The Slovenia Times

Slovenian Hidden Champions



The president of the IEDC-Bled School of Management and the founding president of the Central and East European Management Development Association (CEEMAN) explained that the objective of the joint project was to identify such companies in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and Turkey and Kazakhstan. A further aim was to check the assumption that some Central European countries are lagging behind in terms of their economic position in the globalised business world.
The research yielded 165 "hidden champions" (HC), mostly small and medium-sized enterprises. The largest number of them, 36, came from Poland while Slovenia has 16. The researchers defined HC as companies holding international market leadership positions, usually in a narrow product group. Generally unknown to the general public due to operating in the business to business sector, the firms exhibit not only distinctive products and product positioning but also have in many cases created distinctive business models and novel business practices. They all carry strong international competitiveness in at least one product category, exhibit consistent growth over the last decade; innovate much above the average national company level; have the capability to adapt to demanding business environments; make for interesting leadership stories; and have success that is based on working smart and hard.

From Germany to Slovenia

The research was inspired by the work of Dr Hermann Simon, one of the most influential marketing and management experts in the world, who was also the first to identify the concept of HC. His first study was performed in 1996 and focused on his native Germany. It was repeated in 2008 when it included also Austria and Switzerland. The results led Simon to the conclusion that HC significantly contribute to the success of the economies in which they operate. Until two years ago, such firms made Germany the largest exporter in the world.
Similarly to Simon's HCs, many of Central and Eastern Europe's hidden champions come from mature industries such as industrial machines, transportation, automotive, information and communications technology. There are also many from the metallurgy and energy sectors. The majority of them are leaders in the Western Balkans, Southern Europe, Baltic region and former Soviet Union. Some of them rely on low labour costs and commodities while others are technological leaders. The latter stand a better chance of reaching global leadership, the researchers argue, but - contrary to German HC - their strategic goals are not framed explicitly in terms of seizing global market leadership.

International value

The IEDC-CEEMAN research has not merely been greeted with interest from those in the region. Experts from the OECD and EU have also expressed interest since they have previously found it extremely difficult to extract meaningful data from the region.


Slovenia's Hidden Champions

  • Akrapovič, exhaust systems for racing bikes
  • Atech, electro-motors and navigation control systems for heaters on biomass
  • Bia Separations, monolithic columns technology (purification stage of bio-drug production process)
  • Bisol, photovoltaic modules
  • Eurolabel/Europlus, software service to design and print labels with bar code and RFID labels
  • Genelitik, advice on nutritional and lifestyle choices based on genetic analysis
  • GenePlanet, advice for the prevention of potential (curable) diseases based on genetic analysis
  • Hidria, diesel cold start systems for internal combustion engines, extenders for hybrid electric vehicles, and aluminium die-castings for automotive steering systems
  • Instrumentation Technologies, instrumentation for the accelerator beam diagnostics market
  • Metrel, production and supply of test and measurement instruments for electrical safety in low voltage electrical distribution industry
  • Optotek, ophthalmological laser for diagnostics and therapy
  • Pipistrel, ultra light aircraft
  • Seaway Group, sail and motor boat design for equipment manufacturers and leading boat brands
  • Studio Moderna, electronic retailing and direct marketing
  • Tajfun, production and supply of three point logging winches

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