01 Jan Where is the Serbian economy going during and after COVID?
Interview with Predrag Gomilanović, Commercial Director of Visaris
BELGRADE 1.01.2021. The Serbian economy is under extraordinary constraints and financial pressure during the global pandemic. Some companies have stopped working completely, while others are fighting an extraordinary battle to maintain their market and stay afloat. At the global level, we are seeing the growing impact of the “new normal”, and we will only see the real consequences of the pandemic on the development of national economies.
The first locally based company involved in the production of digital X-ray devices belongs to the group of those rare local manufacturers who use home-grown talent and knowledge to promote the Serbian economy through the export of high-quality products and services. Visaris operates in more than 30 countries in some of the largest markets, from the USA, Europe to the Far East and Australia.
- How do you manage to maintain the level of necessary development in the business with which you successfully compete with global giants in advanced technology?
“We are aware of the advantages that Serbia offers. This is a climate of talented and quality people. Although this sounds like a cliché, in our high-tech industry, the most important resource is really people. Our education system produces young people who are able to continuously learn and thereby contribute to the development of our devices and the company as a whole. That is why it is of great importance to constantly invest in education, which must keep pace with current trends and the sensibility of new generations. With the Digital Serbia Initiative, of which we are a member, we are working on the development of the digital sphere in society through new educational programs at universities and new business opportunities for young people in Serbia. For this purpose, we have invested, in addition to money, our experience and knowledge in the infrastructure of a modern innovation center. The center is located within the Visaris factory, and we have made it available to all those young people interested in learning more about innovative technologies, which are also considered state-of-the-art worldwide. We want to share concrete experiences with them and challenge them to solve real problems in our environment by applying their knowledge and ideas.”
- The measures of economic growth of the state rely on the economic strategy of the Government of Serbia, and businessmen note that there is still free space for the improvement of economic measures.
“Long-term economic growth can be improved if the state has the courage and helps innovative start-ups by implementing adequate programs. Here we should use existing world experience. According to a recently published McKinsey analysis, the American system of support for new entrepreneurial ideas was more successful in promoting the independence of such companies when compared to the European model. The comprises constant financial assistance at all stages of small business development. Therefore, the good news is the opening of a regional American development agency in Belgrade. We should develop practice in all segments of the development of our society, by using past successful strategies from other countries and thereby catch up with the best. As for companies like ours, which have already been proven on the world market, the state can help with measures that are already being implemented in some advanced economies, such as Germany or Russia. There, in public procurement processes, domestic suppliers are given priority over foreign ones. Thus, the state reaps multiple rewards: it promotes domestic products, develops scientific staff and increases employment. These state measures would contribute to faster economic growth and improvement of Serbia’s foreign trade balance. So, let’s buy other people’s experience and buy domestic products.”
- In recent years, programs of the Government of Serbia for the development of start-ups and support to companies in employment have been launched.
“I suggest young businessmen to invest in themselves through the programs that are offered to them. Knowledge and experience gained in such a way cannot be taken away from them by anyone. They need to assess individually when the time is right for independence, but even then, they should not be left to fend for themselves. There are guild associations that can help them overcome the first obstacles as easily and cheaply as possible. The state, for its part, which I have already mentioned, should systematically support their development in all phases, not only in the initial phase. In this sense, government programs, such as “My First Salary”, not only help young people take the first steps in their careers, but also help companies like Visaris to accelerate their employment and development plan. Candidates who have chosen Visaris for the opportunity to undergo training gain experience in production and product development projects in the field of digital signal processing and digital X-ray technology. We believe that this experience will mean career development for them at Visaris or some other high-tech company.“
- At the time of the pandemic, when all countries of the world gave priority to their medical needs, Serbia could count on much-needed security in radiological diagnostics during the state of emergency.
„We reacted responsibly and quickly to the call of the state and the needs of society, putting all our resources in the service of emergency delivery and installation of digital X-ray devices. Enough devices were produced and delivered in record time, so that the radiology departments in COVID centers in Serbia were ready to receive patients on time. At the same time, we responded to similar requests from Italy and especially in the USA where we and our partners delivered over 100 digital X-ray devices for the needs of the city of New York. This year alone, 250 mobile X-ray devices were delivered to the American market, which proved to be an excellent solution for temporary COVID hospitals in our country as well. We want to believe that the way we do business has contributed not only to the economy and health, but also to the well-being and sense of security of the wider community, which is one of our primary values.”
- Globalization has long since taken off with the growing mutual economic dependence of all countries, the increase in the number of international transactions of goods and services, as well as the exchange of capital.
“Globalization has matured to such an extent that it no longer surprises anyone that the brand is not from the same country as the manufacturer, and yet the origin of the product, it turns out, is becoming increasingly important. Producers from Serbia are in a solid situation here. We are located in Europe, advanced technologies are available to us, and we are logistically well connected with the largest markets. Culture and foreign languages, which have never been a problem for us, give us good a position in establishing and maintaining communication with them. At Visaris, we learn from the most demanding customers and constantly raise the quality of our products. The circumstances under which the global economy is moving are, to put it mildly, unpredictable and complex. We cannot influence them, but we can develop, change ourselves and raise the quality, which will allow us to find a way to reach our customers in the future.”
Local company Visaris has been engaged in the production and development of high-tech digital systems and digital X-ray devices since 2003 and is the only company of its kind in Southeast Europe. The quality, reliability and speed of domestic X-ray devices are confirmed by over 800 devices used in hospitals across North and South America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa in over 30 countries. The production of digital devices takes place at their factory in Zemun, where 70 engineers and programmers are employed. Visaris is a member of the “Digital Serbia Initiative” association and the Group of Manufacturers of Medical Devices at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce and the Union of Employers of Serbia.