Interview with Nina Angelovska
Co-Founder & CEO @ Grouper.mk, PhD, Forbes 30 under 30

Heading the leading e-commerce company in Macedonia that launched when less than 1% of the population was buying online and transformed the e-commerce industry in the country. Many challenges and obstacles were on the way: lack of habit for online buying, small share of payment cards in circulation, safety concerns and lack of trust in buying online, lack of skills and adoption of new trends among merchants and non-existent supply from other e-commerce companies. The well-structured marketing strategy and it's implementation; and the hard work and dedication were crucial for Grouper's tremendous success in chaining the e-commerce market, the mindset of hundreds of merchants and the habits of over 200K young and elder users that embraced online shopping as an everyday routine.
What's next for Grouper.mk, as well as your own career?
So it's constant learning, constant adapting, constantly innovating. So we have new features that we're going to launch on the Grouper app. Of course, we are also always trying to catch up with the changes in the digital world with data now and everything. We are also building a new platform for the merchants and we are slowly turning into a marketplace in the Macedonian market and who knows as part of our strategy for 2019/2020 we might see Grouper in some neighbouring countries. Regarding my own career I accepted a new challenge just recently a few months ago I'm president of the Macedonian E-commerce Association. So that's also trying to change e-commerce on a bigger institutional level in the country. I'm also always open to new challenges. I have been working on various projects as a consultant. Also training, mentoring and trying to be everywhere I can, and trying to contribute, and give back. So that's something I am willing to continue. But of course, it's difficult to juggle with all the challenges and all the things that come and in this fast life. But I am of course happy and open to new challenges that might present in my future.
What was your experience being nominated for Forbes' 30 Under 30 list? How has it impacted your work?
When the hard work is recognized it's always a great satisfaction and pleasure. So far I have had some recognition, national and international, but this so far has been the biggest one for me. It was a great pleasure. When I was asked how I felt when I got the Forbes recognition I said that I felt like I'm on the top of the mountain that I've been climbing for seven years since we started Grouper but now that I got on the top of this mountain I saw the other mountains out there. So it was definitely the recognition. It is definitely a motivation to continue with even greater passion, with greater motivation. So it definitely impacted me in terms of how I will continue with the same energy, and passion, and liveliness in my next challenges and achievements that I hope to have.
What has been the feedback from clients and distributors using Grouper?
Oh well, our goal, of course, is to make both sides happy, the end users and the merchants, and it's not an easy task at all if we have in mind the thousands of different wills and desires and preferences of the end users, as well as the merchants who have different goals they want to reach with the deal promotions. But our team is very well equipped and is so willing to help the merchants make their best promotion and reach the desired goals. And of course, we are striving to exceed the customer expectations and create delight on both sides of the course. As part of my PhD thesis, I did research and I created a model to measure the satisfaction level and the loyal intentions of the end users. So we are very happy that we got a 4.6 out of 5 for overall satisfaction and loyalty intention of the end users. And in terms of the merchants, we have over 80 per cent of merchants that are using Grouper on a regular basis during the year to promote various products and services who have incorporated Grouper as a tool in their marketing strategy. So we are very happy to work with all merchants and help them achieve their goals.
Grouper.mk has experienced an enormous amount of growth since it was founded in 2011. How have you managed to ensure that this growth was sustainable and healthy?
By constant learning, constantly innovating, constantly adapting to the market, being a very fast learner. By making some good decisions, by putting the right people in the right positions to make the right decisions. We have a very good team and I'm very happy that we have true values, that we have a very good culture and I believe that every challenge we overcame and every barrier, and there were a lot of challenges on the way..the path was not easy at all...But I am happy that every challenge we overcame made us stronger, and made us more knowledgeable. So I'm grateful for all the struggles... we knew what we were diving in once we started, we knew the stage of development of the industry... And today I can say that we are proud and happy that we did this.
How were you able to contribute to the culture shift to inspire Macedonians to use online shopping platforms?
So how were we able to contribute to the culture shift and inspire Macedonians to buy online, but also very importantly how were we able to engage the companies to make their first sale through the Grouper deals. So first of all for the end users the discounts were a great incentive. So we told them that the benefits we're offering you is not that you're going to save time, in times of economic recession and crisis, it was very important that we offered savings. So we said you're going to save money while you're exploring different places in town or when booking your travel holidays etc. So we had to educate the market and we had to spend thousands of phone calls and emails replying to "What is the CVC code?", "How are you supposed to buy online with a payment. card?", "How are you going to get a payment card?", "Or how to download the app?", "or what a browser is?", "Or how to clear your cash in the browser?". And in terms of the companies, we had to provide some kind of training in terms of how important marketing is and how important the online presence of the companies is so that we have both sides on board, because our role as intermediaries. So we had to have the best deals with very good discounts for the end users which were going to be presented in the best way with a very good marketing strategy that will reach the right target audience and of course bring the desired clients to the merchants.
Could you please introduce Grouper.mk and what led to your co-founding the company?
Grouper is the first deal platform launched ​on ​the​ Macedonian market in 2011, operating as an intermediary between the merchant​s​ and the end users. Practically the business model is group buying and we cooperate with hundreds of merchants​,​ promoting their products, services and travel packages to the end users in the form of coupons ​or​ deals. Today we have over 200​.​000 end users and over 3000 merchants whose deals are promoted. We are a very well-known brand ​on the Macedonian market. What is very important for us is that we are known ​on​ the market as the game changer of e-commerce. So how we change​d​ the market or how we change​d​ the e-commerce in Macedonia​?​ I was very passionate about e-commerce during my studies and I was also passionate about competitions as I found them a way to prove myself. So I won at a most innovative business plan competition and I got some funding to start the business​..​ so that was the incentive for me to dive into the entrepreneurial world and seize the opportunities. So that's how Grouper was founded right after I graduated. ​And what we had to do was actually create an opportunity for ourselves because when we started ​the​ company there was practically no e-commerce in the country. So we had to create the market if we were to make the company a success.