Category Archives: Business

Returning home to develop a vision and mission through MIK (Made in Kosovo)

For Valon Asani– born in Switzerland to Albanian parents – summer was the only time he could get to know and connect with Kosovo. The little time he spent there was enough to convince him to pursue a career in Kosovo. Valon graduated from the Technical Business School Zurich.  During his studies, he started creating his websites and became interested in web development. After graduation, in 2011, he moved to Kosovo and started his initiative of promoting Kosovo in Switzerland by using the outsourcing-model and hiring people from Prishtina through his web and creative agency – based in Kosovo but serving clients in Switzerland. His decision to come back came as a result of growing up with parents who were always nostalgic about living in Kosovo and talked about Kosovo and its culture in daily bases. Valon claims he always felt connected to Kosovo.

https://www.mikgroup.ch/
MIK’s working environment in Prishtina Offices

In the last seven years, Valon has been testing himself in many fields and that has allowed him to get a broader knowledge in different industries such as IT Outsourcing, Call Center services, the production line of pellets in Kosovo, and he even bought a dental clinic with 10 employees in Prishtina. In addition, he has managed small projects like the dating app “Albanian Friends” which won the first place in Get in the Ring in Kosovo. He currently leads mikgroup.– a digital marketing agency with its focus in lead generation and ROI. MIK which stands for Made in Kosovo, and means ‘friend’ in Albanian is more than business. As an outsourcing destination, MIK is an amazing promotional company for Kosovo.

MIK Group is a digital marketing agency with a focus on Performance & ROI. They offer SEO, Google Ads, Social PPC & influencer marketing. They are Google Partner and are certified by Google, Facebook, and different Digital Marketing Institutes. MIK’s headquarters are at the Zurich Airport and their fulfillment team is based in Prishtina. In addition, they have a small team in Berlin for Influencer Marketing. MIK Group today is the digital partner for many national and international customers. They’ve worked for companies such as Philips, Beiersdorf, Hunkemöller, Novartis and BMW. Valon mainly works on creating a strategy and products he makes sure to be the latest marketing trends because that is key to bring ROI to their customers. Moreover, mentoring and developing his team members is a priority for the leader of MIK. “I’m inspired by the idea that one person can benefit the lives of a large number of people if they have the will to do so, ” notes Valon.

Dream Team

When asked how he manages to stay organized Valon says that what he usually tries to do is: “Keep it simple. Develop routines, implement systems. Have a place for everything, and put everything in its place.” Valon is an individual who takes control of his routine and focuses on top revenue-generating priorities rather than spending time with reactive actions such as emails, phone calls, and other interruptions. “I continually set goals which serve that to serve me as a roadmap and without them, you lose focus on where you’re going and you end up running in circles getting nowhere.”

“I continually set goals which serve that to serve me as a roadmap and without them, you lose focus on where you’re going and you end up running in circles getting nowhere.”

Seeing MIK’s clients succeed and managing a business that is growing and provides for the team is amongst the achievements of MIK what makes Valon proud of the work they are doing. A hallmark for their business is the collaboration they have with three multi-billion dollar companies Philips, BMW, and Beiersdorf. Valon highlights also their partnership with Google Partners which made MIK the first and only agency in Kosovo to achieve that. An additional milestone for MIK is the development of a team and company certified by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, the Digital Marketing Institute and other well-known organizations.

However, doing business in Kosovo comes with many challenges. Lack of professionalism in public institutions, customs procedures, low purchasing power obtaining loans, high-interest rates, and a shortage of higher qualified staff are problems Valon faces every day. Coming from Switzerland, Kosovo was obviously a difficult environment to navigate. Overtime, Valon has learned how to be more solution-oriented in order to avoid mental breakdowns every time he lacks the Swiss infrastructure he’s used to having. Valon tells us about some of the obstacles he keeps encounters and fights, sometimes even within his own team. “I have mixed feelings and thoughts when it comes to the business environment in Kosovo. On one side we have some small business hubs making positive impacts and we have a lot of skilled young people most of who are bilingual. On the other side, unfortunately, we have no quality, no love for details and for doing the right things the right way.”

“I have mixed feelings and thoughts when it comes to the business environment in Kosovo. On one side we have some small business hubs making positive impacts and we have a lot of skilled young people most of who are bilingual. On the other side, unfortunately, we have no quality, no love for details and for doing the right things the right way.”

