Talking to Mario Radosavljevic is always spectacular, because he does not put his attention to select words what other may like to hear. He speaks what he thinks that is right, no matter what. We had the opportunity to talk with him about LOMA, the wheels business itself during the Covid-19 pandemic and his future plans.
Media Group: You are now in your 12th year with LOMA in the automotive industry. What is your reflection on the past decade and how do you see the LOMA brand today?
Mario Radosavljevic: First of all, nice to see you guys asking me questions again. Now by reminding me on the 12 years of LOMA existence, you remind me that I am 12 years older (laugh) but be sure, only on paper. I am living my dream life and couldn't be happier. I am in fact so graceful that the creator gave me the possibility to do what I want to do and not forced to work just what other want from me. When I founded the LOMA brand in 2008, nobody believed it will take off. In fact, 90% of the people told me that I will not survive the first 6 months with it, because I was fully broke and missed any direction in my life. However, one thing that separates me from the rest is, unbelievable belief in me and an unblurred focus where and what I want to be in the near future. Now I am laughing but not about them, I laugh from luck and happiness what wonderful life I am living. Be strong, Be focused and Be positive. Your mindset will determine your future. Big hug to all friends and business partners. And a big hug to my enemies — I squeeze you guys a bit stronger than my friends (laugh).
I think that the pandemic situation now is something that is cycle, because nearly every century in human history started with a tragedy and it looks like, no exception in this one. In the 1920´s, we had the big depression and due to the fact that the economies are shutting down, it is clear that many people are living in fear.
Media Group: Do you have fear of this situation?
Mario Radosavljevic: No I don't. Every crisis has winners and looser, and if you know me, you know I will be never ever part of the losing team. Entrepreneurship is all about adjusting. It is like a fight in the octagon. If your opponent (the market) hits you with something unusual, then you can't follow blind your strategy. That's what have done, adjusted and the business is running fine while we are facing things that even the best strategy cant solve.
Media Group: Which is?
Mario Radosavljevic: We have huge problems with the shipping companies. Not only that partners that we have over ten years to ship our products are not working properly anymore, but they also outsource the job without telling us a single word. Where before Covid-19 the goods arrived within days at the customers house, we are looking now sometimes into weeks. Shipping prices went up too, and so we cover a big part on our own, so we don't have to charge our customers. It is what it is but I believe, soon we will go back to normal.
Media Group: How is the brand doing since you moved to Monte Carlo?
Mario Radosavljevic: Boy, it took a while of our problems in the past with the damn flowform wheels, but now we faced in 2019 and 2020 the best years in companies history. Even Covid-19 didn't change that. Honestly, I believe it helped us also to some extent because people didn't travel too much, and bought much more online. As we are a luxury brand, you have the advantage to be not in the down-cycle when economic crisis are hitting the market. Yes we felt it but due to the huge impact on social media were people posted against the pandemic with whatever, online sales started. We are now with every single keyword that is important to us, in the Google search engines (USA) on page 1 or on place 1 and this is incredible. Since I managed to bring the LOMA brand to Monte Carlo, the trust of the high-end customer was going through the roof. We are selling trust in the first place and what can be more trustful than being part of famous Monaco, right? Since the situation in America changed, we have also an increase of 82,3% on sales in the US.
Media Group: What situation you mean?
Mario Radosavljevic: Well, to explain that I have to go back a bit. Before Covid-19 you had around 200 US-companies that presented themselves as " manufacturers ". Except HRE Wheels, everyone else was buying in a private label program alloy forged wheels from China and stamped Made in the USA on the back of each rim. Now, since the US-President Donald Trump started a trade war with China, he made my day by putting a huge anti-dumping tax of over 52% on China wheels when imported into the US. The beauty in that is, that 90% of the so-called US wheel manufacturers which were in reality living room companies mostly with 1 single laptop disappeared, because the Chinese wheel factories were shutting down and asked for huge orders which the fake manufacturers couldn't pay. Since the trade war the prices for custom wheels in the US become around 35-40% more expensive as the wheel companies that still import from China need to cover the anti-dumping import tax in the USA. This makes now the competition for US-customers much easier for us as before, we were much too pricey to some guys oversea. Now that the prices went up for US-wheels, customers are looking more to Europe, and so we sell much more. Most luxury customers are driving European car brands and so it makes sense to buy custom wheels from Europe too.
Media Group: That makes sense. So in Germany the brands should make now better business too and so you have now other competitors, isn't it?
Mario Radosavljevic: Not really. Look, brands like Brabus are already established and specialized on one brand which is Mercedes, right? So in this case in don't believe that they experience any change on the US-politics applied to China. Real wheel manufacturers in the custom industry you don't have in Germany because, the labor cost and taxes are crazy. Then you have the worst customer service on the planet were even German are saying, we have the worst customer service on the planet. I don't see any competition for the international market coming from there. Nine from ten companies in Germany are 1 man-shows, with no possibility to grow the company which is clear if you look at the costs they have to run a company there.
Media Group: But you are producing in Germany too!
Mario Radosavljevic: Yes partly we do but we have a big advantage. Producing and store products in Germany without any sales, causes no tax payments if you can prove that the goods are leaving the country. In our case they do, as they come to Monte Carlo and then to the end customer. So we are using the tax advantage the German authorities give foreigners but not to their own people. Don't argue with me if this is fair or not, I am not a politician, I am an entrepreneur that is using all tools given. Besides that, we have opened by the beginning of 2020 a new factory in Taiwan to serve the Asian market. This has been done for two reasons. Reason number one is, we don't want to wait until this tax advantage in Germany will be gone and secondly, China is the biggest growing market in the world, and they have crazy luxury good taxes to pay which we avoid if we produce in Taiwan. Since the Chinese understand that Europeans are manufacturing it and controlling it, the sales is going steady in one direction, up!
Media Group: How you see the future of your brand?
Mario Radosavljevic: Nobody can predict the future to my information, but you can set some things and hope that at least one of it hits the target. My success story is based on the fact, that I never bet on one horse only because its clear as water, that failure will happen. That's why the LOMA Group exists and that is why you can shake my brand but never kill it. We have currently moved into a new location in Monaco as we need more space, and waiting on our new office space in One Monte Carlo which is still under construction. From there, we will attack with new blood and get things rolling. I will continue to grow the brand in different directions and will see what the future brings. 2019 and 2020 was difficult for me as I have to fight health issues and had some surgeries, but I am back stronger than ever and some huge things are set up for 2021 and I can't wait to execute them. Most important for me is, to enjoy my time with my family in Monte Carlo, Monaco because it is simply the best place you can be on planet earth.
Media Group: Thank you very much for your time.