Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Scenario #21: Opening a petrol station

Today I went out for a lovely day "in the field." We visited a field office, beneficiaries of the microfinance institute I'm working with, and met with someone who works in another town. I wish every day of work could entail driving the mountain roads, meandering through villages and eating seriously delicious kebabs.

During our many hours in the car, I started entertaining myself by taking note of all the petrol stations. My fascination with petrol stations was sparked by a comment made by my coworker as we were leaving the city. As he drove, he told me that Kosovo has more petrol stations than two or three of the neighbouring countries combined. The market for petrol stations is way beyond saturated. "People here are not smart," he said. "They don't think of the market needs. They know someone else has a petrol station and see that his business is successful and his family has enough to live on, so they decide to open also. They don't think."

After he said that, I started to pay attention. Sure enough, there were easily as many petrol stations as supermarkets/minimarkets - one or two per village on average. And probably more petrol stations than hair salons.

Not only that, but there were no big chains. No Exxon, no BP, to Mobil. Each petrol station was individually and privately owned. Some were run-down and neglected, tiny establishments with one or two pumps. Others were big and fancy-looking. Some were connected to minimarkets, others to car mechanics, others to restaurants, and yet others to motels.

I started writing down the names of the petrol stations we drove by, but soon I got tired of all the scribbling. During a stretch lasting about 45 minutes, covering 4-5 villages and one larger town, I took note of:
Elita petrol, Zena/petrol, Fetoshi, D-Jupa, Edovan Petrol, Klora Petrol, Shehu, Kosova Petrol, Nasradini, Rexhepi minimart, B. Burimi, Fams.D. petrol, D-Jupa (look! a repeat!), Fatoni, Drini, Pashthiku, Burini, Korabr petrol. There were also two that didn't have names but which were brightly painted in the design of the Kosovo flag. And there were two that were so battered-looking that I couldn't make out a name.

This thriving market of petrol stations was for me yet another chapter in my fascination with the way this country feels so economically neglected. I've never been somewhere so enchanted with the US and EU, so eager to participate in the global market, yet so devoid of any of the big names of international commerce - where is the Shell? Why didn't Texaco set up a chain here? Instead, we've got hundreds upon hundreds of small Kosovar entrepreneurs doing their thing, some well and others not so well. I've never lived anywhere before where the petrol stations were nothing more than a family business. I wonder who supplies their oil...


tintin_13 said...

i would like to open a petrol pump too! good post

reduce the carbon footprints said...

i would like to open a petrol pump too! good post

Anonymous said...

Dear Writer,

Who would be so stupid to Invest in Kosovo espacially in oil industry when some key members of gorvernments smugle tons of oil through borders of Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro??

A while ago there was an article, also on news that in PEJA (PEC) the was a gang master who was smuggling tons of oil from Montenegro.... Guess who? Our politicians....There is a TV channel (cant rememebr rightly) but you would need to see that and see what our PATRIOTS really do for KOSOVO lol F**K ALL....(Sorry for use of my language)... I live in West and I as an individual would bring more business oompanies than the government will do but the problem is the people are ignorant of the fact our government does nothing and they all protest against the west i.e. UNMIK,EULEX etc had our governmet worked properly they would have gone without any problems but they dont work....

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