Montenegro Construction: Top Private Sector Only Company Zetagradje

The American Times takes a seat at the Headquarters of Zetagradje, one of Montenegro’s most successful construction firms, to get a clearer understanding of the business environment from the perspective of a homegrown success story. Sometimes when a country lacks an entrepreneurial environment it is best to contact those that have shattered the mold on what it means to achieve a dream through a vision. We achieved just that with Mr. Blagota Radovic, Zetagradnje founder and director, who represents exactly what the country needs more of: Determined Vision and a Hard Working mindset capable of changing the status-quo.

Starting his entrepreneurial career in 1989 in Belgrade, Serbia within the refrigeration industry he made the transition from outfitting buildings with his supplies to erecting the buildings themselves upon noticing a gap in the Podgorica construction market circa 1998. Buying out a former partner in 2004 Mr. Radovic has not looked back by focusing his attention on large scale hotel and residential projects in the country’s capital and thriving seaside coast. In light of a saturated Podgorica market and expanding seaside opportunities we thought it prudent to learn a bit more about what the future has in store for Zetagradnje via the increasing amount of foreign investors entering their shores:

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Considering the Podgorica market is stagnating; how are you looking to achieve growth in the coming years?

In view of the seaside investments we are looking to become a partner with the many foreign companies investing heavily in the tourism sector. Up to date many of these investors have handled the construction on their own and we see an opportunity to engage with them as strong and reliable sub-contractor.

Are you currently in talks or working with any of these foreign investors?

Not yet. We are anticipating some tenders this summer where our objective is to partner with one company’s project to focus on their efforts. We are not trying to spread ourselves to thin; we want to focus on developing long lasting and fruitful relations within these early efforts.

In view of your new efforts to partner with foreign firms; is this an indicator that the market is saturated for your own new development projects?

The market in Podgorica is certainly reaching a plateau. However, we are certainly doing our own projects on the coast where the opportunities are still strong.

So are you focusing on hotels or residential?

Residential with some hotels. But there is something called Condo-Hotels we are looking to move on.

What is a Condo-Hotel?

When a hotel is built there are additional units within the building that are sold as homes but under the management of the hotel’s ownership. Many times these are vacation homes that someone buys as an investment and when they are not using the unit they benefit from the hotels marketing and management which rents their unit as they would their own hotel rooms. It has proven a successful model here in Montenegro that we copied from Croatians.

Aside from the Condo-Hotels as growth model are you looking to expand operations outside Montenegro?

Yes of course. We are looking at the market in Belgrade [Serbia] and the near coastal area in Croatia near Dubrovnik and around 100km radius.

What’s your share of the market?

We maintain 60% of the market in Podgorica and are building over 100,000 square meters in Montenegro in six different building sights at this moment.

What factors do you think lead to your tremendous market share?

The most important thing is dedication, responsibility and most importantly, respecting the deadlines. My conscious is clear.

How did you enter the construction game?

In 1989 I started my entrepreneur career in Belgrade in the refrigeration industry. In 1998 I decided to come back to Montenegro and saw the construction business offered strong potential so came up with the idea to form the joint venture.

So you grew organically as opposed to getting a business degree?

Absolutely, it was organic. In fact my educational background is in mechanical engineering!

What are some of the challenges that you’ve faced in the real estate industry and doing business in general here in Montenegro?

It’s important to note that the problems of the past were far more of an issue than what we see today; having said that there are definitely issues that still need to be remedied such as how tax is assessed on land and utility connections. But I must say, the Ministry which applies to our industry, Sustainable Development and Tourism [Gvozdenovic], is making some strides to fix legislation in conjunction with the AmCham and ourselves to expose the major issues acting as unnecessary barriers to our work. They appear to be paying attention to a degree and AmCham is certainly doing a great job advocating on behalf of the business community [*see interview with AmCham for more detail]

We realize that the labor law in Montenegro is an issue many times for companies. In addition to that, how do you find the quality of labor here in Montenegro?

Historically Montenegro has never had a large pool of construction workers. Most of the workers come from surrounding countries. For example, currently we have about 600-650 workers and over 90% are foreigners from Bosnia, Macedonia, Serbia and we’ve recently signed contracts with some firms from Albania.

That’s incredible. Why do you need to source from abroad?

As mentioned we do not have a history within this industry and as a result of that our educational system does not offer this specific type of schooling. Beyond that, wages are not too high; thereby, discouraging interest in entering this type of work. In fact, two years ago Zetagradnje was instrumental in creating a law which eases the requirements for the employment of foreigners. As a result it is now very easy to get the license permitting foreigners to work in Montenegro.

Personal Message:

 I think for Americans specifically the pending and hopeful invitation to the NATO Summit this September in Wales who act as a strong indicator for our security and a bit of a guarantee regarding our progressiveness. After this happens and one combines that with the tremendous existing opportunities on the seaside, a strong case can be made for Montenegro and their capital. Especially when one considers the ever changing legislation that is being pushed by the business community to ease the path of entry for more FDI as well as operational barriers that exist today may not exist tomorrow.

I’d like to mention our northern mountain region as well. It offers a great natural escape for eco-tourists who are looking for peace and relaxation and in very much underexploited at the moment.

 

 

 

 

 

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