As a well-established entrepreneur, Valon is a fond believer that businesses in the diaspora and the ones in Kosovo should cooperate more, exchange knowledge, skills, and ideas in order to improve the image of Kosovo. For Valon, every Kosovar living abroad is an ambassador who can promote Kosovo as an outsourcing destination for IT-services, digital marketing, engineering, architecture, customer center services, and many other services.

“I think the best way to help the people in Kosovo is to help the economy. And to do that for me it is to talk about Kosovo whenever I get the chance to do so. With our customers, partners, family, and friends. This way I was able to motivate also other entrepreneurs to come to Kosovo and create businesses and jobs opportunities. Promoting Kosovo as an outsourcing destination is one of my missions and my way of making a long-term impact.”


Arta Ramadani: Journalist and Author reflects on past, present and future

Arta Ramadani is an award-winning German TV journalist and author of Kosovar descent. Ramadani spent her childhood in Prishtina and later grew up in Germany. She has now found herself in Mainz, currently working at Europe’s largest TV station ZDF. It doesn’t stop there. Ramadani is also the author of the young adult book, “The journey to the first kiss: a Kosovar in Kreuzberg.”

The following is an exclusive interview with Ms. Ramadani for KosovoDiaspora:

KD: Tell us a bit about your background and the work you do.

AR: I grew up in Mannheim, a city with a large immigrant population. This means that you live with Italians, Portuguese, Turks, Greeks, and Germans. My childhood friends are from countries all over the world. I’ve always loved that. This way I learned to respect other religions and cultures from a young age. My family is open minded and loving.

Education was always important to my parents. Being independent. Getting ahead. Having dreams and fighting for them in an honest way. This is what my parents taught me at home. I’m very grateful for this, as it can’t be taken for granted. I love my parents, my brother, and sister. I owe them so much.

I always wanted to tell stories. When I was a teenager, I acted in a lot of plays because I was thinking of becoming an actress. But when I was 17 I became interested in radio journalism. I had my own radio shows for two years. In that way, I have improved my pocket money. When I was a student, I became more and more interested in serious journalism. I wanted to tell true stories about the people we live with. I did a lot of internships in television and independent production companies to gain experience. I moved often and lived in different cities. With all this and my academic degree under my belt, I applied to the ZDF, where I am still working today.

I’ve worked at ZDF for 9 years now. I mainly am a reporter for our morning-show “Volle Kanne.” I love our TV-Show. We are a creative band, very close to the spectators. We report on everything, our show is very popular in Germany. I love my job. It is exciting every day.  

I get to meet many interesting and important people when I film my pieces, from whom I learn a lot. The topics vary quite a bit. Sometimes it will be on discrimination, sometimes mental illness or sometimes I’ll meet girls from traditional patriarchal societies, controlled and oppressed by their parents. Unfortunately, the topics can be tough to deal with. Some topics affect me deeply — make me sad, but objective and honest coverage is always my job. That’s what they pay me to do.

Photo provided by Arta Ramadani.

KD: What has been your favorite experience as a journalist?

AR: I interview many interesting and important people. But I have to say, my meeting with Dua Lipa was a very special one for me. I immediately took her into my heart.

She had a concert in Frankfort in 2016, at the very beginning of her career. I had heard her song “Be The One” on the radio and was absolutely taken by her voice. So I arranged to meet her for our morning show.

I knew nothing about her until I started researching. I found that she has Albanian parents and that she lived in Prishtina for a few years. I was so surprised and happy, that I greeted her in Albanian during the interview. She was my first interview partner in Germany to have Albanian parents. For me, that was something special because I rarely meet people with Albanian background in my job.

Now, Dua Lipa is a star. When I hear her songs on the radio today, I smile every time because I know how cute, smart, funny, charming and warm Dua is. I wish her the absolute best.  

KD: What projects are you working on now?

AR: At the moment I am preparing the shooting on the topic: “Double Life.” It’s about a girl from Kosovo who was born and raised in Germany. She is 22 years old and must lie to her parents to live the life as she wants. For example, she cannot have a German boyfriend or sex before marriage, nor can she move out without being married. So many girls in Germany have a life exactly like hers. Girls from Iran, Iraq, Greece, and Russia have parents that come from traditional patriarchal societies.

