices of our pancakes are very similar to those in Croatia, and although salaries are much lower in Serbia, turnover is very good.

The situation is similar in Banja Luka, where we have a space of 300 square metres and seventeen employees. I'm satisfied with the business in our neighbouring countries, and I've left Croatia to others. I no longer had the nerve to pay unreasonable tax penalties. I definitely gave up when the VAT on catering was increased, it killed us,'' Milkovic said, explaining why it's easier for him to do business in other countries.

He decided to use the expansion in the region to promote Croatian products. "I withdrew Podravka's chocolate spreads in BiH, Serbia and Albania. I told them I was promoting their products, I expected some reaction, maybe for them to co-finance that promotion on the markets that are important to them, but no, there was none of that," says Milkovic, who then began making his own brand of spreads.

When starting a business, the biggest problem was convincing people that it made sense to give 30 kuna for pancakes. "The comment was always the same - ''For that money I can make tonnes of pancakes at home!''

Over time, guests began to realise that pancakes from Milky pancakes look much better than their home-made ones, they're more imaginative, and going to Milky pancakes is also a reason to go out.

He came up with many combinations, and admits that he didn't have to type them all into a computer, he just listed various items and left the guests to arrange their own pancakes.

"You start with an empty pancake, which costs 13 kuna, and then add what you want, from the type of spreads to, if you like it, whipped cream or ground almonds on top. The guests themselves combine whether they want Nutella, Kinder bueno, ice cream, strawberries, mousse, coconut, Oreo biscuits, fruits of the forest... I still come up with some novelties, for example, I introduced protein pancakes. Part of the competition is stealing ideas from us, but it doesn't matter, we're constantly coming up with something new. Of course, the raw material is also important, for example, we use premium Callebaut chocolate,'' reveals Milkovic.

The pancake mix for all Milky pancakes is made in the same factory in Zagreb.

He got the idea of ​​a pancake house about ten years ago, but only after graduation did he do anything about it.

"When I graduated from university, I first went to the employment service, they offered me a job as an intern for 1600 kuna, which I refused. Then they offered me self-employment assistance, they asked me for project documentation. The condition was that I should not open a company until they they give an opinion on my project and their response time is 90 days,'' explained Milkovic, detailing the draconian Croatian business attitude and why he steered away from going the normal route, using his own cash instead.

The first Milky pancakes opened back in 2014 in Dubrava, Zagreb. He found a 28 square metre store in a busy location, "there were a lot of young people there who could be attracted by our products. The shop used to be a used goods store, then a gold buy-back shop... so it was hard at first and it was difficult for people to accept that something could be eaten there now. I was doing everything to attract attention, I was even hanging balloons in the surrounding trees," Milkovic recalled.

He used pallets and brick walls in the shop's landscaping, but the ''competent'' inspectors from the responsible authority didn't like the industrial style, so he was denied a permit to continue, with the justification that the ''space was unfinished''.

"The inspection refused me because they weren't used to spaces made of pallets and brick walls. Only after proving with certificates that the paint on the wall was washable and easily maintained did I get a permit to work,"s added Milkovic.

Then, one year later in 2015, he opened a shop in Spansko, also in Zagreb. He decorated it with car headlights and car seats. As business went well, competition appeared in Dubrava and Milkovic moved to a larger neighbourhood. His competition failed after just one year. The third Milky pancakes opened back in 2016 in Sredisce, Novi Zagreb. In the meantime, he abandoned minimalism in landscaping and invested as much as 100,000 euros in the renovation of 100 square metres of the space.

"If I knew how much it would end up costing me, I'd never have embarked on an adaptation! Although banks seem to be offering increasingly affordable solutions, in Croatia, young people have a hard time getting a loan," Milkovic says. For now, he is not considering expanding to downtown Zagreb: "the rent is too high there. We work with a solid margin, but the price and quantity of the pancakes sold is not enough to cover that cost."

