Slobodan Gogic, director of Plastik Gogic – Products made in Indjija available in major world cities
The Indjija-based company Plastik Gogic, which produces plastic items, is one of the leading European producers of waste bins and containers. They are the leaders in their field in Serbia and the entire southeast Europe. Their products are available in over 30 countries in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America, and their waste bins can be found on the streets of the biggest world cities, such as Rome, Budapest, Warsaw, Prague, Singapore, as well as in Belgrade and other cities of the region – Zagreb, Skopje, Rijeka, Sibenik, Opatija and Sarajevo.
We’ve recently had the opportunity to visit this family business and talk with the director, Slobodan Gogic, about their results, but also about entrepreneurship in Serbia, family companies and the values he honors, both in life and in business.
– What sets as apart from other manufacturers of plastic products is that we’ve opted for products of large proportions. We have the adequate machinery and big production capacities. We realize most of our sales through very demanding and complicated tenders in Europe and the the world, where numerous certificates are required and which are characterized by specific terms of participation and which also require long-term guarantees. On the other hand, we are always available for our clients, we make decisions quickly and adapt to the market – Slobodan Gogic says in his interview for eKapija.
The Indjija plant, featuring 6,500 m2 of indoor and 15,000 m2 of outdoor space, produces waste bins and containers, plastic vats, consumer products, stadium chairs and multifunctional flooring.
eKapija: There are four successful decades behind you. When you look back, what are the highlights of your operations? What are the most important turning points?
– Our family business dates back to 1974 and the first phase of the enterprise was started by my father alone. Ten years later, he founded a plastic workshop with my uncle. The workshop kept on growing and moved to a new location, a 500-m2 facility, five years later. That’s where we started producing large-dimension consumer goods. Another ten years on, in 1998, we were among the first ones to buy land in Industrial Zone Indjija, where we are today.
During the world economic crisis, we had to make capital decisions as regard the future orientation of the company. My idea was to expand the range of products, to upgrade them and put them not just in the local market, but to find clients in other countries in the neighborhood. Although many were skeptical, due to the global crisis, I was optimistic and I believed that was the right way to go. Until 2009, we mostly exported to former Yugoslavian countries, and then we started exporting to other countries more intensively. The increased workload required new investments and we invested in a new facility, machines and infrastructure in 2013. The value of the investments reached EUR 2 million. With this investment, we opened some more serious markets and were able to realize demanding projects. Last year, we invested EUR 4 million. We started producing 4-wheel containers and thereby made our offer of waste disposal products more complete and became one of the top 6-7 producers in Europe. In addition to containers, we also started producing large fruit bowls of up to 1,000 liters in volume. There are certainly plenty more highlights, but the ones I’ve mentioned were certainly the biggest turning points in the past four decades.
eKapija: Which markets do you export to? Who are your biggest competitors?
– Lately, we’ve been exporting 60-70% of our products, depending on the year. We export to over 30 countries so far, but we certainly plan to penetrate new markets. We are present in all the leading European trade fairs in this field, and those experiences have certainly had an impact on the creation of our products. We have adapted to our clients’ needs. We also try to handle special request by our foreign partners, as much as we can. Of course, in order to do trade in discerning foreign markets, one needs certificates. Our quality is confirmed by ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 18001 certificates and numerous individual certificates for various products, such as the CE tag, EN 840… We also invest in marketing and follow global trends in that segment. The competition is strong, and the companies we compete “against” are in Austria, Germany, Spain and Italy.
I have already mentioned that our waste bins and containers can be found across the globe – in Europe, Africa, South America and Asia. Developing new markets, we’ve recently made the first shipment of containers to Singapore, which is the logistical starting point for sale in countries such as Malaysia, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, Cambodia, Bangladesh… Parallel to this, we are penetrating the markets of Lithuania, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Great Britain with Ireland etc.
eKapija: How satisfied are you with your results in 2017? What are your projections for 2018 like?
– Compared to 2016, we had an expected growth of sales revenues by 13%. The increased workload required the employment of new people. There are 90 employees in our company today. We took part in the realization of numerous projects abroad, the biggest of which took place in Italy, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia. When it comes to the local market, we practically cooperate with the majority of towns and municipalities, as well as utility enterprises, and see them as our partners. We could point out the contracts we signed with the PUE Gradska Cistoca Belgrade, the Subotica Regional Landfill projects and a range of other big and small projects all over Serbia.
This year, we plan to invest another EUR 1.5-2 million. With this investment, as well as the last year’s investment, we are raising our capacities, and we expect the sales revenues to increase accordingly by 30-35%. We should get three new machines, and we are also getting ready for three trade fairs – IFAT Munich, Ecomondo Rimini and Ecofair Belgrade.
eKapija: When it comes to the local market, which articles are the most present? Where do you see an opportunity for bigger sales?
– When we started producing waste containers with wheels in 2005, there was not a lot of awareness regarding proper waste disposal in Serbia, neither in citizens nor in the competent utility enterprises. Even in this clearly unfavorable environment, we adhered to our vision and persevered in our intentions. In the past several years, it’s obvious that the sale of waste bins and containers has increased in our country. With Serbia’s getting closer to the European Union, many questions regarding environmental protection will open, so we expect to be even busier. The products are quite present in Serbia, primarily in the utility sector, but we are also selling large fruit bowls and plastic vats of up to 1,000 liters used in the production of wine and brandy. In addition to Serbia, we also sell them in B&H, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, Moldova and even Australia. We shouldn’t forget products for sports facilities, that is, several types of stadium chairs and multifunctional flooring.
eKapija: How do you rate business conditions in Serbia? Where is there the most room for improvement?
– Things have been improving in the past 7-8 years. We all want and expect things to get better, of course. Stable and predictable operations are important to us. By this I mean the foreign exchange rate, inflation, tax rate… We would also like the state to help local self-governments procure waste bins and containers… A large percentage of the territory of Serbia doesn’t feature organized waste collection.
eKapija: What are your long-term plans?
– We plan to keep our positions as the regional leader in our field. There’s also the penetration of new markets. According to our expectations, in the next three years, in addition to the current thirty countries we export to, we will put our products in another thirty countries. We will continue growing and investing in brands, people, machinery, facilities and marketing. Our goal is to strengthen Plastik Gogic as a recognizable international brand, present in all corners of the world.
eKapija: What have your learned from your father and uncle that you will teach your inheritors?
– Above all, they’ve taught me to be honest, hard-working and dedicated to my job. I’ve been involved in all the activities related to the company’s operations since I was a child and I’ve thereby acquired plenty of technical and technological knowledge, which I’m still expanding and adding to. The model which puts workers in a prominent place has been kept from one generation to the next. I took over the running of the company eight years ago and I will teach my children all of this as well.