It is very sad that there are still many girls from Kosovo who are not allowed to lead a self-determined life. Only clarification helps. We need to talk about it. Taboos need to be broken not only in Kosovo but also in the diaspora communities around the world.  

KD: You made the leap into a new media genre! In March 2018 you released your first young adult novel. The book is called “The journey to the first kiss. A Kosovar in Kreuzberg.” What is this book about? How did you come to the decision to process this story as a novel and not as a television report or documentary?

Credit: Drava Verlag

AR: I have already made reports about Kosovo. I kept an eye on it from a journalistic perspective and as a Kosovar, I am interested in the social and political developments there. But as much as I love my work in television, I wanted to create something very special with the novel. Writing, inventing stories… that’s something that is easy for me. I don’t need much for that… there is only me, my PC, my thoughts and a cup of tea. No cameras, no long train rides, no hotel rooms, no time pressure. There are no borders. I can give free rein to my imagination. I think that’s great because I have a lot of ideas in my head.

So I started writing about Era, a girl who lives in Prishtina in the 90s who really wants to go to a Madonna concert. The 90s were a difficult time for the Albanians in Kosovo. They were discriminated against and oppressed everywhere. They lost their jobs and were even persecuted and killed. Era’s parents are political activists who campaign for the freedom of the Albanians. They love their daughter very much, so they protect her by only telling her half-truths.

Era is awake, so to speak. She suspects a lot but does not really know what’s going on. So she flees her world with Madonna’s songs. Madonna’s music saves her. One day the family has to flee to Berlin. There, a Madonna concert is not so far away…

My book is a declaration of love to my parents, but also to Madonna and Germany.  This is a book for all Albanian parents who raised their daughters freely and lovingly.  

KD: Do you process your own story in the novel?

AR: “The journey to the first kiss” is a novel – a fictitious story. But of course, it also has a lot of my own experiences. I spent my childhood in Prishtina too. My father was also in political detention for campaigning for democracy and human rights in Kosovo. In my youth Madonna, Michael Jackson, Take That, New Kids on the Block and the Spice Girls played a big role. Music shaped my life as a teen very much. So, my protagonist Era and I already have some basic data in common. Nonetheless, the book is not an autobiography.  

KD: Germany is considered a rich country in Kosovo. Your protagonist is learning in Kosovo that there were also wars in Germany and that people were persecuted there as well. Why did you make life so difficult for Era?

AR: Eras’s family, who are Sunni Muslim, saved Jews during the Second World War. This is historically proven, which many in Germany don’t know. Many Albanians in Kosovo, but also in Albania –Christians and Muslims– have saved Jews. This has nothing to do with Islam, but with the code of honor of Albanians. 

Era learns about it from her grandmother. So Era develops an idea of Germany as a country that does not welcome all people. She flees Kosovo with many prejudices in her mind about Berlin. Her mother had to laboriously convince her to flee in the first place.

I did not want to make Era’s life difficult but I wanted to show her that people in Kosovo are not the only ones that have experienced suffering, misfortune, and death. Many others have experienced much worse things. What happens in Kosovo is not an isolated case and Era learns that relatively early.

KD: What would advise would you like to give young women, especially those from Kosovo?

AR:  I can only advise every young woman to have a solid education and to be financially independent. Financial independence, for me, is the key to a self-determined and free life. So girls, stay faithful, earn your own money, believe in yourself, never let yourself down, don’t spend time with idiots, go through life curiously and openly and meet all people on equal terms. This is something that really matters in a woman’s life.

From Prishtina to London: Visar Statovci’s First Office Was In A Hallway

Creativity works in mysterious ways. It can be found in the most conventional of places, but also in the most unusual of places. Visar Statovci, born and raised in Prishtina, was merely 13 years old when he first became interested in the field of design. It’s news to none that, because of the war, the 90s in Kosovo were not particularly friendly towards the creative world. Visar built a dream that was far bigger than his reality permitted, but one that paid off in the end.

A co-founder of Waster Creative, Visar Statovci is our persona of the day, and his story is one filled with dreams, risks, and success.

Growing up in Prishtina, Visar was first introduced to design through his older brother Arber. Only a year after he moved to London in 1998, Visar landed his first job as a junior designer for Perception DM, a local design company. He attributes his initial success to friends who guided him. Through the new experience, he expanded his skills by working in the digital field, which he hadn’t done before. For a short while, Visar worked as a freelance designer leading different projects and further exploring the field of design. It was during this time that he took his talents back to Kosova and worked as a designer and consultant for Ipko.net for over a year. 