He covers that part of Zagreb with the help of the popular Glovo delivery service, with whom he started working to fill in the gaps in the morning, and now his revenue from deliveries has reached 50 percent of total traffic. Having conquered the region with Milky pancakes, he can now devote himself to other ideas - his own line of chocolate spreads, as well as frozen pancakes for cafes, restaurants and shops.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia and business pages for much more.

Thursday, 12 December 2019

Croatian Companies With "Fast Growing" Title Higher Than EU Average

The attribute of a fast-growing company implies an average annual growth of employees of more than 10 percent over a three year period, and Croatian companies are higher than the European Union average in that sense.

As Jadranka Dozan/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 11th of December, 2019, in the business sector in Croatia, the share of fast-growing companies is higher than the EU average, and in the competition of 10 so-called New Europe countries, Croatia is right in the middle.

As stated, the attribute of a fast-growing company implies an average annual growth in the number of employees over 10 percent per annum over a three-year period, with active companies with at least 10 employees at the beginning of the period under review. According to the most recent comparative Eurostat survey in Croatia, approximately every eighth Croatian companie, representing 12.5 percent of the total number of active companies with more than 10 employees, is close to being called a ''fast-growing'' company. These Croatian companies employ more than 114,000 people.

At the EU level, the share of fast-growing companies is slightly lower, standing at 11.3 percent. There are around 190,000 of these in total, and their importance and contribution to growth and job creation are evidenced by the fact that such companies provide jobs for 16.4 million European Union employees. Over recent years, the share of fast-growing companies in the bloc has been increasing, increasing in three years (compared to 2014) by 2.1 percentage points at EU level.

The same trend is observed here at home with Croatian companies. However, sector-wise, Eurostat data suggests that the fast-growing companies are somewhat different in Croatia than they are in the EU. The Eurostat analysis points out that the share of high-growth enterprises is more pronounced in the service sectors than in the rest of the business sector, with the highest percentage being in the Information and Communication sector (17 percent), Administrative and support services (15.3 percent) and the Transport and storage sector (14 percent).

The data for Croatia shows that the largest share of fast growing companies has been recorded in Transport and Storage (16 percent, and 120 companies with more than 6,700 employees) and in the Information and Communication sector (15 percent and 90 companies with more than five thousand employees in total).

The share of fast-growing companies among the total active section with at least 10 employees in the EU is led by Ireland (16.5 percent), Spain (15 percent), Portugal (14.2 percent) and the Netherlands (13.9 percent), while in Cyprus and Romania, this figure stands at less than three percent, and it is interesting to note that Austria is also below the average with 7.8 percent so called fast-growing companies.

Make sure to follow our dedicated Made in Croatia and business pages for much more.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Carlsberg Croatia Discusses Business, Investments, Popularity and More

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Sergej Novosel Vuckovic writes on the 17th of November, 2019, Helle M. Petersen, CEO of Carlsberg Croatia discusses the business of the company operating under the auspices of the Danish beer giant and the state of the domestic sector in which large breweries are increasingly finding fierce independent rivals.

Although the main brewing season is behind us, beer continues to be well consumed at this time of year, moreover, the range, quality and range of beer styles make it a source of enjoyment for domestic consumers. One of the companies who recognises this is Carlsberg Croatia from Koprivnica, a company which operates under the well known global giant from Denmark, which stepped out with new products this year, achieving better results than last year.

The third brewing company in terms of market share has thus solidified its position, and Carlsberg Croatia's CEO Helle M. Petersen sat down to talk about the challenges and opportunities in the beer sector in conversation with Poslovni Dnevnik. The Danish manager has been in Croatia for three years now, after having spent her career within Carlsberg around the world, and she touched upon the issues of the workforce, the popularity of beer brands, the health and safety of workers, investments, and so on.

The main part of the beer season has passed, autumn is in full swing, what are the results so far in 2019, are you satisfied?

We're very satisfied, we have experienced the growth of all our brands, we're also very happy that we've won a good part of the market which is a good indicator for strengthening our share, because, as you know, we are "only" the third player in Croatia and therefore getting stronger is very important to us.

