Interviw: Vigan Limani, COIN Systems
Dear Mr. Limani, you are the CEO of COIN. Could you present yourself to our readers, your educational and professional background, business successes, etc.?
I am a mechanical engineer by trade, I studied in the University of Pristina, and my field was power transmitters. I have been working in the family company for a long time now (approximately 10 years), I first started as a technician there, then I moved up as an engineer, and since January 2016 I am CEO of COIN. I have also been involved in some international companies (automotive industry) before I took the position of CEO of COIN. Since I took over the company, we have had a growth rate of approx. 25% each year.
COIN started doing business even as far as 1941, initially as a craft shop in the rare trade of locksmith/machinist. Today, it is one of the leading Kosovo security companies, offering mechanical and electronic security systems. Tell us more about this journey: how did your company move from manual labor to using the most modern systems, what were the most important milestones, what happened in 1999, when you reopened COIN again?
Well working in communist Yugoslavia at the time was completely different from now. The market for security equipment was covered by state owned companies, but often support was poor (safe and lock manufacturers were either in Slovenia, Serbia or Macedonia), so we filled that void. There were a lot of cases when we would service safes, doors and such hardware in state institutions; however our main market was the residential market.
During this time, new products were very hard to obtain, so we became very efficient and creative, thus getting a lot of detailed knowledge on how stuff functions.
In 1999 we had lost the whole company due to the conflict. Everything was gone, our machines and our stock. We started from scratch again, but this time we focused on the business 100% and we managed to build up what we have now.
You are primarily doing business in the area of mechanical security. What types of products do you install and what brands do you work with? Do you provide some additional services when it comes to mechanical security systems?
We have a very broad range of products, the reason for this is because in a small market such as Kosovo and Albania, to be able to grow one needs to be able to do different things. We represent very well-known international brands such as Insys, DormaKaba, Assa Abloy, Primat, Robur, Birosafe, Waldis, Dom – Titan, Feerica and many other manufacturers. Basically you can see in our installations combined products from different manufacturers, always using what is the best equipment. In addition to sales, we take pride in having a very good customer support.
You are also a producer of customized equipment? What kind? What are the advantages of having your own products on a market filled with all sorts of products?
So basically because we have a lot of experience in this field, we can make products according to different types of needs. We have made custom products for different clients starting from security doors, security windows, prison locks, automatic doors, security cabins, safes, bullet proof facades, panic rooms and many other types of products. At some point we even produced our own keys.
Having our own products is an advantage because we never say no to a client, no matter how hard the job is, no matter how complex it is, we will always have some reliable solution.
Have your products gone through any certification process, for instance, ESSA? Do you believe that standards are important for these types of products?
We are very strict when it comes to standards and certification. Some time ago we took a decision internally that we will not sell products without certification to commercial clients. Although this decision for some time damaged us financially, we are now setting up the standard for everyone, and clients are learning more and more about standards and certification.
For our production we do not have certificates, and the reason is because we do not produce big quantity of products, and it is not efficient to test custom equipment. However all the materials we use for construction have certification. As an example, when we build bulletproof equipment we use only certified ballistic steel and ballistic glass. We also are very careful when we pick products to make sure that the testing is done at the right laboratories and that the products are tested according to the standards.
It is also interesting to mention that in cooperation with the Institute of Mechanical Engineering of the University of Prishtina we have made the first test for ballistic equipment according to RKS EN 1522/1523.
The other business area is electronic security systems, where you even developed software for monitoring and cash processing? Tell us about that software, their features and benefits for the end-user? Why did you decide to follow that path?
Yes we are now doing electronic systems now. We have two ranges of systems, what we install (produced by our partners) and what we make ourselves.
We have made software to monitor IP safe locks from a distance; this is a very good feature because it creates a link for the first time in an active way the safe lock with the monitoring center. This system allows the client to minimize the time exposed to risk and to reduce costs by automatization of processes.
We have also made software to record serial numbers of banknotes and connect them with each client so that we can trace every detail (in cash counting equipment), the purpose of this was to track ink stained banknotes. We also have electronic products under development, such as electronics to control interlocking cabins and so on.
The reasons why we decided to move in to electronics and software are simple. The first is economic, it is very expensive to make a pure mechanical system and the second is our thinking of the future, everything will be controlled in the future, and mechanically it’s very hard to control time, so that is why we went to this field.
COIN also works in system management. What services do you offer?
We offer many tailored solutions according to client’s needs, but to sum it up quickly, we are able to offer solutions for management of security systems in a centralized way.
Aside from banking, what vertical markets do you focus on? Could you enlist some of the most important references?
Our company has four departments when it comes to sales. Our biggest and main department is what we call “high security” and this is for the financial industry (and not only), basically we have as clients all the banks and most of the security companies in Kosovo and Albania.
Our other department is what we call “civil engineering” this is equipment for hotels, shopping malls, office buildings etc. Our main clients in this field are international Hotel such as Sheraton and Marriot, also other reputable retailers such as Inditex Group. We also have two small departments which are “home security” and “wholesale hardware” the first one is residential market equipment and automotive solutions and the second is hardware for door producers and hardware stores (locks and such).
What countries do you do business in? Do you plan to expand or open new offices, especially in other Adriatic Region countries?
We are fully operational in Kosovo and Albania. We will have very soon an office in North Macedonia, as for many products we cover that market as well. Also because most of our business is project based, we have done directly or through our partner’s projects in many countries including Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece etc.
What can we expect from COIN in the future when it comes to new services or products?
COIN has been here for a long time, the reason was that even in very troubled times we managed to adapt and overcome. We are looking toward the future with great ambitions; we are introducing many things, and pioneering new technologies every year. We are now testing some very interesting new concepts, and we are moving towards a new way of doing business, where we will be even closer to our clients. Maybe in a close future, you will see our name in the whole EU market.
How do you see the Kosovo security market nowadays, what are its main problems? Is it dumping of prices, low-quality products, lack of qualified employees, lack of a good partner or something else? Where do you see a room for improvement?
Well Kosovo and Albania are very far behind from the EU in terms of regulation and control. We face a lot of problems because of lack of knowledge from the state institutions. Basically the regulatory bodies in both countries do not seek our advice, and we are not involved in any process of creating regulation and such. The low quality products are another big problem, but again this comes due to the lack of regulation.
This situation has led to great problems. The state instead of being an example for the private sector in terms of proper security and safety measures, it’s the opposite situation.
In Kosovo we have a problem with education system as well, new engineers are not as good as the old ones, and the good ones are going to western countries to work, because we cannot offer such wages. Regarding the partners, we cooperate very well with local companies, however the international companies look at the Balkan’s in general as a sort of black hole, and this creates for us a lot of difficulties.
In my opinion state regulation is the first step to ensure fair competition and to provide ground rules to companies such as us. It is also important that the state sets very strict regulation when it comes to saving people’s lives.