Saturday, March 08, 2008

Doing business in Kosovo

Sofia Echo has a nice positive article about doing business in Kosovo. It is the story of Kamen Kitchev, a Bulgarian who is regional manager for Austrian Airlines in Kosovo (and Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro). Below the most relevant part of the article:

As someone who had spent time in Kosovo, Kitchev has much to say about "Kosovo myths". “Kosovo is very similar to Bulgaria. It’s a picturesque place with many opportunities for winter sports. But, sadly, when travelling around Kosovo you encounter many mass graves, a legacy of all the wars. This doesn’t exactly engender cheerfulness.” Perhaps surprisingly, Kitchev notes that you can see more bodyguards and Mafia-types in many areas of Bulgaria than in Kosovo. “You seldom see people driving in black 4x4 vehicles with dark windows in Kosovo.”

Business culture in Kosovo, however, was in its infancy. “We were the first carrier to employ a Kosovar.” Kitchev’s more personal approach again reaped dividends. “Through him I was able to enter business circles in Kosovo because they accepted me as one of their own. I never travelled around Kosovo with foreigners or with Austrian KFOR like many of my colleagues at that time. I didn’t pretend to be a foreigner who travels in an armoured vehicle with a helmet. I didn’t stay in the hotel asking people to come and see me. I used to travel with Albanians and I was treated as an Albanian. We drunk tea and ate together.” He also scored points by learning the language.

So what did it mean doing business in such an environment? “At my first meeting with Kosovars I was surprised to see that they had no demands whatsoever. They were just asking me what they should do. So I simply had to explain the rules to them and how to follow them.” The downside was that if they disliked certain rules they tried to play tricks by pretending they didn’t understand them. “As a whole, I have a high opinion of Kosovars,” he says. As things developed he was stunned how Kosovars followed their duties, set by the manager. “Obeying the boss is always their priority,” he notes.

Most businesses in Kosovo are family-run. “Everybody is someone’s brother, daughter, grandchild or nephew. The family culture is an essential part of business. This leads to a very clear family structure. If you have the right approach you never hear the words ‘this is too expensive’. Kosovo is not about money but about attitude. Of course, this will probably change – and might have already – but this was the situation at the beginning.”

1 comment:

Kosovo said...

Kosovo (Albanian: Kosova or Kosovë) is a country in the southeastern Europe, Its Provisional Institutions of Self-Government have recently declared independence from the genocidal Serbia, which contested the act; as the Republic of Kosovo