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Udo Eichlinger, CEO at Siemens Serbia

SIEMENS – Symbol for Innovations

The main drivers of success are persistence and clear strategy execution. Having Siemens in this country for 132 years means a lot. We are part of the Serbian society and there is a clear commitment to Serbia. Serbia is still a small, but fast changing market with large infrastructural projects, but at the same time drives digital transformation. This transformation comes along with great challenges e.g. the brain-drain of talent, massive investments into education, reforms of government structures, and also painful decisions at the government level. To operate in this environment, besides hard work, a lot of passion for business and the people around you are required.

Mr. Udo Eichlinger, CEO at Siemens Serbia speaks for Profit magazine.

1.Mr. Eichlinger, many people know you as the CEO of Siemens in Serbia. Would you be so kind to tell us something about you, personally?

I was born and raised in the North Rhine-Westphalia in Germany. After attending technical high school and university, I left Germany for some time.

I started my professional life in some small, Berlin-based construction office and took over a large project in New York.

I returned to Germany after the project was finalized and went straight to Siemens.

2.How did your career develop before you reached the position you are in today?

When I first joined Siemens, I was in the Automation and Drive Sector – which is now the Digital Industry Sector – and I was responsible for selling, automation and equipment for Ford Europe. After that followed some functions in the Communications Sector.

I was a sales trainer for some years and became a Head of Sales in East Germany in 1996. After 3 years in this function, I took over all Marcom activities at the German headquarters.

After that, the Telco business of Siemens became increasingly difficult and I got the role to reconstruct the global sales organization, in one of the largest reconstruction projects in Siemens’s history.

This was the first time that I was exposed to a fast-track financial and structural reconstruction and, unfortunately, we had to let 27,000 people go.

After that, I wanted to develop something and I was offered, for the first time, to go to Serbia from 2002-2005 as Division Head in Telecommunications.

After that, my job took me to China, the Middle East, and then again back to the headquarters. I left Siemens for a while and came back in 2012 to Building Technologies, which is now a part of Smart Infrastructure. Three years later, I started working in Serbia and took over Siemens d.o.o. Beograd. Ultimately, my career was sales-driven and I still love it.

3. Siemens d.o.o. has been present in Serbia for 132 years, significantly contributing to the realization of capital investments and it represents a symbol of innovation. What triggered this long and continuous development?

The main drivers of success are persistence and clear strategy execution. Having Siemens in this country for 132 years means a lot. We are part of the Serbian society and there is a clear commitment to Serbia.

Serbia is still a small, but fast changing market with large infrastructural projects, but at the same time drives digital transformation.

This transformation comes along with great challenges e.g. the brain-drain of talent, massive investments into education, reforms of government structures, and also painful decisions at the government level.

To operate in this environment, besides hard work, a lot of passion for business and the people around you are required.

4.As a pioneer in the digitalization segment – an inevitable process in many sectors – how would you rate Serbia and its progress when it comes to digital solution implementation?

Unfortunately, the second and third industrial revolutions were more or less missed in Serbia. The fourth is happening as we speak.

It brings a lot of opportunities, but just as much responsibility. I have noticed that the current government is putting a lot of effort into e-government, for example, in order to ease the interaction between society and the officials. The government supports all kinds of educational initiatives in terms of digitalization and not just when it comes to the area of information technology. So, to answer the question, I would give Serbia a pretty positive rating when it comes to digital solution implementation. We are not yet where we need to be, but I can see that people are motivated and that the government stands behind these strategies.

5.How is digitalization, in general, affecting the development of smart cities?

Digitalization is literally changing everything. I believe that in the future, cities will be competing in providing a better quality of life for its citizens. That starts with public transportation – you need a safe and clean means of transportation, reduced commuting times, a reduction in air congestion, etc. And there is so much to be changed. Siemens is supporting, for instance, with a smart traffic management system to be implemented from this year onwards, which will lead to much fewer traffic jams, less pollution, and shorter traveling time.

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6.You have successfully cooperated on cultural modernization projects with the most important business entities in Serbia and a memorandum of understanding with Telegroup d.o.o. and other partners has been signed recently. Where else do you see business potential?

I see a lot of tremendous businesses in Serbia dealing with the ecology, e.g. waste water treatment, sewage systems, etc. and I am aware that everything that is under the surface has to be renewed over time. There are sewage systems, water pipes and so on, that are a hundred years old. So, the basic infrastructure which makes normal life possible is, in some parts of the city, at a pretty low standard.

We are wasting a lot of energy in Serbia; energy efficiency is a must today and it is a huge business which has to be addressed systematically.

Water treatment is another topic. Did you know that in Frankfurt, Germany, the water that is used, for example, for flushing the toilet has been reused up to 4-6 times? It is safely purified over and over again, and it is of a very high standard. Here, we have still some miles to go.

7.The business climate in Serbia has changed a lot and, in your opinion, what are the business conditions like on the Serbian market?

The business climate is really favorable and it is very important that we are attracting more FDIs, foreign direct investments.

There are a lot of investments being introduced right now and a lot of them have already been realized. I think that Serbia is becoming more and more appealing to direct investors because of its strategic position, and not only in the geographical sense: it is still not in the EU and some processes are simpler in this part of the world than in EU countries. I would say that the support which the government provides to FDIs is essential to have more jobs for qualified people in Serbia. We are personally involved in this process, because most of the investors ask Siemens about our experience in this country.

We have close to 3,500 employees and we will grow further.

Of course, there is still some room for improvement in Serbia; the image of the country is sometimes still a bad one, and we have to work on this with the chambers abroad, to make the country even more interesting to investors.

8.You have two production sites in Serbia. Could you tell us something more about your portfolio and your work there?

Our factory of wind generators in Subotica is 15 years old and it is a well-known success story. However, we have a second production site where we are currently producing the Avenio tram. Avenio is a light rail vehicle which is used in many countries around the world. As a company, we are interested in selling our state-of-the-art vehicles that we produce in Kragujevac to the cities of Serbia.

9, Which activities and projects have you implemented in the area of CSR?

CSR is a very broad topic. There are plenty of engagements by various groups of people in the organization. For example, if we take Belgrade, we have a list of 20 different CSR actions which we would like to address this year ranging from renewing kindergartens, schools, and hospitals, to simply collecting money for non-profit organizations. There is always plenty of room for improvement and we would like to extend the range of our social activities even more. Some of our most important activities would be the “Be somebody’s Santa” event we did with the Center for Protection of Infants, Children and Youth in Belgrade and the New Year’s event with NUDOR, the organization which helps the families of children suffering from cancer. I see it as a very important element because we are contributing a lot to society by paying the taxes, but it is important to help the ones in need as well.

10,What are your company’s long-term primary and strategic plans for the following period?

The global environment is changing tremendously. As you can read in the media, we are using our strength to change the company, Vision 2020+. It is full speed on its way.

We will see an IPO for the Gas Power Division next year and a focus on Digital Industries and Smart Infrastructure.

Of course, we will be in Serbia with our healthcare business

The years to come are good for Siemens in Serbia, for the Country and Society...

11, What advice do you have for young people and future leaders?

Sit in the driver’s seat. Nobody will push you to create a career.



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