As Poslovni Dnevnik/Ana Blaskovic writes, in a country where people many live from tourism and renting out properties, and with open global competition from across the globe, it isn’t easy to be a producer. Especially not when it comes to products like lighting fixtures as they can be found in hundreds of shapes, sizes and colours in almost every shopping outlet.
Zabok Dekor lamps, made by the Dekor company which celebrated its 60th anniversary last year, is one of the brightest examples of Croatian innovation stepping up its game; not only do they resist global competition, but they do very well on the demanding market with their exclusive products.
This Zabok company is the only lighting manufacturer in this part of Europe that has a complete “in-house” production. The annual income stands at around 21 million kuna, and they currently employ 70 workers.
“We generate half of our total revenue on foreign markets where we’ve achieved a good reputation in the production of lighting fixtures by design and special customer requirements such as designed hotel lighting and chandeliers for cruise ships,” explained Dekor’s director, Nevenka Varjacic.
The chandeliers produced in that factory adorn some of the largest cruisers in the world, and ”Symphony of the seas’’, ‘’Harmony of the seas’’, ‘’Celebrity edge’’ and ‘’Norwegian joy’’ are just some of them. When the coronavirus finally allows for more movement and the borders open once again, those tourists who head to Italy, to the Pisa, will see the famous tower better in the evening, thanks to the external Zabok Dekor lambs surrounding it.
Zabok Dekor lamps illuminate many city and town centres, squares and parks, from Zrinjevac, to Dubrovnik’s famed Stradun, through to Slatina, Pula, the city centre of Koprivnica, Rogoznica, Nin, Pag, to Tribunj and Primosten. They are also present where lighting requires more than just the very basic characteristics.
When it comes to exclusive hotel companies, the possibility of production according to the customer’s design is made available, as is lighting for production plants with special conditions, but how does this Zabok-based enterprise manage to compete with foreign, often very cheap competition?
“We compete exclusively with the high quality and durability of our products and our name, which has been out there for more than 60 years now,” said Nevenka Varjacic. At Dekor, they haven’t been immune to the effects of coronavirus’ tremendous damage to the economy. The pandemic has slowed down the investment momentum of Croatian tourism, but with the preparations for opening up the world yet again, stagnation felt in Croatia has been successfully compensated on the foreign market.
They are currently engaged in two major projects, one is the central lighting of the church at the papal seminary in no less than the Vatican, a project they’re working on in collaboration with the Zagreb-based company Bokart, a glass processing company, and the other includes a light installation for a central chandelier on the ”Celebrity Beyond” cruiser.
“Our projects are always unique, but for example, this cruiser project is already the third of a total of five twin ships. We expect the next one next year,” thet stated from Dekor.
When it comes to highly specific and custom orders, the delivery time depends on the complexity of the project, as well as the time required to develop the smallest detail of the initial design according to the wishes of the customer. It is especially demanding because only one segment of such a custom lighting fixture is assembled there in the factory, and each part must be extremely precisely made so that everything fits perfectly when assembling it on, for example, a cruiser.
Faced with highly demanding orders, this Zabok company embarked on the necessary modernisation, starting their investment cycle in that regard back in 2017. One year later, a tender was opened within the European Regional Development Fund, where they were granted funds, and those funds were intended for investment in equipment and for the further education of their employees.
With good experience in withdrawing EU money, as a medium-sized company, the creators of Zabok Dekor lamps decided to apply to all of the tenders that would benefit them to improve their productivity, energy efficiency, work environment and overall competitiveness.
Objective obstacles to doing business here on the domestic market can often be heard about from company owners and other entrepreneurs, from labour shortages, low purchasing power to the extremely high tax burden and a comfusing, slow, outdated administration. With such weights on their shoulders, what might the perspective of Croatian manufacturing companies such as this one actually be?
“Although there’s always room for improvement, we as a producer are satisfied with the changes in society that are slowly focusing on production and growth based on creating added value, and not solely on consumption,” said Varjacic, seeing room for progress in the possibility for investors in Croatia to orient themselves towards domestic producers and domestic products.
“This is especially important in the sense of public procurement for local government and self-government units, where it often happens that imported products go through tenders solely for lower prices, although the state should take care to send money from our citizens indirectly from Croatia with every type of spending like that. I’d like to call on all local government units that have our lighting, to contact us if they need renovations or the installation of new LED light sources because our poles and decorative lamps are not to be thrown away even after 20 years and it’s easy to renew them at a relatively low cost, replace the source lights and breathe new life into them,” he added.
“Investors are often misled by the short payback period of investments in energy efficient LED public lighting, we’ve often witnessed situations where such a model of financing public lighting with a payback period of five years or less has been contracted, but nobody cared that investors profit in terms of savings, it actually comes in the years after the return on investment,” explained Varjacic, adding that it happens that after a short time the new lamp needs to be replaced due to poor quality and a short lifespan, which sees the investment totally lose any meaning for the investor, and they’re then forced to buy new lamps yet again.
It is even worse if the supplier of such lamps is a company that is not capitalised enough to be able to provide a credible warranty for what is made.
“We see Zabok Dekor lamps and our company in the future here, in Zagorje. Our mission is to become an international boutique for lighting the most demanding projects and to see our products go out into the world instead of just to the rest of Croatia and to our fellow citizens,” Varjacic added.
They see the current situation dominated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as a great opportunity, not only for their company, but for all Croatian producers, as the difficulties caused by the earthquakes and the pandemic present with an opportunity for those particularly affected areas to start things up again.
“Every producer knows that, no matter how hard things can get, creation is a joy and nothing makes a person happy like when they see the fruit of his work. That’s why I believe that with all the difficulties, people will find joy in creating,” concluded the director of the company behind the Zabok Dekor lamps.
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