[PIONEERS OF CAPITALISM] Ilija and Stojan Tokić: How we have grown in 30 years to a winner over the corona crisis and lockdown

ilija i stojan

In 1990, Ilija Tokić came out of the security of state employment and opened a 35-square-meter car parts store with his brother Stojan. The brothers invested all their property in the business, and everything they earned in the first years, they invested in the further development of the company. Ten years later, Tokić already had ten branches and independently imported a large part of the assortment. They emphasize that from the first day they insisted on high-quality products and professional sellers, and even today it is the foundation on which they build the trust of customers and partners.

How did Tokić come from those 35-square-meters store to today’s leading position in the Croatian car parts market? Is there a key moment responsible for the development of today’s company?

Not just one, there are several key moments in these 30 years that have directed Tokić towards the company that is today. In the early 2000s, we recognized that the development of our industry lays in the implementation of advanced solutions, and we began to invest in IT infrastructure and human resources, which was certainly one of the key steps towards an innovative company as we are today. In 2005, we launched a franchise business model, which proved to be an ideal solution for the availability of Tokić products throughout Croatia, and later in the region. Today, we have franchise partners in 52 Croatian cities, whose owners have our support in education, equipment, infrastructure, and business consulting. Since we became a shareholder and a member of ATR in 2008, Tokić has become a recognizable brand and we have modeled our business processes following the example of Western partners. We also introduced GOOD, BETTER, BEST assortment levels and gathered a number of international experts whose experience contributes to everyday business – they respond from the company and further explain that, although Tokić is a family company with tradition, the owners recognized the importance of professional management and placed their trust in young educated professionals with high references, which today are successfully developing Tokić towards one of the leading companies in Southeast Europe.

As the last in a series of key moments in Tokić, they stand out, is when, symbolically, on the last day of 2019, the acquisition of Bartog, a leading Slovenian tire dealer and that marked Tokić’s beginning of a strategic expansion into Slovenia and the EU.

But the corona crisis has particularly hit the auto industry. In Tokić, they claim that the first six months of this year resembled a film script.

Today we can say that with a timely reaction we have kept the business on solid ground and most importantly – we kept all jobs and the health of our employees safe. We are grateful to the employees and partners for their support, as we assessed that the stability and well-being of all those involved in Tokić’s business are equally important. Quality logistics, but also the stocks availability at that time, enabled us to organize our work almost regularly, and for our partners to continue their business without any difficulties. We have also enabled delivery and pick up of goods with strict epidemiological measures, and we are especially proud that we have been a strong support to partners and suppliers in the post-crisis period when it comes to business consulting and strategic decisions. It is shown that we made the right decisions because of the increase in the number of partners with which we work today. Now we realize the importance of one of the first decisions in the corona crisis – the establishment of a crisis team, which coordinated people, goods, partners and suppliers on a daily basis. With the quick reaction of the management and the engagement of all the employees, which we cannot praise enough, we overcame the lockdown without major difficulties. Business today is stable and with a tendency to grow, and a special post-crisis team is developing all business models for the period by end of the year – they answer from Tokić.

Judging by that, the development is not endangered and the company continues in the set direction, which has three points of support: stable business expansion as a reliable partner and a desirable employer.

The recent acquisition of Slovenian Bartog will certainly have a great impact on our business, which significantly increases the number of our stores and employees, but also increases opportunities for the development of both business and young people who increasingly recognize Tokić as the company in which they want to develop their career. When you welcome young professionals who have decided to return from well-paid positions in Western Europe and join our team, because they like what we do and where we are going, it is clear that an excellent story with great potential is being written here – they say from Tokić.

In the long run, Tokić’s plan is to strengthen its position as a regional leader in the field of auto parts trade, but also to become a recognizable brand throughout Europe. The use of innovative technologies in the entire process, from production and logistics, through customer relations to investing in the education of new generations who want to work in the automotive industry, are the foundations with which they embark on such a project. That the company is on the right track was shown by the recent recognition of the London Stock Exchange, according to which Tokić is one of the 50 Future shapers – companies that will shape the future of Europe, which the company explains in words:

We change and adapt to new circumstances, and we remain the same when it comes to values, innovative when it comes to technology, and traditional when it comes to people and interpersonal relationships.

Doubts about the hunter and the prey are also inevitable. In the end, we ask whether Tokić plans to continue as a family business, or are they looking for a strategic partner?

Tokić originated from a small shop in Zagreb’s Trešnjevka, but the owners planned from the first day to be a company ‘for the next hundred years’. Today we celebrate only 30, so the best time is still ahead of us! – they answer from Tokić.