Illustration (Photo: Pavel L Photo and Video/shutterstock.com)
The international business club Diaspora Group
is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. In these two decades, we’ve been the most proud of our modest contribution to spreading good word about Serbia across the globe and to an ever increasing export of the products marked Made in Serbia to all continents. Furthermore, we are glad that Serbia is being talked about as the country that should be invested in, that is worth of coming to as a business partner, tourist, diplomat, journalist, athlete, scientist or as a student. We are perhaps the most proud of the fact that our diaspora of all generations, everywhere in the world, is cooperating increasingly more with Serbia and the region and that the country of origin, the language, the culture and the customs are not being forgotten.
This is how Milorad Misa Ciric, General Manager of Diaspora Group, begins his story of the anniversary of the association which has been promoting Serbia worldwide since 1997. In his interview for eKapija, he says that the idea about the foundation was born by looking at other states and nations and their large immigrant communities. A group of people originating in Serbia and the countries of the then Yugoslavia thereby organized and decided to put their knowledge, experience and influence in the world to the purpose of mutual cooperation and support to the native country.
– The main desire of us who lived in the USA at the time was to join together, which was a global requirement of survival – joining resources together to the end of reducing expenses. At the same time, we wanted to present our country of origin in the best way possible – our interviewee explains.
Since the founding, the Diaspora Group has been active in several fields, through various B2B and B2C activities, striving to motivate people of Serbian origin in the diaspora to cooperate with each other. Furthermore, it affirms and encourages the diaspora from all over the world, as well as foreigners, to come and cooperate with Serbia and the region, while providing individuals, institutions and business partners in Serbia with full support in connecting and presenting themselves in foreign markets, where the members of the Diaspora Group live and work – in 56 countries worldwide.
– Our most important partners in the diaspora are located in Chicago, Toronto, Vienna, Frankfurt, Paris, Moscow, Shanghai, Milan, Sydney, Dubai, London, Istanbul, Zurich, Johannesburg, Wellington, Prague, Timisoara, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, the Dominican Republic, Brazil... As for Serbia, I am proud and grateful to be able to highlight the remarkably successful cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce of Serbia since 2005, as well as with numerous companies. Today, we cooperate with fairs, provide consulting services, promote tourism, IT and the implementation of new technologies, knowledge transfer, the agrarian and food technology... We have great contacts with trade and transport companies as well.Diaspora looking to invest in Serbia
Seeing how modern technologies and the internet have considerably changed the manner of communication between the native country and the diaspora, our interviewee says that the Diaspora Group connects businessmen from Serbia and abroad by merely clicking “Enter” increasingly more often.
– We are sending information from the world to Serbia and from Serbia to the world. The traditional means of communication, the press, the TV and the radio, still occupy an important place, but the internet is progressing in big steps. That’s why we believe that the information prepared by the team of professionals of the business portal eKapija every day is the future of business thinking and decision-making, especially since the material is available in several languages, making it accessible to people in Serbia and all over the world. However, another important way in which we operate and carry out business communication is through personal meetings with partners worldwide – at business gatherings, conferences, fairs. This kind of person professional lobbying and presenting in a range of foreign languages gives our activities a special strength – Misa Ciric points out.
The Serbian diaspora is interested in investing in their own country, and eKapija’s interviewee says that these are mostly small and medium enterprises, agencies, manufacturing facilities, looking to bring the obtained experience and knowledge to Serbia.
– They often want to send humanitarian help or to aid their former school as well, but the biggest number of inquiries relate to the development of family entrepreneurship. There are hundreds of such examples, and technological entrepreneurship and startup companies are currently popular in the domain of inquires by the diaspora towards Serbia. When it comes to big investments, it is well known that many famous instances of investing in Serbia’s economy were the result of great efforts and persistence of people of Serbian origin who work in top management in the biggest global companies. In the majority of the said events, the Diaspora Group most often has the role of a mediator, whether it’s Direct Diaspora Investment (DDI) or Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) – Ciric explains and adds that it is well known that the diaspora makes payments worth a total of several billion US dollars each year.
Best presentation through economic diplomacy
Our interviewee cites economic diplomacy as a very interesting and important question and the subject of numerous debates in Serbia for several years now. The main questions are – who chooses, that is, delegates economic diplomats, who is in charge and who can present and promote Serbia in the world and in which way.
– Diplomacy has definitely become economic diplomacy in the 21st century, and the experiences I’ve acquired in this field in the USA, Canada, China and Europe say that absolutely any person is an economic diplomat, from a customs officer, a state officer who is the first person to welcome a traveler at the airport, through taxi drivers, reception hall workers, restaurant workers, all the way to representatives of the business sector, chambers, the highest state and diplomatic institutions. If someone wants to be a professional economic diplomat, I believe they first have to have unlimited love for their country, and then to also have a wide education, courage and assertiveness, as athletes would say – to be an offensive player and not just to play defense – Ciric says.
These are the principles of “Packaged Nostalgia”, one of our interviewee’s most important projects, initiated in 2001. This initiative was very important for the Serbian economy at the time it started.
– The project was formed at the time when we were able to bring and present our food and confectionery products, bottled water, juices, wines at global food and drink fairs in Canada and the USE, after several years of economic sanctions and a ban on export of products from Yugoslavia. Around 1.3 million people of ex-YU origin live and work in North America and we sent a message to all of them to buy products from their homeland in the amount of at least USD 100 a month. Nothing has changed in our approach since then – we affirm exports from Serbia and the region, and, in the new age, we also affirm online purchase, as well as using products and services to the greatest extent possible, whenever people of Serbian origin come and stay for a period of time in their homeland. Everyone is doing the same across the globe, as this is a time of big migrations, traveling, moving, looking for jobs... – Misa Ciric explains.
He says that one of the goals of the Diaspora Group in the modern age, the age of the fourth industrial revolution in which people of Serbian origin work throughout the world, is to globally present Serbia as a “knowledge economy”, looking up to the ideas and the reputation of Mihajlo Pupin, Nikola Tesla and Milutin Milankovic.
Misa Ciric points out that the Diaspora Group plans in the coming period to keep being at Serbia’s and its diaspora’s disposal with its global resources. It will continue to encourage more and more people and companies to visit Serbia, to have people of Serbian origin cooperate with each other across the globe and to involve new young forces in its activities in this new age, where there’s increasingly less time and increasingly more information to process and implement.