Search and Promote - Internet marketing expert, e-business & online PR Consulting from Serbia
Internet portrait: DRAGAN VARAGIC
Interview with founder and CEO of P2 Internet Marketing Agency and Petraga.co.yu site
Internet Marketing Press Interview
Dragan Varagic (31) is the man who has done the missionary work in the field of Internet education, marketing and consulting in Yugoslavia. He is the founder of one of the first domestic e-mail and WWW magazines PRETRAGA I PREZENTOVANJE (Search and Promote), www.pretraga.rs, which now enters into third year of issuing and has more than 30 editions. This magazine also has its TV edition in “PCTV” programme, which is a private production and is shown on several TV stations. Apart from issuing his own magazine, Mr.Varagic is one of the editors of the specialized Internet magazine “Internet ogledalo” and a full-time contributor to the “Ekonomist” magazine.
#1 When did you enter the “online” world and when did you become professionally engaged in the Internet?
Although Novi Sad already had had the UNS – University Network, it was only after the appearance of the Eunet ISP in January 1997 that I decided to go on-line. Several months earlier I had had the opportunity of connecting on the Net through UNS, but since I had to wait endlessly for a free line and then only stay for 20 minutes online because of bed phone connections, I decided not to use this network. I did not want to use services of any ISP outside Novi Sad, because the essence of having access to the Internet is in using local phone numbers.
In April 1998, during the manifestation called NetForum which took place in “Sava” center, I have realized that this is going to be my profession. From October 30th, 1998. Internet has been my only profession.
#2 You have recently stated that when it comes to Internet, Yugoslavia is a medium developed country. In your opinion, how many Yugoslavs use the Net for business purposes and to what extent is it still just a toy and a pastime?
The term “medium developed country regarding the Internet” includes implicitly the growth of the Net in terms of its users. There are four aspects that together allow the growth of the Net to be measured: development of Internet infrastructure, development of Internet contents, growth of user`s application of the Internet, and the development of Internet economy. The statement I made referred to the quantity of high quality Web sites that are currently available on the Net and to the amount of attention they draw from domestic and foreign public.
Since the demands are getting bigger every day, the existing Internet infrastructure will have to be improved and developed in the near future. The reason why there are problems in this field today is mainly the political situation in our country.
People currently using the Net for business purposes are mostly enthusiasts, except for the companies engaged in Internet infrastructure. There are only a few companies that have substantial financial benefits from the Internet, which is the reason why development of the Internet in Yugoslavia, seen from the financial aspect, has not yet reached its maximum. In my opinion, at this moment we have a problem of a different nature: how to improve the quality of existing Web contents without making large investments, because the quality generates interest which then generates profit and larger investments in the development of the Net. For example, imagine what would happen if we could pay all our communal bills over the Net… I think that this kind of contents, aimed at wide population, will attract more people to start using the Net.
#3 E-commerce is experiencing a real boom in the world, as opposed to Yugoslavia, where it almost does not exist. Are sanctions and bad image of our banks the only obstacles to the development of this kind of trading in Yugoslavia?
There are more reasons for this. The sanctions are the main reason but, in my opinion, even greater problem lies in the fact that those companies that are capable of organizing sale based on cash on delivery system are actually not doing that. The reasons for such state are various, but they can all be reduced to the lack of understanding or resources necessary for the production of good Web sites which would support this type of marketing. Necessary conditions already exist, as well as financial interest and population that could use these services. What lacks the most is understanding and good will, regardless of the current situation in economy and politics.
#4 You have expressed an interesting thesis in which you stated that lifting the sanctions would lead to foreign investments and that those foreign investors would be the ones who would benefit the most. Do you know how this foreign capital should be used, in a manner that would prevent big profit outflows?
In order for this to happen we should immediately start developing strategic services which do not require large investments and which would be of great benefit to both the investors and the users of those services. Capital outflow will happen anyway, unless the state decides to allocate certain resources to developing the Internet. Most companies that will have developed some quality services by that time would succumb to financial offers that will be enormous for our conditions.
By using a good and cautious strategy, the development and usage of the Internet would make Yugoslavia become a kind of Eldorado shortly after the removal of sanctions. This would happen first on a national level, the European and global level following it. Until the highest government structures do not start to work for the benefit of the entire nation, and not the individuals, this will not happen in any sphere of economy, including the Internet.
#5 By watching your work and your presence on the Net, one could gain the impression that you are “intravenously” hooked up on the Net. How much time you actually spend online?
From the time I am professionally interested in the Net I usually spend around 10 hours per month online, except when I am gathering information for the book I am writing (“Internet marketing, or how to benefit financially from the Internet”), for various articles and reviews presented on TV. This I do not do at home, because I need better connection in order to save time. I have arranged to receive by e-mail most of the materials I need, and I have written about it in the review of the NetMind service.
#6 In your opinion, what does it mean to be an Internet professional and how many people in Yugoslavia deserve to be called professionals?
Internet professional means being a visionary, a person that is consciously investing into the future that will inevitably come to these parts as well. Having in mind general situation in our country, only a small number of companies and individuals in any field of work deserve this title. The same is with the Internet. What distinguishes a professional from all other business participants is the way he thinks and his business awareness which is directed towards prosperity and benefit of his clients. I know between 30 and 50 people engaged in Internet who deserve to be called “professionals”. I have almost all information about everything important happening on the Yugoslav Internet scene, and I also know all companies seriously working on the Net, whether I know them personally, visually or I contacted them by e-mail. In order for all the people who should know about the existence of a certain Yugoslav site to actually know it, Webmasters should register their Web sites to some of our search engines, and all the general Yugoslav search engines should be included, if possible.
#7 Is there any initiative in the circles of Internet professionals regarding the possibility of creating a kind of “guild” and of what importance would that be for the development of Internet in our country?
There have been two such initiatives so far. The first one was an attempt to create the “Association of Internet Professionals”. I have not heard anything about it, except for seeing their site sometime in mid 1998. The second try was the “Yugoslav Internet Society”, which I even advertised on my Web site, but at the moment I do not know what is happening with that project. In my opinion, none of these organizations has done nothing important so far for the development of the Internet in our country.
As I have mentioned several times before, the Internet development in Yugoslavia depends on the actions of several individuals and a few companies and it seems that this is a continuing trend. This means that unless these individuals and companies do not find common interest that would lead them to join their forces and make the Internet grow in a fast and organized manner, no newly founded organization would be capable of accomplishing anything important.
There are people who think that by forming some kind of Internet association they would be able to raise money from various foundations. This will be possible only when a concept of that association is made, but only if that concept allows all the interested parties to benefit.
I think that during this and the following year the Yugoslav Internet is going to continue its rapid growth, unless some unpredicted events again influence our lives.
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