Infobip, the first Croatian startup to be valued at $1 billion, produces its own olive oil to give to clients and employees.
Corporate gifting, long seen as a routine cost of doing business, has grown into a €226 billion industry, and this trend has only accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic.
A recent study from Coresight Research, a market research firm, surveyed 300 corporate gift buyers at companies producing up to €28 billion in revenue.
The idea was to have the olive oils to share with our employees and business partners. It’s a big thing in Istria.
The study found that corporate gifting improved relationships with employees and clients, and improved employee retention and customer loyalty. It also concluded that unique, high-quality gifts are the most appreciated.
Croatia’s first unicorn – a privately-held startup valued at more than $1 billion (€930 million) – has taken this advice to heart.See Also:Students and Teachers at Croatian Elementary School Celebrate NYIOOC Success
Infobip, an information technology and telecommunications firm, demonstrates the importance of its employees and clients by gifting them award-winning extra virgin olive oil produced from the trees in front of its main headquarters.
Based in Vodnjan, a town located on the southwestern edge of the olive oil-soaked Istrian peninsula, Infobip has been producing olive oil since 2020 under the Oila brand, and earned a Gold Award at the 2021 NYIOOC World Olive Oil Competition.
“At first, the idea was to have the olive trees because this is a tradition in Istria,” Aurora Volarević, Infobip’s vice president of corporate affairs and an award-winning producer at Turinela Farms, told Olive Oil Times.
In its first harvest, the company produced 60 bottles of extra virgin olive oil. This year, that total increased to 80, and Volarević said there are plans to expand.
“We are keeping it as a unique gift for the most important personnel and customers,” Andrej Mendaš, the company’s head of public relations, told Olive Oil Times. “We want to create something that is not so common. We always disrupt things, and this is a fun way to do that.”
“The idea was to have the olive oils to share with our employees and business partners,” Volarević added. “It’s a big thing in Istria.”
When the company opened its Vodnjan campus in 2017, 30 Leccino and Pendolino olive trees were planted in front of the building, along with a range of aromatic herbs and other Mediterranean plants.
When Volarević joined Infobip a couple of years later, she entered a small team at the firm that had to decide what to do with the newly-developing olives.
At this point, Volarević already had a decade of olive oil-producing experience and saw that the landscaper, Milan Radolovic, also followed similar harvesting and maintenance best practices in the company’s grove.
After mentioning that she sent her own extra virgin olive oil samples to New York in 2021, the company thought they would do the same with Oila to see what would happen.
“I knew that the whole process and the results should be similar to what I’m doing [at Turinela Farms],” Volarević said “I was sure that we would receive some award, but wasn’t sure which one.”
Sure enough, Oila earned a Gold Award at the competition. Volarević was thrilled and sent the link of the announcement to other people in the company.
Since the oils had been sent to New York in secret, plenty of her colleagues thought this was a joke until they saw the official announcement published a few days later.
“No one knew about it,” Mendaš confirmed. “I remember I was sitting at a cafe and my friend sent me a link saying ‘oh my gosh, you guys won the olive oil award.’ I was shocked.”
Olive oil culture, which is nearly ubiquitous in Istria, had already permeated Infobip. Volarević said that many people working at the company have family farms with olive trees. However, now olive oil is seeping into the corporate culture.
In the previous harvest, employees hand-harvested olives from the company’s trees together as part of a team-building exercise. Future planting and harvesting will also likely be done in a similar fashion.
The olives are then taken to a local mill, run by another perennial NYIOOC winner, OPG Chiavalon.
Along with olives, the company has also planted 60 other fruit trees and is in the process of expanding its olive groves. Infobip recently rented two hectares of land nearby and will plant a few hundred trees next year.
“We expect a significant production, probably 10 years from now after the newly-planted trees mature and yield a larger amount of olive oil,” Volarević said.
However, producing the olive oil is just a small part of the reason to grow the olive trees at Infobip for Volarević.
“It’s important for everybody to find some balance with nature,” she said. “We are a very fast-growing company. The work is very intense and it’s important to find some balance.”