TBY talks to Emin Agalarov, Vice-President of Crocus Group, on his business ventures, expectations for 2012, and the Eurovision Song Contest.
TBY Since you already have a successful musical career, what factors led you to develop your entrepreneurial side?
EMIN AGALAROV It was an easy decision for me, because I have been involved in business since 1997. I began by selling Russian goods on eBay, and I held an average of 1,500 auctions a week. I decided to set up my own company with an office and a website to expand my business. After I finished my degree, I moved to Moscow, where my father made me an offer. I agreed to take over the management of a luxury retail chain, and five years later the business was making a profit; we had 75 stores and our turnover increased from $5 million to $65 million. Ten years ago, my father appointed me to the position of Commercial Director of Crocus Group. In 2011, he promoted me to Vice-President of the company, giving me the responsibility for projects such as Vegas Mall, Crocus City Mall, Crocus City Hall, and all our stores and restaurants in Moscow. However, music is something I have always been passionate about, and in 2005 I decided to seriously pursue a musical career. I released my own album, formed a band, and performed in front of large crowds. I released my first single, “Still.” The song was unexpectedly successful, and gave me a lot of confidence to continue pursuing my dreams. Since 2006, I have released five albums, and my first international album was produced in London in 2010. A number of songs from that album, entitled “Wonder,” made it to the artists’ list chart. One of my most successful achievements has been to become the first non-British artist to ever have three consecutive “record of the week” distinctions from BBC Radio. In September 2011, I signed a contract for my new album, to be released globally by EMI in May 2012.
Sea Breeze is a premium class real estate and resort in Nardaran, a suburb of Baku. Can you tell us more about the concept you developed with the Sea Breeze resort?
My childhood has always been linked to Nardaran, where our family has a summer home. When the Sea Breeze project began, initially it was a personal construction project for my family. I started purchasing some surrounding land, and discovered a very old, abandoned building from the Soviet era. I bought the building, hoping to knock it down. However, we tested the structure and realized that we could restore it into a hotel. We went further with the project and began to develop restaurants, housing, and services. It all came naturally. Presently, we have finished the whole infrastructure, including the roads, gas, electricity, water facilities, hotel, and complementary services such as the swimming pools, spa, and a sporting complex.
Is the Sea Breeze resort capable of growing in terms of space, residences, and services?
We have sold 20 houses out of the 30 we initially built, and since we own more surrounding land, we are already planning to expand as demand increases. Our main business strategy at the company is entertainment- and leisure-oriented real estate development, and Sea Breeze is an additional project within our overall strategy.
What does Sea Breeze offer that sets it apart from other real estate and tourist options?
Sea Breeze is a premium class development project, and our average prices are at the same level as luxury apartments in Baku. The difference at Sea Breeze is that you have your own land, complementary private facilities that you can use at your leisure, and access to the sea. Therefore, we offer a privileged location, private beach on the shore of the Caspian Sea, and numerous services and facilities.
Have you considered carrying out a similar project in other areas around Baku?
I always have plenty of ideas to develop. However, during my short business career I have come to learn that it’s better to focus on your current projects in order to provide the market and customers with the best quality products. I am also very committed to my musical career, but I think my business focus in Baku will be on Sea Breeze.
Since you had a very successful 2011, what do you expect from 2012?
From a musical point of view, I have not set any particular goals for 2012 in terms of record sales or singles. However, I have a vision for my musical career. I have released my first Russian single and a new single in the UK in order to broaden my market. I am also adapting my musical output for these markets. My aim is to be successful in what I do, and in the future release more international songs for my entire audience.
What impact will Eurovision have on the country as a whole?
Eurovision will help promote Azerbaijan globally and will become an unprecedented showcase for the country. During the contest in May, visitors will be able to see the tremendous changes Azerbaijan has experienced in the past few years. I believe that the timing is perfect. People will be blown away by the beauty and development of the country, and I am sure that the event will take Azerbaijan to a whole new level, not only politically and economically, but culturally as well.
© The Business Year