Source: eKapija | Monday, 15.10.2018.| 15:55
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Danijela Cabarkapa, Executive Director of the Japanese Business Alliance In Serbia – Japanese investors have faith in Serbian market

Danijela Cabarkapa, Executive Director Of The Japanese Business Alliance In Serbia
The proof that different cultures can create good and successful cooperation and encourage businesses to enter the possibly “unfamiliar” market can be seen in the example of Serbia and Japan, two countries which increased their cooperation in the past years in various industry sectors – food, car, IT, pharmaceutical, electronic industry...

Japanese Business alliance in Serbia will organize Japan-Serbia Business Forum on October 17, 2018 together with Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Japan External Trade Organization and the Embassy of Japan in Serbia.

Where do Japanese want to invest, in what sectors and why do they choose Serbia are some of the questions we discussed with Danijela Cabarkapa, Executive Director Of The Japanese Business Alliance In Serbia (JBAS) - a business association which successfully brings together Serbian and Japanese companies and investors and also provides consultancy services, support and directs them on their business journey .

eKapija: Tell us more about the upcoming Japan-Serbia Business Forum which will be held on October 17 in Belgrade and the future JBAS activities?

– JBAS together with Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Japan External Trade Organization and the Embassy of Japan in Serbia organize Japan-Serbia Business Forum. The event consists of two parts, a conference and the first day dedicated to suppliers for Japanese companies. The forum participants will have the opportunity to learn more about the possibilities and business conditions in Japanese market in the first part of the event and will be able to find out more about the ventures of the Japanese business community in Serbia and the cooperation between the two countries economies. After the conference, the first day for the suppliers of the Japanese companies in Serbia will start during which seven Japanese companies together with potential Serbian partners will discuss the possibilities of business cooperation.

Also, the plan is to organize certain events of JBAS industry groups with the aim to transfer knowledge and good business practice of the Japanese business community in Serbia as well as activities oriented towards promoting Serbia and the opportunities for cooperation in Japanese business circles which will be discussed further in the next period.

eKapija: During the recent second Kaizen (TM) congress held in Belgrade we were able to hear about the experiences of many company representatives that implement kaizen in their businesses. Why is kaizen both interesting and desirable for Serbian entrepreneurs?

– Kaizen is a Japanese method of continuous improvement applicable to all areas of business (production, services, wholesale..) It consists of Japanese word “kai” which means “change” and the word “zen” which means “to improve” and therefore kaizen represents continuous improvement, that is, everyday small improvements which together amount to significant changes . The basis of kaizen system is enhancing efficiency with better organization and worker inclusion. It is a method recognized globally that is attracting the attention of Serbian business circles where many companies already implement kaizen with success. It is important to notice that our founder JTI, that is, the JTI plant in Senta is the first plant in Serbia to make full use of kaizen and since it began using this method in 2008 the productivity has increased for 50 % while the amount of scrap has decreased for 70% which clearly testifies to the benefits of implementing kaizen. JTI shares its experience on the regular by organizing Kaizen Open Door Day in Senta factory.

eKapija: What is the significance of these meetings and what are the concrete results of this gathering?

– This year JBAS joined the Kaizen Institute in organizing the congress, because one of our goals is to promote Japanese culture and values and to bring Japan’s positive experience and practice to Serbia. As an introduction to the congress we organized a seminar in September themed “How to do business with Japan – the introduction to kaizen method” in order to bring Japanese business culture closer to Serbian companies and promote kaizen method. Kaizen congress is an excellent platform for reviewing current trends, exchanging experiences and establishing potential business cooperation between companies in order to increase efficiency. We gathered over 200 company representatives this year and we plan to continue organizing the congress. The congress opened certain questions about the challenges of the workforce market in both Serbia and in the world, the answers to which we will seek until the next congress..

eKapija: As someone who tracks the works of Japanese companies you are familiar with the business culture of this country. So, beside kaizen, what else could we learn and take from their business model?

– Some of the qualities of Japan`s approach to doing business are longterm commitment, discipline, high standard, mutual respect and trust. The accent is put on nurturing business relations and one thing is for sure, when Japanese companies start business cooperation they are in it for the long haul.

eKapija: How many companies are doing business Serbia at the moment and what is their feedback when it comes to business conditions in Serbia?

