The company Belt d.o.o. from Banja Luka, which has been operating since 1991, is almost unable to specify the total number of articles it sold in the market. Hundreds of thousands of leather belts, bags, wallets, holsters, casings, and other specific products were produced both for the domestic and foreign markets.
The operations take place in two locations in Banja Luka, and part of the production has recently also been transferred to Laktaši, where the company has new buildings and machines, as well as 50 new employees. Half of them already started working, so that the total number of employees of this company amounts to 80. The company ensured its growth based on a public call called Transfer of Know-How and Skills, which was published in the framework of the project Diaspora for Development (D4D), a joint project of the Government of Switzerland and Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in partnership with the UNDP in Bosnia and Herzegovina and IOM in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
After having ensured the conditions necessary for operations, the company initiated trainings for the personnel it needed.
''There is a lack of seamstresses here, this occupation is no longer present in our education system. Machines for the training of seamstresses, technologists and modelists have already been purchased. Part of the training will take place at the Faculty of Technology in Banja Luka, and the other part at our company. There is a lack of occupations we need, so that we are forced to hire persons and train them. It is not difficult if one is motivated. In half a year, a person is already a trained worker'', says the owner of the company, Ratko Čubrilo.
Belt d.o.o. will hire the expert Dragana Đurašinović for the training in the framework of Diaspora for Development project. She has extensive experience in the Austrian leather industry, where she acquired the know-how and skills needed for the improvement of the production process. She will teach the new employees how to apply new design solutions and technologies, learn state-of-art sewing techniques and make new models that are in demand abroad.
Belt d.o.o. is a fully privately-owned company and offers finished products in the market, including all processing phases. Čubrilo says that there are many indicators that the production will be greatly expanded, and the D4D project plays an important role in this.
''Over the past time, we have had many offers from abroad. Last year, there was an enormous order for Italy, now we are doing it again, and they have the intention to be our long-term business partners. We also started cooperating with German companies last year, we produced around 12,000 belts in the framework of this project, which created a bridge between these two countries'', says Čubrilo, and adds that their military product exports for police and armed forces will also expand, since they established contacts with Montenegro and have already had a large export to Macedonia.
He emphasizes that the exports to foreign markets had been small until last year, only around 5-6%, but that they tripled in the meantime. Exports are their strategic orientation.
''The German economy has been showing a growing interest in this area, there is a rising number of domestic companies working for them'', says Čubrilo.
The company Belt d.o.o. purchases leather raw materials for the production of leather goods from the whole world – Turkey, Ukraine, Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Germany, India, Pakistan, etc. Until recently, the company purchased them in Serbia, too, but the last tannery from the territory of the former Yugoslavia was sold, so that they were forced to fully focus on foreign raw materials.
''Out of 54 tanneries that existed in the former Yugoslavia, now we have none. In Nova Gradiška, there is a tannery, which has also been privatised and operates only for the foreign market. Unfortunately, this is the situation, there is no leather here. Almost 90% of our raw materials are purchased from abroad. We are doing our best to incentivise domestic producers, by paying them deliberately a somewhat higher amount, but our goal is to strengthen the domestic economy in order for the money to stay here'', stresses Čubrilo.
As leather production factories were being shut down, companies producing leather products also slowly disappeared, irrespective of whether they produced shoes or leather fancy goods in general. Luckily, there are also those that managed not only to maintain their operations in this sector, but to also improve them and even strengthen their capacities.