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Infoterm, Niš : Awake among the Sleeping

by bifadmin

The Infoterm company of Niš exports high-techproducts and services on
markets from Germany to China. But in order to preserve the present
jobs and ensure new ones on the global market, the things it cannot
export together with its products, but must resolve them at home, are
domestic problems: from the accumulated and contradictory regulations,
through the lack of experts, to banks which behave as if the economy
is working for them, and not they for the economy, writes Marko

The Infoterm, company of Niš, taken over last year by the MME GmbH
holding company from Rosenheim, owned by three three Mikulović
brothers and Mr. Ehmeier, is the only company in Serbia producing the
prototypes of measuring devices, hardware and software for the hot
processing of metal in the industry. With a branch in Leskovac,
through its mother company, it sells products and services to renowned
automobile producers, such as Mercedes Benz, Volkswagen, Man, Fiat,
Ford, Opel, but also to companies such as Bosch, Linde, Siemens, DATEV
or Astrium. The company is also present with its products on the
markets of the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Russia,
Ukraine and China.
Cooperation with numerous foreign partners gives a more realistic
picture of the state of the domestic industry. First of all, that
Serbia has no special competitive advantage over other countries in
the region, says Tatjana Brkanović, head of Infoterm’s accounting and
legal service. The partners are interested in the quality of the
products, the delivery deadline, a competitive price and how the basic
business rules are respected, so if these criteria are met, the issue
of the company seat becomes irrelevant. As the size, level of
development and expansiveness of the domestic market, as well the
degree of its integration in the broader regional and European space,
is negligible, it remains for Serbia to make use of the high
motivation of enthusiasts in the scientific and technological spheres,
which do not wish to leave the country, but are endeavoring to use
their knowledge on the global market and further to gain knowlegde.

Rapid Water-Heater

At Infoterm all the 15 employees have adequate professional
certificates, and for the purpose of ensuring adequate personnel, the
company is also intensively cooperating with the Faculty of
Electronics in Niš.The deficiency of technical personnel is not so
pronounced as in highly industrialized countries such as Germany, but
many other problems are evident. Unlike develop markets, on the
domestic market there are no clear rules regarding the trends of the
prices of work in accordance with the level of education and
profession, but also no guarantees that adequate quality truly stands
behind the degrees. That is why experts in Serbia, faced with such a
situation and with mass unemployment, mostly accept the first and,
therefore, also the lowest offer. On the other hand, employers must
invest a lot more money and time in order to educate the people they
have employed and enable them to do practical work. For this reason,
the thesis that highly educated and cheap labor is a “Serbian brand”
is totally wrong, as if we had a “running boiler” that receives water,
but gives oil, says Tatjana Brkanović.
However, an even greater obstacle to the development of business in
Serbia are bureacratic regulations and legal procedures which are
often in colision, the non-transparent public procurements and the
under-development of the industrial market, and, thus, the small
demand for high-tech development projects. “Despite this, we believe
the state is making certain efforts to help open new jobs and to
support, with certain projects, the business operations of small and
medium-sized enterprizes. We are endeavoring to contribute, in every
way, to the improvement of the overall business climate, so we are
actively participating and cooperating with KLER, local self-
government units, the regional chamber of commerce, we support the
development of clusters and technology parks”. However, none of the
local regional or republican initiatives recognize enough the needs of
the economy, nor is the profession and the business community
consulted sufficiently in their conceiving and in the setting of
development goals, Brkanović pointed out.
Micro Business is Maxi Spending
Infoterm provides 90 percent of the funds for financing the rendering
of its services to the mother company and the companies it unites.
However, due to the consequences of the economic crisis, the achieved
income of nearly 500,000 euros was smaller than expected. “This year
we are registering a mild growth, but every new slowing down of the
world economy will probably have an effect on the level of the income
in the next few years as well, as well as in the entire domestic
industry”. The biggest share in the company’s expenditures are the
costs of production material and the services of sub-contractors for
making the trial series of development projects, the employees’
salaries, training and education. Most of the employed are constantly
referred to work, training and advance training to one of the
holding’s companies or to their ultimate buyers. On the other hand,
the expenditures for wages and the paying of various taxes and
administrative procedures account for almost a tenth of the total
income, so it is not difficult to conclude why it is hard to provide
sufficient funds for the further development and for increasing the
volume of production. The company has not fully realized the panned
investments projects, because it was assessed that, in such
circumstances, the planned investments would not only no pay off, but
it would also call into question the sustainability of the business.
Infoterm has become eligible for subsidized funds, but has given them
up. When asked why, Branković says: “The problem lies in the fact that
the terms in the Decree and the Agreement on awarding funds for direct
investments differ, so an investor planning three-year investments
must, upon the granting of funds, submit, within three months’ time,
submit a request for the payment of at least one tranche, whose
conditions are the conclusion of a contract on the leasing or purchase
of land and the provisions of a bank guarantee. And in three months’
time, in view of the valid regulations and the duration of
administrative procedures, it is not possible to ensure the conditions
for the conclusion of contract on the leasing or purchase of land. As
regards commercial credits, for a company such as ours, which has
stable sources of financing and foreign founders, the conditions under
which the commercial banks here grant credits are pointless. They do
not negotiate, but rather dictate the conditions. Being used to sure
clients, a non-liquid economy that was forced to be their hostage and
a solid number of physical persons employed in budget institutions,
they operate outside the basic financial principles”, assesses
Infoterm operates successfully also thanks to very good cooperation
with local companies – from the purchase of production material to the
development of trial series. Our interviewee points out that this also
implies the strict respect of the agreed on payment deadlines, which
is truly rare in the present economic circumstances in Serbia. It is
precisely quality partnership relations at the international and local
levels and the knowledge that is presented through them that enables
this company successfully to operate despite the economic crisis and
the domestic bureaucratic labirynth.

December 19, 2011

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