With eyes on the EU market, Novi Stil from Jagodina invests in quality to become more competitive
Like other countries in the Western Balkans, Serbia faces a ‘brain drain’. However, Novi Stil, a company based in Jagodina and specialising in the production of tailor-made furniture, is a story of that trend in reverse.
Its founder Dragan Tasić was born in Serbia but grew up and finished his studies in Switzerland where, after graduation, he worked in the car industry. “When our school year would end, my friends and I would discuss where each of us would go on summer holiday. I would always respond ‘home to Serbia’ as, to me, Serbia was always my first home,” he recalls. He returned to Serbia for good in 2008 to start his own car dealership.
“Coming back here and starting from scratch was not easy, as I had to learn so many new things and read about laws and regulations that were relevant to my business. I was determined to develop my own business, I worked a lot and eventually it took off.”
After successfully starting and expanding his car dealership, Mr Tasić seized a new opportunity in 2015. He took over a furniture company from a family friend who was looking to withdraw from the business.
“That is how we started Novi Stil. I knew nothing about furniture production and this was another new challenge for me. Again, my strong determination, patience, hard work and good organisation were the key ingredients for success.”
Novi Stil makes tailor-made furniture for homes, but also for companies, retail units and schools. Their clients are mainly in Serbia, but thanks to Mr Tasić’s network from his school days, they have some clients in Switzerland too.
Looking to expand his firm and invest in modern equipment, Mr Tasić learned about an EBRD- and European Union (EU)-supported programme, which includes specialised credit lines for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and is offered through local partner banks. He applied for a loan from UniCredit Bank to purchase three new machines. Following his successful investment, he received a grant worth 15 per cent of the loan amount, funded by the EU.
“Our work helps SMEs to boost their competitiveness by providing them with well-structured finance for investments in equipment to improve production processes, implement international standards and so on. The goal is to help these businesses modernise their activities so they can take advantage of trade opportunities in the Western Balkans and the wider European market,” explains Matteo Colangeli, EBRD Regional Director for the Western Balkans and Head of Serbia.
With new machines, Novi Stil is able not only to produce better-quality furniture, but also to make the process much quicker and achieve significant energy savings, explains Mr Tasić.
The company has already set foot in Switzerland and is now exploring opportunities to expand to other countries in Europe.
“Our products are now fully competitive to those made in the EU in terms of quality, because the latest technology that we use allows us to produce high-end products. Our price is also more competitive. We have seen how exporting to Switzerland can work and I am hopeful that in the future we will be able to export our products to Germany or Austria, too. We just need to establish business contacts there, like we did in Switzerland,” adds Mr Tasić.