Altin Prenga: Sustainable Business Models Are The Future
Altin Prenga is the owner of the agritourism complex ‘Mrizi i Zanave’. The interview below was conducted to get his perspective on the pandemic situation.
Q: Were you prepared for the situation we are going through? How is your business coping with this unusual situation?
A: We were not prepared. But the fact that we are a sustainable business enterprise makes us cope a little better than others. Although the restaurant is closed, we continue to sell the products of local farmers, everything that we have been selling even before. We deliver the products to customers homes, mainly in the districts of Tirana, Lezha and Durrës; currently we receive about 50-60 orders per day. At the moment, we have 23 active employees, while all employees, even those who are staying at home, are all paid the minimum wage, without exception.
Q: How do you think the way of doing business will change based on the situation?
A: In the case of our business, I do not think we have much to change. Given that we have established a sustainable network of producers, we are keeping on with the sales and the collaboration with local farmers and employees, I think that when the pandemic period is over, we will gradually return to our normal. Of course, purchasing power and overall revenue will decrease, so globally more sustainable business models will be needed.
Q: How do you reach your customers? How is marketing and communication changing in this situation?
A: We use social media and our website for marketing and sales, methods that we have used even before this situation occurred. We have about 200,000 followers on Facebook and as many on Instagram. We are lucky that our followers love good and healthy food, and those products that we post online are ordered immediately; so that the next day we post new ones. Therefore, I think those companies that do not rely on the online promotion and sales should seriously consider it.
Q: Your business is also offering apprenticeships for the students of ‘Kolin Gjoka’ vocational school in Lezha. How are such apprenticeships currently managed?
A: Unfortunately, during this situation the apprenticeships are suspended. We are in a ‘state of emergency’ kind of situation which prevents us of being able to continue the scheduled activities with students. We have a lot of social responsibilities for our employees and hundreds of local farming families. Now schools have to take matters into their own hands through distance learning, so that the students can continue the learning process.
Q: Are the needs for vocational skills changing under these new conditions? What do you think should be the approach of the vocational schools to adjust to the situation?
A: Pandemic conditions call for investments in local skills and production. As we have all witnessed, the prices of imported products are increasing. At this point, I think the vocational schools can contribute by opening the profile of ‘Food Processing’. ‘Kolin Gjoka’ school opened the ‘Food Processing’ profile and the students of this educational direction did their apprenticeships with us, before our activities were shut down. These young people are being educated with sustainable models and we hope that in the future they will use their knowledge to create new, even better models.
Q: We are living in an uncertain reality; nevertheless, do you think there is any positive side to it?
A: I think that on a global scale, this situation is triggering reflections on moving towards sustainable solutions. What we have learned is that only common success as a society can be considered as such while individual benefit means nothing. To overcome this crisis as smoothly as possible, I think that our country should also incite sustainable enterprises and increase domestic production.