He later returned to London and attended Chelsea College of Art and Design while simultaneously working for New Media Maze, a digital creative agency specializing in the entertainment sector. From there, Visar and two friends joined forces to build their own company, which they named Waste Creative.

This company is an offspring of hard work and dedication from three young men with big dreams. The company’s first office was the hallway of their flat in Camden Town, but that did not pose a problem. They had made a good impression on New Media Maze which led the company to begin deferring to the powerful trio for help with different projects. Waste Creative became their overflow agency.  Soon after this, more and more brands started approaching Waste, attracted by the quality of the work they were doing, and the speed with which they took it to market.

The next challenge for Visar and his team was to work on something they had not explored before—the gaming industry. One of their first projects included collaborating with the gaming industry giant, Sega, who continue to be one of their clients 12 years later. Waste Creative was able to transition from a small makeshift office in the hallways of a converted church to a large office in Clerkenwell, the design and creative hub of London, attracting many world-renowned companies such as Supercell, Sega, British Gas, Camelot, Warner Brothers etc.

So, what drives their success? Visar claims that learning and growing together as a team is the key to moving and growing. He is a firm believer in his team who are not only capable but also positive and dedicated. His team is also his greatest joy and proudest accomplishment. It’s these long-lasting relationships with their clients and the team bonding that have given Visar and Waste Creative the strength and skill to compete with the giants of the industry and have made them a household name.

While Visar continues pursuing his business dreams, Kosova, as he knew it almost two decades ago, has changed a lot. The positive energy and the talent of the youth of Kosova give Visar hope that the country’s future is bright.  In fact, there are a number of talented young Kosovans now working at Waste Creative.

However, he wishes that the local government would do more to put that energy to good use and establish institutional support for foreign investments.

“If we want to help Kosova, we need to do our bit and contribute to the countries and communities we live in… we need to try to become influential in our individual fields and use any opportunity to showcase what we have to offer to the world as people and as a country”, he explains.

Visar believes that the world needs to hear more success stories coming from Kosovo, as it is, according to him, the best way to create a positive image in the world. Moving forward, Visar thinks communities abroad should be more structured and engage in PR strategies that combat negative press about the country. 

Diaspora – Kosovo’s secret weapon

What is Diaspora’s contribution in Kosovo?

Kosovars living abroad are estimated to be circa 800,000, which is equal to around 45% (almost half) of all citizens living in the country. Kosovo’s Diaspora is very generous; in 2015 alone, it sent over 750 million Euro (remittances) to Kosovo. This amount is about 2.5 times higher than foreign direct investments, and about 17% of the Gross Domestic Product for the same year. This money is usually used to mitigate poverty of their relatives in Kosovo; for clothes, food, building houses, cars, etc. Despite of thier contribution to Kosovo, Diaspora feels underrepresented. It needs further strengthening and  opportunities to be part of decision-making processes in the country.

How are Diaspora’s money spent and how can they be spent better?

Is this the best possible way concerning spending of Diaspora’s money? Apart from fulfilling basic needs, a part of remittances and other money Diaspora saves could be channeled towards investments in the entrepreneurship sector in Kosovo – opening new businesses. This would impact the empowerment of Kosovars living within the country and would create the conditions for a more qualitative economic growth, which would reflect in decreasing unemployment that is the biggest challenge in the country. This would also present a very good chance for Diaspora; in addition to the feeling of contributing to their country, such an investment would present an ideal opportunity for favorable return from investments. It is crucial that the decision to invest in Kosovo is driven by rational business reasoning and not emotional impulse.

How should Kosovo approach Diaspora?

Diaspora should not be seen solely as financing resource, but also as a development partner and participant in the decision-making process. As a key contributor, Diaspora should be given bigger space and to enable it to be part of various state building processes. A very important issue for them is the issue of representation in the Kosovo Assembly.  Croatia and France, which allocate 3-4% of the national assembly seats for diaspora representatives, could serve as examples for Kosovo to implement a similar practice. Kosovo’s Ministry of Diaspora has proposed allocation of seats for Diaspora, but this has yet to be implemented. Government of Kosovo should treat Diaspora with a special care and create favorable conditions to be a part of these processes.

