Digitizing livesto...

Digitizing livestock trading: an interview with Milos Milic

Farmia, co-founded by Milos Milic and Srđan Stupar in Serbia, is a digital platform for livestock exchange. It helps farms offer their animals to a wider circle of potential buyers, and provides buyers a faster, cheaper and easier way to find appropriate animals for their needs. Last year, infoDev identified Farmia as a leading startup in Serbia during an assessment of the digital entrepreneruship ecosystem in the region. This month, as Milos visits Washington, DC for a World Bank conference on how to harness digital trade for competitiveness and development, we sat down with him and asked him a few questions on how a digital platform can transform the way livestock is traded.

milos-farmia

Q: What did you want to do when you were younger?

Given I have spent a solid portion of my childhood in the countryside, with my grandparents being involved in the teaching profession and livestock handling, respectively, I have always fantasized the same way other boys do – I wanted to have a farm. I have always had a great affinity for animals, especially horses; literally every activity that included livestock, whether horse-riding, or herding sheep, looked like a potential dream come true for me. Concurrently, also like most boys, I was obsessed with video games and technology. After I had grown up, I simply found a way to put both these passions to work and create a business I would truly be invested in, something I knew I would cherish.

Q: Who was your biggest inspiration while starting out, and what did his or her support mean to you?

I would have to say my grandfather has always been a figure I looked up to. As a boy, I spent a lot of time with him, especially in the countryside; we would take long walks, he would talk to me about nature and animals, and all this has always been a major source of inspiration. I also have a twin brother who I am very close with. Together we would dream about one day becoming like our grandfather. He had always been a man with great imagination and a truly inspirational person full of energy. I guess today I can say I take after him.

Q: What made you focus on the livestock trade industry?

My partner, Srđan, and I, used to work together as software engineers for a major American hotel chain. This experience ignited a spark of entrepreneurship in us and we started discussing the possibility of starting a business together. At first we knew we had to do the research; we had spent months looking into various industries, but soon we realized that agriculture was, pun intended, the fertile soil we needed. The possibilities within the industry were endless, especially with regard to technology. Srđan and I quickly decided to merge our previous work experience and passion with this ample opportunity. This is how Farmia came about.

Q: What's the market demand/potential for Farmia?

Livestock farming is one of the most thriving areas of the agricultural industry, and for obvious reasons – it pushes the entire human race forward. Whether in order to feed the people, or harvest crops with which to feed the cattle, livestock farming has been a booming source of income for families worldwide since the dawn of men. In Serbia alone, there are more than 625,000 agricultural households. It goes without saying that the potential for prosperity is tremendous.

Q: What vision do you have for your company?

Since we have started Farmia, Srđan and I have had a very clear vision and a path we follow – to become the leading platform for livestock trading worldwide. It is our ambition to first expand across Europe, and then globally. Thus far we have generated plenty of success, all within a year and a half. If we continue to work and expand, it is reasonable to say our plans will become reality within years.

Q: Is Serbia a good place to start your company? Are you facing any challenges?

If we take into account Serbia’s climate and historical heritage, it is obvious this is the right place to start a business such as that of livestock trading. Serbia is famous for being an agricultural country with world-class livestock, which was a source of inspiration and encouragement for Srđan and me. Once you look over the statistics and people’s interest in livestock, it becomes clear why Serbia is the perfect starting point to calculating and measuring the viability of our business. I am proud to now say our idea is a fruitful one.

Q: Could you name three major challenges you faced when starting the business?

It goes without saying that financing and investments are paramount and the greatest challenge every entrepreneur faces, no matter how confident. Once we overcame the challenge of seeking funds to develop our idea into a thriving, sustainable business, there was the challenge of networking. Farmers are hard-working people scattered all over every country and foster a unique mindset; still, one could say every industry has its perks and challenges, and I prefer not to see networking and reaching out to customers as an obstacle, rather the contrary – it’s what our business is about. Finally, the third challenge we are about to face as we now focus on scalability is creating a globally applicable appeal for a platform in a multicultural setting. Each culture has its own idiosyncrasies and it will be a tremendous task for us to adapt Farmia to each of the countries we expand to.  

Q: If you had to do it all-over again would you be an entrepreneur?

I say without hesitation that becoming an entrepreneur is the best thing that has ever happened to me. Firstly, it has provided me with unprecedented personal and professional growth; I have learned so much about the business and people as such, and have prospered greatly since we have founded Farmia. Of course, being an entrepreneur has its challenges, but I am a pragmatic, hands-on person, and I relish the thought of having to put in serious work in order to reap results.

Q: What are three things you would say help your creative process?

Definitely being physically active. I am an athletic person and keeping the body fit also helps the brain. Other than that, reading books and watching motivational videos really helps, as well as reading inspirational stories about people who have started with nothing and then created a name for themselves. Finally, I look forward to anything that gets me out of my comfort zone. I believe that stepping outside yourself expands your views and helps you grow as a person.


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