Like other industries, bad weather hit us in May, but we still managed to maintain our position. Compared to the same period last year, this has been reflected in double-digit growth in sales volume. It's definitely satisfying. However, we still detected some difficulties, the category is in decline, especially in the HoReCa channel, which is very worrying.

Although there were more tourists, they did not go out and consume drinks to the same extent as they did last year, and this is an area that leads me to think about what led to a change in their habits.

However, that depends not only on you but also on the prices in the HoReCa channel?

That's true, but it's still our responsibility to make our offer attractive to tourists, to encourage them to go out and spend money. It's also our obligation to provide content that will attract guests to cafes and restaurants, and therefore that's high on our list of priorities and questions we want to better understand what we as a brewer can do.

And have you found any solutions?

If I had, I wouldn't tell you yet (laughs), but we truly believe that we have a responsibility to make the category of our products more efficient, more interesting. In other words, we need to look for ways to win over more customers, create a premium offer and generally make it attractive for the consumer to continue buying our beers in Croatia.

Remind the public of just how present Carlsberg already is in Croatia...

Ever since beer production started in Koprivnica with the establishment of a brewery. The history goes back to 1971 when we partnered with Podravka and actually secured a license for them to produce Tuborg, which was the first international beer brand produced locally in the entire former Yugoslavia.

This relationship warmed up and we entered into a brewery, but over time Podravka gave up the beer business, so we gained full control, renaming the company in the 90s first to Pannonian Brewery and finally to Carlsberg Croatia.

The name change was not warmly welcomed in the local public?

It was expected from the point of view of the native people. The Carlsberg Group was taking over a lot of companies around the world at that time, trying to ensure that the corporate culture of Carlsberg was carried everywhere to new markets, and that's why the company here was renamed, whether it was a good or bad decision. But I think it's fair to say that the Pan brand is much stronger than the Carlsberg brand in Croatia.

And then people know once again that Carlsberg is also Croatian, from Koprivnica...

I don't think the name of the company makes it difficult for us, but on the other hand, we have the task of making sure people recognise us as Carlsberg, of having a wide product portfolio, but our biggest brand, I repeat, is the local Pan. And we have healthy growth in it.

To date, how much has Carlsberg invested in doing business in Croatia?

We usually don't publish full amounts of investments, but as a company we have accelerated investments. In the last three to four years, we've invested a lot in production capacities, packaging machines, which has enabled us to sell, for example, the Somersby brand range (alcoholic beverages based on fruit juice, eg cider - cider, op.a.) from Croatia in 20 countries across the world.

We've also invested heavily in the area of ​​occupational safety and health, it's very important for us to get people to work in safe conditions, and however small things may seem, it is really important as a step forward in the production process. This is also linked to our investment in alco-lock systems in cars, as we don't want to have any risk of our employees selling beer driving under the influence of alcohol. Last year, we invested around 11 million kuna in a new warehouse in Koprivnica, there was a big need to expand our warehouse space as bigger spaces allow us to export more.

Specifically, we've invested a lot in cider production capabilities, which commands a completely different method than brewing beer. This has two benefits - that Croatia has the benefits of exporting this product, and it is important for Carlsberg to have all the expertise of cider making.

Let’s go back to beer brands and their strength. What works best on our market?

If you look at the Croatian market, more than 80 percent of it belongs to the mainstream brands and those below. We therefore needed the Pan brand to show us its strength in that segment and it's like "bread and butter" to us. Without a strong local brand, it doesn't make sense to have a big drive and therefore our focus is on making Pan great. But we also strive to achieve good results in the premium segment, with Carlsberg and Tuborg, and this year also Blanc, a citrus-flavored wheat beer. We don't think too much about brand size as long as all our brands grow.

It's important to us how we deal with our competitors, since our range is wide, ranging from "discounted" Holsten to various types of Pan all the way to Carlsberg, Tuborg and Blanc, and Grimbergen, Budweiser and Guinness. We need to continue to innovate and create appropriate deals for stores and outlets to make consumers want to have a drink outside in company.

In terms of Somersby ciders, do Croatian consumers like it?

