Written by: Philippe Riboton
ASK ANYBODY in business some ten years ago about exports, and he or she would point out those former state export trading companies shipping locomotives and other heavy pieces of engineering to exotic countries in the Middle East or Asia. This was the time when exports were still dictated by political agreements on the highest government level, and were announced on the occasion of state visits in the pure post-communist tradition. Ask about exports today and you will realize that the picture has entirely changed. Trains and other heavy machinery represent a small portion of production shipped abroad with a “Made in the Czech Republic” stamp. There are thousands of different items being exported every day – from software to car components and construction materials – that are proof of the Czech “savoir faire”. Interestingly enough, the destinations for these goods have also changed. An ordinary Czech-made product today is typically exported to Germany or Denmark more often than to Libya or Kazakhstan. This is clearly an illustration that a new generation of Czech entrepreneurial enterprises has taken over, and those are the companies portrayed in this month’s Prague Tribune cover story. Whether they produce windows or bathroom equipment, they are the new face of the Czech competitive spirit, and they show that this country has more to offer than just being a cheap labor investment destination (as too many international companies tend to portray it). Forget the “ship in, assemble at low cost, and ship out” syndrome as evidenced by numerous “delocalization investments”, which are now making the headlines in Germany and France. Companies portrayed in our pages are not succeeding on the international level because their products are simply cheaper, but because they are competitive in terms of price/quality and performance/innovation ratios. Without a doubt, these are firms that can be proud of their “Made in the Czech Republic” label.