This article is taken from the series of IPAK Vienna/ECIKS Newsletters “Success Stories from Kosovo” (Check at the bottom of this article for the PDF version)
Kosovo has shown to be an attractive place for foreign investments. The young population, the modern legal infrastructure, quick and simple administrative procedures, all seem to have proven an advantage to those wanting to invest in Kosovo.
One could easily envisage Kosovo being a suitable environment that would catch the attention of foreign businessmen looking to expand their corporations or even start something entirely new. It was a bit harder to imagine that even Kosovars who had once left the country, would come back to rebuild a life in their native country.
Astrit Hyseni and Shkumbin Brestovci, who have spent quite a long time abroad and have both completed their studies at the Technical University of Vienna, are yet another example of Kosovo’s splendid chances to gain back its brain.
They currently lead one of the most prominent companies in ICT and Multimedia sector in Kosovo, Rrota. Rrota offers various services such as web development and design, graphic design, 3D visualization, multimedia and video production, conventional marketing and online advertising, as well as social network campaigns and software development to the Kosovar market. Furthermore, the company recently proved it is very much capable of deliverying high quality and latest technology products to international partners. But how did it all start?
“The initial impulse was the totally irrational idea of Shkumbin to open a comic book publishing house for the first time in the history of Kosovo. Other reasons were the chance to successfully apply the gained working and educational experience abroad back in Kosovo, the prospect of working on challenging high profile projects, and the posibility to promote western quality and CSR standards in an environment that still significantly lacks them,” says Astrit, bringing back memories of how this economic fairy tale started.
Getting this project on track and running was not an easy task but it seems that Astrit and Shkumbin were quite expeditious in their business efforts and soon found a great co-ooperation through their network in Austria.
“The Austrian company Wertheim has outsourced the development of a new software package in Kosovo. The 500.000 EUR worth investment foresees the development of a sophisticated software package for managing safe deposit boxes produced by Wertheim. The project is also supported by the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), who took over a part of the investment,” says Shkumbin.
Proudly Astrit adds to the details of the cooperation: “Over 400 branches of banks in Austria, Switzerland, Croatia and Slovakia use Wertheim safe deposit boxes, while the software is developed by Rrota in Kosovo,” he explains, “It took us two years to develop this sophisticated software for Wertheim, that will enable customers to access their safe deposit boxes through biometrical data.”
With many sleepless nights in between and many struggles that they had to overcome, Rrota has come to be a partner to the leading companies and financial institutions in the Kosovo’s market.
“The company currently has 30 employees. Over the last 3 years it had a constant average growth of 25 per cent annually in turnover and has had a an average 40 per cent raise in the profitability margin. Until now this growth was above the expectations. We do not expect this year to continue with the same pace due to a difficult economic environment. As target we have set to further raise our profitability margin through gains in productivity and efficiency and to further diversify our client group through investment and focus on outsourcing services,” explains Astrit, while listing some of the achievements and expectations.
Achieving this satisfactory level of doing business in Kosovo was not as easy as one might expect. Regardless of the fact that the founders of Rrota are native Kosovars, and one might believe this should facilitate the process, just like any other investor, Astrit and Shkumbin have come to face quite some difficulties. Above all, along the way they admit that things became easier with the support of his Austrian partners.
“The challenges faced were manifold, starting from the lack of liquidity and investment capital on behalf of the company to the difficulties of braking through in a new and unknown market which itself was still partially underdeveloped, especially in the services sector. The lack of the properly developed SME sector, and the high dependency on the public sector were also one of the challenges that had to be overcome. As far as the cooperation with ADA and the software project itself was concerned, the biggest challenge was to assure the client itself that a Kosovar company has the knowledge and the capabilities to implement a highly specialized and qualitative service in Kosovo. The involvement of ADA and ECIKS was crucial on this part, they gave the project the credibility needed for the Austrian company to go ahead,” says Shkumbin.
Together they managed to build the foundations of what now has come to be a respectable company in Kosovo. This inspiring journey makes Astrit and Shkumbin the proud architects of a dream come true and they believe that when there is a will, in Kosovo you will find the way.
They both proudly speak about the values of Kosovo’s business environment: “Opportunities, Opportunities, Opportunities. The business environment is very dynamic with a large pool of possibilities for companies that have focus on professional services,” says Astrit.
Astrit and Shkumbin together with their Austrian partner might have had to put some sweat and tears on top of the financial investment that they made, but the result has made them proud owners of Rrota and they seem to have left behind the more uncomfortable memories of their passage. Their position today in the Kosovo business market, they say, was worth their energy and time.
“Although the economic environment is still fluid and in transition the company has established itself as one of the key players in the market.
The economic growth is still too slow for a major breakthrough, but form today’s perspective we are confident that the future will be bright,” says Astrit optimistically.
And what once seemed to have been a rough draft in the visual memory of two young Albanian students in Vienna, Rrota is now one of the most indispensable tools for designing a brighter future for Europe’s youngest country.