Vladislav Mihov, Country Manager, on the mission to provide better products and work environment
Japan Tobacco International is a leading international company for tobacco and vaping products with operations in over 130 countries and 40,000 employees from over 110 nationalities. Their business in Bulgaria is illustrative of the way the company does business all over the world: committment to long-term growth, not short-term gains, driven by the strength of world-renowned brands, diversity of people and balance between the interests of shareholders, consumers, employees and society.
We talked to Vladislav Mihov, Country Manager of JTI Bulgaria, to learn more.
What has JTI Bulgaria achieved since 2007, when the company returned to the Bulgarian market?
JTI brands were present in Bulgaria before 2007, but the company came to the domestic market under the corporate brand of JTI in 2007 after various acquisitions of our mother company – Japan Tobacco Inc. Since then, we have invested our efforts into doing the right things – developing our brands, investing in our people, doing business in the best way possible, keeping ethics standards high and increasing visibility and market presence. We are convinced that the people who work for JTI and the brands we represent are our greatest asset.
For these almost 15 years in Bulgaria, we have managed to multiply our sales volume and market share several times, and thanks to the achieved successes, colleagues from the Bulgarian market were promoted to positions in the company abroad. We continue to strive for the best possible business practices, to participate in a transparent dialogue with government institutions and the business community, and to be a preferred employer in Bulgaria.
Why do you think you have achieved your target to be the preferred choice of employees in Bulgaria?
There is always space for improvement, for sure, but we believe that up to this moment we have achieved a really good level and we have created in the company a friendly atmosphere and excellent working conditions.
In 2021, JTI Bulgaria received the Top Employer certificate for the 8th consecutive year. The certificate is issued by the Top Employers Institute, which analyzes working conditions in many companies and assesses whether they provide the desired environment for the employees.
For five years, in the period 2013-2017, our company was awarded as Best Employer in Bulgaria in the annual survey conducted in the market. I believe that it is crucial to maintain a positive work atmosphere, albeit sometimes remotely, to encourage diversity and motivate our employees to give their best. Thus they themselves become ambassadors of the company and its values. The process of development, of gaining new knowledge and adaptation to the constantly changing environment never stops.
What social responsibility priorities does the company set for itself and how does it achieve them?
JTI's global social responsibility policy is evolving in several main areas – respect for human rights, activities related to improving the social environment, reducing harmful emissions and maintaining good corporate and business standards.
In Bulgaria, JTI develops social projects that aim to provide services to vulnerable groups, which they usually do not have standard access to. Some of the projects we support are JAMBA, a hub of opportunities, which is a center for people with different abilities, and the project Northwest, a social kitchen for elderly.
JTI is also one of the founding members of the Bulgarian Diversity Charter, which unites companies around taking concrete steps to implement policies for diversity and equality of opportunity, regardless of gender, physical characteristics, age or other personal qualities and beliefs.
Our policy for activities related to assistance to local communities also includes volunteering. Our employees participated in various environmental initiatives, such as afforestation, installation of bird feeders, and cleaning of areas in nature.
Apart from these activities, which are small in themselves, but important for us as people and for the organizations we partner with, we are also strongly involved in causes such as the fight against the illicit trade with tobacco products. Together with other companies in our industry, we regularly analyze and measure the size of the illegal market and the market share of cigarettes that are not taxed in Bulgaria. They are counterfeits of well-known brands or are simply created for illegal distribution.
This activity is very important because the illegal trade puts additional risks to the health of the consumer, deprives the state of huge revenues from excise duties and harms all those involved in the legal trade in tobacco products – from the producer to the small shop in the neighborhood selling cigarettes. To understand the scale of this problem, I will only note that last year the state budget received nearly BGN 2.8 billion from excise duties on tobacco products only.