04Mr. Papazoski, as it is announced, at the upcoming Economic Summit to be held in Skopje from November 18 – 20 and organized by Macedonia 2025, you will be talking about Macedonia’s potentials to become an outsourcing center following Poland’s successful example. Tell us, please, what Macedonia’s potentials really are, having in mind that this activity is very scarce in the country?
Metodija Papazoski: The biggest potential that one country possesses for becoming an outsourcing hub is the human capital. The target employees for these centers (Business Process Outsourcing and Shared Service Centers excluding the IT sector) are young people fresh out of University with no special skills. We have to admit, we have plenty of those. In many cases the candidates need to speak a language other than English, but I do not think this will be a major obstacle. The mobility of the students nowadays has increased significantly and there are more and more young people speaking other languages. This is a labor intensive industry and for sure it will help to decrease the extremely high unemployment rate among the young people in the country. Just to give you an idea about the sheer size of the industry in Poland, only Krakow employs more than 30,000 people in the sector, while Poland as a whole over 150,000. Average number of people employed in one center is 230 people. The vast majority of employed people are young people. It has to be emphasized that this group of people is the most vulnerable and these are the people that after failing to find a decent job in Macedonia, leave the country for good. Thus, the potential is there, it just has to be realized.
Pundits would say that there is an ongoing trend of moving the outsourcing centers from Asia to southeastern Europe, and many such centers are already operative in the regional countries. What could Macedonia, according to you, do to attract large international companies specialized in this activity?
Metodija Papazoski: I would rather say that there is a trend of diversification between Asia and CEE and SEE lately. The companies have realized that in many cases it does not make sense to establish BPO and especially SSC Centers in South East Asia. The financial costs are just one piece of the puzzle and companies take this into consideration more and more. Cultural differences, work ethics and time differences are also being analyzed and in many cases these factors outweigh the savings in money. This is the reason that many companies have decided to invest in such centers in CEE. On another hand, I believe there will be a trend where these centers will slowly move from more advanced CEE countries like the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland mainly because these countries are becoming more and more expensive in terms of salaries (which is the biggest cost of an outsourcing center), to countries in SEE like Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and hopefully Macedonia. What Macedonia needs to do, is be more aggressive in promotion and not allow this trend to just pass us by. Preparation of a detailed strategy is a must. Macedonia should target both professional BPO companies, and at the same time go after the SSC segment, initially through companies that have already presence in Macedonia, and later expanding the promotion to other companies as well. It has to be stated that the costs for investing in a SCC center are much lower than investing into production facility, thus in theory, the decision making process is much shorter.
You are a founder and a chairman of the EMBS Group, a company based in Poland, and you have over 10 years of experience in strategic counseling and business consulting projects. Could you tell us something about your beginnings, how did you come to the idea to become a co-founder of a company in Poland, what exactly is your field of work and what are your plans for the future?
Metodija Papazoski: EMBS Group has been on the market for the last four and a half years. Before that I was working for a British – American business consulting company for over six years. After becoming the Head of Consulting, I decided that it is a good time to try to build something from scratch and together with two other senior managers from the company we started EMBS. I was already located in Poland, thus it felt natural that the company remains in Krakow. Currently, we work on projects in Europe and the CIS countries, mostly for global companies, or as a regional partner to other consultancies. The scope of our work is related to strategy, competitive intelligence, market studies, commercial due diligence and similar, although it is very difficult to generalize, due to the fact that each project is tailored made and based on the specific needs of the client. The plan for the future is to take EMBS Group to the next level, i.e. from mostly European company to become a global player in the consulting world where we will be able to compete and win projects head to head with other major players in the industry.
How much are you able to follow the developments in Macedonia, especially the economic ones? How would you assess the business climate in Macedonia and do you have contacts with Macedonian companies?
Metodija Papazoski: I go to Macedonia few times each year and I try to follow the situation on regular basis. There have been some encouraging signs coming from Macedonia, like the increased inflow of FDI and decrease in the unemployment rate recently. On the other hand the country remains very unstable politically, which does not help the business climate and for sure will have big impact on the economy. When it comes to contacts with Macedonian companies, I have some from time to time, depending on a project.
Do you have plans to invest in Macedonia, or to mediate an investment by Polish companies or investors from the European countries with whom you have good business relations?
Metodija Papazoski: It has to be stated that we do not work on many projects that involve direct investment. Such projects are usually carried out by the national investment agencies that do this work for free. We rather work on M&A projects, supply chain optimization and similar. I try to promote Macedonia as much as I can, however, when working for a specific client, we take their interest above everything else. I will only advise the client to invest in Macedonia, if that is in their best interest. In the past, I have provided work for several Macedonian companies involved in industrial production, as well as was involved in few M&A transactions. What will the future bring, it is difficult to say, but I hope there will be more and more opportunities to involve Macedonia and Macedonian companies in our projects.
What are your expectations from the Economic Summit in Skopje?
Metodija Papazoski: I see the Summit as great opportunity to exchange ideas that will hopefully turn into specific actions which will contribute to the development of Macedonia. Macedonia 2025 is doing excellent work, and I am happy to be part of it!