– At the moment there are over 30 Japanese companies doing business in Serbia, in great variety of industry sectors. Japanese companies are present in the food, car, IT, pharmaceutical, electronic, chemical, machine and medical supplies industry and all of them chose Serbia as headquarters from which they cover activities for the entire region and further. The fact that the presence of Japanese companies is growing each year is a clear sign that Japanese business community recognizes the positive trend of continuous improvement of business climate in Serbia.

eKapija: What industry sectors are the most attractive for Japanese investors?

– There are currently five Japanese factories in Serbia : JTI, Panasonic, Yazaki, Hi-Lex and Kansai while Mayekawa Manufacturing is in the process of carrying out their investment project in Serbia which says a lot about the industry diversity. There is a noticeable interest of Japanese companies , mostly in auto, machine and metal industries. Furthermore, Japanese companies are expressing interest in energy industry and environmental protection. It should be pointed out that last year, after almost ten years, the delegation of Japanese investors who operate in IT, construction, auto, chemical and food industries visited Serbia and only few months after that visit, one of our member companies, Soft Road Apps began operations in Serbia and one year before that another of our members, an IT company NTT Data opened its office in Novi Sad. In addition to that, back in January, another business delegation together with Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzō Abe visited Serbia while the arrival of Yazaki Corporation, as the first greenfield Japanese investments have stimulated the interest of Japanese companies. Therefore, we expect a positive trend of growth of Japanese investments in Serbia in the next period too.

eKapija: When we talk about the bilateral cooperation between Serbia and Japan what is the balance of trade for 2017 between the two countries? What did Serbia import and what did it export the most to Japan?

– The total foreign trade in 2017 was around USD 168 million and out of that number the exports to Japan amounted to around USD 50 million and the import from Japan amounted to around USD 118 million. Tobacco and foodstuffs dominated the export and the chief import products were from machine and metal industries and automobiles. There is ample space in the trade for boosting the cooperation but just the fact that Japanese companies are present worldwide means there is a cooperation with Japanese companies in Europe and we are certain that it will improve by having new Japanese investors in Serbia. It is important to emphasize that Japanese companies get acquainted with a market through collaboration with local businesses
and often carry out their investments together with local partners.

eKapija: The participants of the congress made an observation that Japan selects the markets with which it will collaborate very carefully and doesn`t make decisions in haste. Does that mean that Serbia has won their trust?

– That`s exactly the case, Japanese companies make longterm plans and prudently assess and analyze the possibilities for collaboration, but, as previously mentioned, when they come, they are here to stay. Having in mind the positive trend in the previous period such as the aforementioned visits of Japanese delegations, opening new factories, the visit of the Prime Minister Abe and the forthcoming visit of the Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs: Mr. Yamada during the Business Forum on October 17 , it`s a clear positive signal for other Japanese companies that there is a great potential for further improvement of cooperation between our two countries.

eKapija: You have considerable experience in providing support and business internationalization which you acquired by promoting investments and exports in The Serbia Investment and Export Promotion Agency as well as in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce. In your opinion, what are the reasons for not having more Japanese investments in Serbia?

– The crucial thing for the Japanese business community is to stay informed about the conditions and potential for cooperation with Serbia and therefore, our actions in the future will be directed towards constant focus on prospects for collaboration. Stability and predictability of business conditions are of huge importance when it comes to increasing the presence of Japanese business circles in Serbia

eKapija: What main activities of your association are directed toward expanding the cooperation between Serbia and Japan? What is the experience of domestic companies that work closely with Japanese businesses?

– The operations of Japanese Business alliance in Serbia are directed primarily towards providing business support to member that operate in the country, support for potential investors from Japan in order to expand the presence of Japanese business community in Serbia, support for further business advancement in Serbia through conveying experience and knowledge of the Japanese business community within the activities of JBAS industry groups as well as promoting Japanese business culture and values. Our companies have extremely positive experience from collaboration with Japan and they emphasize maintaining high level of standards, mutual respect and trust.
Sandra Petrovic
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