The success of the KKR and EBRD investments in the Balkans was discussed on the EBRD annual assembly and business forum in Jordan on Wednesday, in a panel titled An Exceptional Growth Story in the European Cable and Media Industry.
The panel provided a direct insight into a story of success in this part of the world, where creating a company as big and prosperous as United Group is an enormous challenge.
The founder, and the President of the Board of Directors, Dragan Solak, said he “embraced” the cable distribution technology as an opportunity to directly approach customers and give them a chance for interactive communication.
“Those who produce content often wait to see if they will achieve success during theatrical and television distribution. Being able to address your audience directly was something really revolutionary. We introduced both the Internet and broadband as the second tier service, and basically the telecommunications part developed itself in a way,” Solak said.
As far as the content is concerned, he added, a lot of attention has been given to what is delivered, not just how it is delivered.
“We wanted to deliver the content that is as interesting as possible. When I spoke to my partners in Kragujevac about this project, we planned to stay there, but then the projects followed its path. We were blessed with an unbelievable managing team that was assembled early on and most of these people are still with the company. We had a good idea, we were a little lucky, but put in a lot of hard work and that was the combination,” he said.
Victoriya Boklag, the CEO United Group, said she had joined the project when the idea was still based in Kragujevac and also in several smaller towns in Serbia.
“At one point we have realised that the story was much bigger. The first phase happened in an apartment and several rooms. Dragan had a great vision to start a cable company in Serbia and we were all lucky that we met,” she said.
Boklag added that people who worked in different areas had a lot of energy, but almost no one had any experience in telecommunications.
“We watched what the big players were doing and tried to bring home the best from the world. We had the right people to implement that in Serbia, we were lucky and we had a lot of fun,” she said.
Solak added they had great partners. “After two years, the EBRD recognised our work as something good, the Bank gave us the first loan and bought 10 percent of our shares. We have used the opportunities that were available,” Solak said.
The whole Panel’s video available here: