AS GROUP is a proof that when we use all resources that has Bosnia and Herzegovina, excellent business results simply can’t fail. The group currently employs 4,000 workers, and certainly doesn’t want to stop there. Rusmir Hrvić, CEO of AS GROUP, in an interview with Horizon 2024 briefly introduced us to this successful team, spoke about the strategies of the business, and there was a talk about advantages and disadvantages of the business environment in B&H. Regional cooperation is key to success and it is something that we should pay more attention in the future.
1. Can you briefly introduce the company AS GROUP?
Rusmir Hrvić: AS GROUP currently employs 4.000 workers. AS Group was formed with the vision to respond to the enormous pressure of foreign brands on the Bosnian market, in order to completely subordinate it to their own interests. With our concept, we wanted to show that we have something to offer and that we are able to respond to the challenge for creating domestic brands. We arose from small retail shop, which began operating at the end of the 80s of the last century, and that we have closed at the beginning of the aggression on Bosnia and Herzegovina. In 1996, we started with trade again, and few years later we have entered into production with well-known brands AS and Master. Followed by the acquisition of Turkish confectionery factory in Visoko Kent, than the textile industry Napredak in Tešanj, than Oaza. In the meantime, we have been able to revive the former textile industry Borac Travnik, so we started Fortitudo in which now works close to 1.000 workers. By acquisition of Klas Group in which operates Sprind, Milin and bakery Ljubače, we have become the leader of the food industry in B&H.
2. What are the business strategies of AS Group?
Rusmir Hrvić: We believe that Bosnia and Herzegovina has in its beauty diversity and decisive advantages in a market sense that gives us a lot of reasons to use our specialty in the right way. Meetings of various cultures, have made us interesting in every way that gives us effective wind into the back on the markets. By innovative approach in every sphere of business we strive to concretize the beauty of diversity as additional value. That is a sort of our business philosophy. If we add to this that we strive to strengthen domestic brands, sometimes by acquisition, and sometimes by lunching and developing new brands, we will come to measurable strategies of AS GROUP that we want to implement.
3. What are the advantages of the business environment in B&H?
Rusmir Hrvić: Benefit is just B&H and its values that I mentioned in my previous answer. Also, advantage is its climate which is an excellent combination of Continental and Mediterranean. In the area of food production, for example, there are huge caches for development of healthy food, because the ground in B&H remains largely unpolluted. There is also fresh water, forests, landscapes that are breathtaking. All of this may be reason to start a serious tourist projects, which than initiate a range of industry branches. However, the biggest advantage of B&H, in my opinion, are people, with their knowledge and skills, but also, sometimes, inexplicably rare mentality that surprised even ourselves, when we have most difficulties, than we give the best results. Bosnian spite is a miracle. And, finally we should start using it not only when we are stuck and when we are existentially threatened. If we are such as we are, than we should include our spite in order to compete with the world in all that is good. And, this I’m talking about, recently is present all over B&H.
4. What are disadvantages of the business environment in B&H that make hinder your business?
Rusmir Hrvić: The administration should be more efficient. Infrastructure should be more modern. Knowledge should be encouraged much more. Technology should be more accessible. The business environment should be much more favorable.
5. In your opinion, how is it possible to overcome these disadvantages?
Rusmir Hrvić: This disadvantages could be overcome by policies that would in real perceive needs of entrepreneurs and workers. This should be in the forefront in their requirements. I think, that way, we would reach a great growth and development in a short time. Then we would from a position where we are now, very quickly join to the middle income countries in the EU. Our key strategic short-term macroeconomic objective is to create a large and powerful middle class that will be able to start spending at higher levels of these that is now. This will be a powerful impetus to the development of national economies in the region, higher employment, prosperity and political stability.
6. In particular we are interested in your opinion on tax policy and legal framework regulating on this area.
Rusmir Hrvić: The reform agenda was promising a lot. It was said that the economy will be finally relieved. However, all of the moves that were undertaken until now went towards further burdening primarily manufacturers. Instead of becoming more competitive, we come into a situation to make decisions about slowing down our further growth and development, and some important investments we are being forced to leave for some better times. Our public spending is too high, and there governments and legislators must begin to act restrictive. On other hand, all those who produce, must finally feel that they are useful to this society. This will even in tax policy mean a step closer to a fairer social distribution. Justice is, as we know, the basic precondition to every development.
7. Did you achieve regional cooperation with someone and what are your experiences so far?
Rusmir Hrvić: Of course. Regional cooperation is key to the success for all of us in this region. We have to regionally cooperate on a regular basis in order to be able to grow and develop together. Only then all of us as a region in the global context represent factor in a commercial terms. Due to the nature of our business, we work with the largest retailers in the region, but also with distributors, as well as with producers of primary agricultural products, and also with a big number of manufacturers of final products in primarily FMCG sector.
8. The importance of the NGO sector in the promotion of markets and attracting investments?
Rusmir Hrvić: The NGO sector can play an important role in the economic development of a region. I hope it will be so in the future, because so far we could not feel the results of the non-governmental sector in this regard. Our national economies, as well as throughout the region requires a favorable and positive, especially communication turnover. All together we have to become a region of prosperity and development. Because there is so much as the national economy, and as region in economic terms we have to offer to the world. Then we will have something to talk about to our grandchildren.
9. What are your expectations from the project TIS?
Rusmir Hrvić: Judging by goals, ambitions, and respectability of actors and partners on the one hand, and our real needs on the other hand, this is a project that promises. You have our support.