Syed Bashar, Tourism Expert and Entrepreneur: »Visiting Slovenia is something I definitely recommend to everyone!«

Syed Bashar, Tourism Expert and Entrepreneur: »Visiting Slovenia is something I definitely recommend to everyone!«

Syed Bashar is a successful international entrepreneur and expert in tourism industry, who ended up living in Slovenia – and in many ways that was just the beginning …

by Marijana Podhraški

When did you move to Slovenia and what were the main reasons for this decision?

I moved to Slovenia in 2015 to start living here. However, I studied a semester in 2013 at the Faculty of Economics, University of Ljubljana for my masters and came back in 2015 to finish my master thesis.

There were two important factors that led to me living in Slovenia. The first one is I am married to a beautiful Slovene girl, named Maja. We met in 2012 when I started my masters program in Denmark. The second one is the standard of life here –  the work life balance in Slovenia is fantastic compared to New York which is my home.

In New York you can earn a lot of money and I actually did, but you cannot breathe. In Slovenia you earn enough money to have a decent life, visit friends, take a walk by the river enjoy a good drink and smile.

After working at Trivago, Walt Disney, Starwood Hotel Corporation and several start-ups related to travel and tourism, Mr. Bashar is now committed to promoting Slovenia.

How do you find living in Slovenia? What do you like most about living here and what least?

I like to speak my mind and sometimes it may make me appear to be a bit rude. However, I like to think it is best to speak ones mind vs sugar coat things. Let’s face it – like any country Slovenia has its good and bad. While you have hundreds of amazing people with a lot of positive attitude, there are hundreds who are a bit racist.

There are people who will support you to do business, there are others who will just try to steal your business idea for their own good. You will find some of the freshest air and water in the country, you will also end up with sub par food and vegetables in stores that are from Italy and Spain. The salaries are low compared to Germany and Austria, but the costs are just as much in grocery stores if not more at times. Milk and eggs are cheaper in Germany vs they are in Slovenia.

But hey, that’s part of life. In general I like my friends and family here. Because we get to choose who we associate with. So the more positive and fantastic people you surround yourself with the better your lifestyle is. Keep the negative out.

Some of my favourite things about Slovenia are: Fantastic nature. It’s a safe country, I like it. You can let your children ride bikes on the road knowing they will not get run over for a hate crime or something like that.

I love it that there is a lot of innovation for a tiny country with only two million people. I love that we have lots of culture and history in Slovenia. Lots of artists and creative people.

Things I don’t like as much: Useless old laws in business that slow things down. Way too many people complain about life here, but do nothing about it. Lack of infrastructure.

A few rich/corrupt people control things including access to various support from EU or the way they set things up only benefit insiders and friends. Often times they say something is to help small start ups etc. etc. but it’s truly not.

Slovenia has many positives, but …

What is the biggest challenge or challenges for a young international entrepreneur working in Slovenia? Any advice maybe for others ?

In the beginning there is a lot of bullshit you will have to face if you are starting with nothing. If you have a lot of money to burn, then it’s easy anywhere to do business. But if you have only an idea and want to turn it into reality, then be prepared to work very hard.

There will be opportunities, but they are created in such a way that you will only win when you don’t need to win. Such as the fund they have called P2. For this your company is expected to be a year old, but have 25 000 euros sitting around, and you must have a few employees.

In Slovenia if you have even two employees at minimum wage for a year, you are spending 24 000 plus euros and have 25 000 euros on account, plus 7500 euros to setup company and office costs and other costs … So you basically need to have 75 000 already to get 75 000 over 3 years. How does that even make sense?

I’ve seen many companies that are already in business for 5 years, and the owners have other businesses and just set up a new company and apply for funds. So yeah, the idea is to have a good plan and know what are your costs and can you survive until your business makes money.

It seems like you have constantly projects going on, you are also running a bistro/restaurant in Ljubljana …

Well a lot of my work is related to technology and tourism. But yes, I’m also running a food bistro in Ljubljana named Koa Island Bistro and a vegan bar.

KOA Delicious Hawaiian food with a touch of Aloha is home of the authentic Tuna & Salmon Poke (Losos Poke) in Ljubljana.

I also created a platform called  Hi Luka which was mainly targeted for visitors of Slovenia & tourists who wanted to book different tourist experiences in the country.

A plate from KOA Island Bistro

Slovenia as a tourist destination has started to thrive a few years ago. I am interested in your opinion, how do you see our country dealing with so many new challenges in the area of tourism?

The answer is they are trying. Slovenian Tourism Board (STO) needs to innovate, they need to open up the way they do business. Much of their processes are ancient and not ready for innovation. We cannot do things like we did 10 years back and expect things to just improve.

I think Slovene tourism, and the government need to allow for privatization in many areas. There need to be other organizations that can independently work, not be stuck reporting to the same people at the end of the day.

What would a definition of a »five star experience« mean for you? Also, do you have a personal favourite experience of Slovenia?

I don’t really care for five star experiences. It’s more important to have meaningful, memorable, unique experiences. Some of our lives best moments are the simplest ones. For many it’s holding their children’s hand and going for a walk, for some it’s riding their bike in the mountains, for some it’s just walking on simple fall leaves …

I think an experience which makes you smile or makes you happy and satisfied is a great example of a 5 star experience. It’s never about the fancy or shiny stuff that you have at an experience or anything like that.  

Who is your biggest influence and  what is your life moto?

My mom is my biggest influence.  I don’t come from much. When my parents had me we were very poor. But I think over the years my family did well. My mom always taught me the value of little things, to take a leap of faith, to stay honest and keep hustling even when there was no real result in sight. I think some of these basics still apply in my life today.

My wife and I buy things on sale, and in bulk saves us money and time.

I like Gary Vaynerchuk in terms of a business guy.

Any final thoughts on Slovenia maybe, or maybe visiting Slovenia in general?

Visiting Slovenia is something I definitely recommend to everyone. It is a lovely country, there is a lot to explore. Slovenia is still very cheap compared to other places in Europe. There is also a lot of room for investment in Slovenia and a lot of people can benefit from small investments.

So, I definitely encourage people to visit Slovenia, invest in Slovenian innovation and creative people. It is worth every cent.

Syed and Maja Bashar.

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