By Cecilia Calatrava
Everybody must stay home to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but what happens when we or our loved ones need some simple paracetamol?
The EBRD, with donor support from Luxembourg and Sweden, helped HOLOS access local expert advice in 2017. As a result, HOLOS pharmacy in Montenegro is now playing a major role in the fight against the outbreak in the country.
Same old, same old
Jadranka Vokovic has been running HOLOS since she founded it in Montenegro’s capital, Podgorica, in 1992. As an experienced pharmacist, she kept to her traditional business style for a long time.
In her view, the quality of service and face-to-face customer relationships were the two key factors in maintaining a successful business.
“I am a person of habit and I have always been reluctant to change. I never believed in the profitability of investing in marketing and new technologies,” says Jadranka.
But in times like these, when the country is faced with a new reality dictated by the Covid-19 pandemic, old systems and habits are tested in a completely new way, especially when it comes to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
A reality check
SMEs face unprecedented challenges ahead, and adapting to the “new normal” will be crucial for their survival.
Thanks to the support of the EBRD and donors, the company strengthened its brand by redesigning its visual identity and developing marketing tools to enhance its visibility on the market.
The Bank also helped HOLOS go digital with a crisp, modern website and a product catalogue. This prompted the company to become a real pioneer in the market by introducing the first online pharmacy in Montenegro.
Jadranka explains that although it was a leap into the digital world of doing business, it did not initially yield the expected results. “The cost of maintenance was much higher than the earnings, as e-commerce is still new in Montenegro and customers are only just getting used to this way of shopping,” she points out.
“However, from the moment the pandemic outbreak began, everyone started turning to online stores. Today, the revenue of our online pharmacy grows by 20 per cent on a daily basis. Patients are increasing their trust in this way of shopping,” she adds.
HOLOS now receives between 10-20 online orders daily, and the company has increased its capacity to meet the growing demand.
It delivers everywhere across the country within one day, and within hours for orders in Podgorica. To ensure safety, the company uses its own distribution vehicle.
HOLOS has also started in-house production of a selected range of goods in high demand, such as antiseptics and hand sanitisers, consolidating its image of being a reliable pharmacy.
“We cannot predict the future, but forward-thinking and investing in new technologies are key to help SMEs like HOLOS achieve their goals in the face of adversity,” Jadranka concludes.
The EBRD has so far supported over 600 SMEs in Montenegro. The advisory programme is designed to help businesses gain know-how and improve their performance and competitiveness.