What is being done and what more can be done for the Diaspora?

How can tangible results be achieved in this regard? There have been some initiatives taken recently by civil society. DiasporaFlet.org was launched in November and provides a platform for networking between Albanian Diaspora organization, listening to their needs and expressing opinions. In addition, the Albanian Diaspora businesses network has been created. During the frequent contact with Diaspora members, an extraordinary huge interest for engagement was noticed. Their vast majority are interested in contributing through donations in various sectors in Kosovo. However, it remains to have better conditions created to open business so both parties can benefit – investors (Diaspora) and Kosovars within the country, namely to create a win-win plan. By playing this role, it is thought to achieve a bigger empowerment of Diaspora in a near future, and the country to benefit more.

Diaspora members may or may not plan  to return to their homeland; however, one thing is sure, they all want to help their country of birth in creating positive changes, either through remittances, investments, exchange of skills and experiences, etc. Kosovo has a very qualified Diaspora living worldwide and creation of mechanisms for contributing to the birthplace would help a lot the increase of prosperity in the country. Including Diaspora in policy making, utilizing their skills and experiences would play a key role to the needed changes for the benefit of the country.

What initiatives could be taken to enable Diaspora contributing more in Kosovo in the short-term period?

What could be done in this regard? There are many ways for Diaspora engagement; we are mentioning some concrete ones: creation of conditions to start businesses that would bring together local entrepreneurs with co-finances from Diaspora; creation of diverse programs (e.g. doctors) to help local institutions; bringing academics to Kosovo to lecture/work as part of the efforts for “brain gain” to Kosovo; creation of groups for professionals networking who operate abroad and within Kosovo. These are only few options, whereas the opportunities to utilize the Diaspora potential in function of developing the country are bigger than this. Kosovars are very proud of Diaspora and the successes they achieved in the countries where they live, in diverse areas: art, music, sports, etc. Thus, more should be done to utilize these in Kosovo’s benefit.

Who should be the key players to lead these changes? No doubts, the biggest role in this aspect falls with the Government of Kosovo, Ministry of Diaspora in particular as the responsible body for listening to the Diaspora demands and recommend to the Government on necessary changes in respective ministries. Additionally, the Civil Society Organizations in the motherland as well as Diaspora should play an important role.

Switzerland is home to hundreds of thousands of Albanians from Kosovo who fled the country during the 90s. Many of them left at an early age, and they have grown up to become vital members of the Swiss society. Such is the story of Besar Rexhepaj from Mrasor, Rahovec. Besar, left Kosovo at the age of seven and today, at the age of 27, has already made a name for himself within the business realm. Besar is proof that hard work and commitment to community service are imperative to the creative process and economic growth.

Besar, who has a natural affinity for business, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration from the University of Applied Sciences in Thun. He spent his initial years as a young professional working for a Swiss education company. Later, he founded innobus GmbH, a business consultancy. As part of this company, Besar advises small and medium enterprises on founding and management, putting his education to good use. However, innobus GmbH is not the only thing that keeps Besar busy.

This past year Besar co-founded Lority, a leading network that specializes on ethnic entrepreneurship in the German-speaking areas of Europe. Lority is his baby. He has big plans for the company and what we see now, is just the beginning. Lority’s marketing efforts focus on developing and strengthening business communities from culturally diverse backgrounds. They offer customized marketing and communication services for for-profit organizations. Lority believes in diversity of ethnicity, lifestyles and mentalities, and in collective support. Their goal is to help individual organizations. They do so by encouraging and fostering business relationships across communities by combining their forces together towards a greater good: both individual and collective economic advantage.

Group of friends at the park holding hands and rise up to the sky.Besar is an ambitious businessman. Nevertheless, his determination to support ethnic communities is also personal and is inspired by his own background. With Lority, he plans to pursue multiple projects, a few of which will be focused on supporting Albanian entrepreneurs abroad and in Kosovo, Albania, Montenegro, and Macedonia. Moreover, they aim to bring together successful Albanian professionals from different sectors in order to improve economic cooperation through networking. In his own words, Besar thinks that, “There is a great potential in Kosovo. This has to be exploited much more. The talented young people must be encouraged. It is a task of the environment that the young talented people in Kosovo be more encouraged.”