Absolutely, yes! Cider has been a pretty interesting “journey” for us, with it having double-digit growth year after year and with the growing acceptance of cider as a beverage category. With Somersby, we practically founded the category and started its growth. Somersby is still the number one leader in Croatia.

Cider also generates a good deal of revenue for caterers who are increasingly interested in selling it. It's consumed equally by men and women, it is a true unisex product and it's our responsibility as a market leader in the category to continue to “pump” that growth. We have introduced new flavours, changed the design and have to keep going. Everything is made here in Croatia. It is almost entirely a Croatian product.

Where does Somersby end up from here?

It goes to the countries in Croatia's neighbourhood and the region, but also to the Far East - China, Malaysia, and Canada, a total of twenty countries worldwide. It is mainly exported in bottles, on this market in four flavours, but we export five more, so in total in Koprivnica, we produce about ten Somersby variants. This brand is here to stay.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for more.

Monday, 18 November 2019

Infobip: Largest Croatian Software Company Opens Office in Split

Croatian companies face many obstacles when doing business, and the state tends to be the one throwing barriers up left right and centre, often forcing companies to relocate to other EU countries in which the situation for entrepreneurs and doing business is much more favourable.

While running a business in Croatia is far from easy, there are exceptions to the general rule (or at least the general rule which continues to be the most commonly held belief among Croats), that nobody can succeed here unless they're well connected or members of a certain political party. Infobip, a truly impressive Croatian software company which draws its roots not from Zagreb but from Vodnjan in Istria, is just one fine example of what can be done in Croatia, and done well, with patience, dogged determination and a clear view.

As Bernard Ivezic/Poslovni Dnevnik writes on the 17th of November, 2019, in the very centre of Dalmatia, the remarkable Croatian company Infoip has initially employed eighteen experts.

The ever-impressive Infobip, otherwise the largest Croatian software company, has now opened an office in Split, the new Split premises mark the company's fourth office to open in the Republic of Croatia, making it the 66th in the world. Infobip's offices are located across Croatia, and in addition to the newly opened Split office, their offices can be found in Vodnjan, Zagreb and Rijeka. The company has, as stated, initially employed eighteen IT professionals in Split and the new office has become part of Infobip's development hubs. The company otherwise employs more than 2,000 workers in total.

Izabel Jelenić, co-founder and CTO of Infobip, says they want to give talented people in Split the opportunity to work on global innovation.

''After Vodnjan, Rijeka, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Pune (India) and St. Petersburg (Russia), the office in Split has joined the network of hubs in which we develop communication solutions,'' concluded Jelenić.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business and Made in Croatia pages for much more.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Croatia's Largest Employer: Emil Tedeschi on Employee Retention

As reported by Marina Šunjerga/Poslovni Dnevnik on November 13, 2019; Emil Tedeschi, the largest real-sector employer in Croatia, reveals two of the most important factors in employee retention. He currently employs more than 5500 people in the Atlantic Grupa company.

This year Poslovni Dnevnik and Vecernji List will again present the most prestigious business awards in the country. The award of “Master of Business” and “Economic Event of the Year” will be presented to the most successful and strongest businessman and event in Croatia, whose business or influence crucially impacts economic trends in the country and improves the economic and social climate.

Emil Tedeschi, after leaving Ivica Todorić's business sphere, is the largest real-sector employer in Croatia. Atlantic Grupa, which has generated HRK 4 billion in sales revenue in the first nine months of this year, has continued to develop since the 1990s, when it emerged on the regional scene, taking over numerous companies, among which Droga Kolinska is the most famous, of course.

Ambience and Security are Important

Tedeschi, who currently employs more than 5500 people, recently announced that he is seriously considering introducing a four-day work week. 

“I am sad that we are successful in a failed society. For years, I have been talking about the responsibility of the elite but will continue to insist that people in high positions in different spheres of society also carry a responsibility. In the past, the saying "noblesse oblige" was valid, the nobility obliged, and today it can be said that the leadership obliged. Along with the various benefits that a leadership position carries, it entails far more obligations and responsibilities than the wider community,” he expressed to Vecernji List. In this context, Tedeschi is working on managing and implementing new business practices within his company. He is among the first entrepreneurs to make the most of the opportunity offered by tax reform to reward employees, and last year gave them additional bonuses of HRK 7,500, which are non-taxable under new regulations. He is also considering introducing a four-day work week. Tedeschi explained that he wants to attract a workforce of professionals, but, more importantly, devise a effective way to retain them. The most important factors in retaining a good employee are ambience and security, he indicated.

"Responsible employees are also concerned with a range of benefits which include a quality work environment, a corporate culture and a good balance of leisure and work, and we are seriously considering a four-day work week," Tedeschi said.

This new global trend has already shown results, so it has been empirically proven that employees who work on this model are 20 percent more productive than employees who have more traditional working hours. The four-day workweek movement has since expanded everywhere, with most of the advocates appearing in the UK and Germany, where it has been embraced by many small businesses offering a wide range of intellectual services. In the context of his view that entrepreneurs must have a social responsibility, he gave a talk in which he took on the role of a social chronicler, and not a businessman, but analysts were not surprised by the appearance of this businessman.

At the time, he said at that Croatia had two resources: people and nature, but people are still leaving! He added that it would be great if we only had ideas of ​places for them to return.

He Will Not Remain Silent About Todorić

Lately, Tedeschi has been speaking very openly about the 'Croatian silence' in the Agrokor case, particularly, how our society allowed 'that Frankenstein of Agrokor management' to happen, and to Vecernji List he claimed that "Todorić acted as a sultan, he made his own decisions, and by his way of running the company he blundered not just a decade but an epoch."

His Atlantic Grupa originated from the acquisition of several trading companies but has grown into a company that boasts significant production. The most famous brands in Croatia are Cedevita and Barcaffè. However, after taking Droga Kolinka under the Atlantic umbrella, they have also acquired the Donat and Cockta brands. The well-known Argeta and Smoki brands, which are produced by the Soko Štark factory, are produced under the company as well. Lovers of local delicacies are also familiar with the Bakina tajna brand, but its financial impact is only a minor part of Atlantic Grupa's business.

Follow our business section for more updates and developments in Croatia.

Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Numerous Chinese Companies Have Cooperation With Croatia on Radar

As Poslovni Dnevnik/Marija Brnic writes on the 5th of November, 2019, the opening ceremony of the Chinese International Import Fair, which is being held for the second time in Shanghai in order to increase imports and reduce trade surplus, has featured four companies from Croatia, with a total of twelve more Croatian businessmen attending the Croatian-Chinese Business Forum.

The forum has been organised by the Croatian Chamber of Commerce (HGK), and in addition to presenting Croatia's economic and investment potential, more than thirty Chinese companies have expressed interest in concrete business talks with Croatian entrepreneurs. Among the companies whose representatives have travelled to Shanghai, some are already successfully operating on that huge market, but small, little-known companies are also testing the ground.

Pan Parket, Podravka, Zdenka, Inovatus Services, Adiratic health & care travel agency, Exotrade Rijeka, Education Travel Worldwide, Foto revija, Milena, and even the agricultural cooperative Gospoja iz Vrbnika and AMPnet IO and Intereuropa Global are looking for new opportunities in this populous country.

This year, the fair brought together around 150 countries and regions, as well as international organisations, with nearly 4,000 companies presenting themselves on a staggering 400,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The fair was officially opened by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who sent out the message that it is important that there is mutual understanding and that people can connect, while preventing wars, protectionism and unilateralism. According to the organisers, last year, the first Import Fair was effective - 90 percent of the deals were completed, with a contract value of around 52 billion euros in total.

The Croatian Chamber of Commerce, which officially opened its representative office in Shanghai during the last fair, pointed out that Chinese interest in cooperating with companies from Croatia is growing, especially after the 16 + 1/17 + 1 Summit in Dubrovnik. The Croatian Chamber of Commerce also allows companies from Croatia who are interested in doing business in China to use their office space, and so far, they say, about 20 companies have expressed interest.

Make sure to follow our dedicated business page for much more.

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