A DIVERSIFIED APPROACH

Azerbaijan 2012 | AGRICULTURE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Abdolbari Goozal, Chairman of the Board at Azersun Holding, on domestic and international demand, the FMCG market, and foreign growth opportunities.

Abdolbari Goozal
BIOGRAPHY
Abdolbari Goozal began his career alongside his father as an international trader, dealing with imports and exports between countries such as Turkey, Dubai, Iran, and Iraq. In 1981, encouraged by late President Turgut Özal, he shifted his base of operations to Ankara and founded the Etsun company. He continued to be active in international trade, building up a network of companies spanning much of the Middle East, and centralized his activities in the UAE in 1992. In 1994, he established the Intersun company in Dubai, dealing in international trade between South Asia, the Middle East, the Caucasus, and Switzerland. Intersun began its activities in Azerbaijan soon after the country’s independence, and it opened its first packaging plant in 1994, quickly followed up by a vegetable oil facility in 1995. Azersun Holding has grown prolifically in Azerbaijan, being involved in the FMCG, import-export, energy, and finance sectors.

How has Azersun Holding's profile changed since its inception?

Azersun Holding is an enterprise that strategically produces foods that consumers can rely on. Consumer confidence is one of our most valuable criteria, and at the same time it distinguishes us from our competitors. The economic policies implemented by the government were able to protect our local companies from the crisis. However, the difficulties faced by our foreign partners, from whom we purchased raw materials throughout the crisis, affected our business in various ways. We took on a diversified approach to our manufacturing activities to support our companies during that period. In addition, the great value of our products has been recognized throughout the CIS region, one of our main export markets. Today, our companies are involved in a wide range of business activities such as agriculture, FMCG, construction, banking, transport, and energy.

How is your network able to cover the whole territory of Azerbaijan?

As a leading group of companies in the region, Azersun Holding has developed a very strong distribution network. Our companies distribute products throughout the Caucasus, with a representative office in each region closely cooperating with our partners. I firmly believe that this is one of our primary strengths that sets us apart from our competitors.

What role does domestic and international demand play in the company's current strategies?

One of our main aims is to achieve a very important, leading position in foreign markets, especially in Georgia and the CIS region. The large production capacity of our enterprises enables us to be the leader in food production in Azerbaijan. On top of that, foreign markets appreciate the top quality of our products, and this is the main reason our export figures are growing rapidly.

What are the main markets Azersun exports to and where do you see opportunities to expand your business activities?

Presently, the main countries on our export map are Russia, Georgia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We also export to the Middle East, as well as study the markets in a number of European countries and the US. These countries also enjoy our products. We will enter the European and US markets with some of our products in the coming years.

What competitive advantages do your products offer?

Quality is our main aim. In all our factories, there is modern and advanced technology developed to harness the quality of our productive fields. These factors have given us important advantages, which have been directly reflected in our production process. All of our companies operate under ISO and HASP standards. We develop our products at every stage of the manufacturing process, from the fields to the kitchen table. The professional specialists from the analysis and development department create products that match our consumer needs. Each of our brands is as dear to us as our children. We recognize that our brands are labeled “made in Azerbaijan," and this makes our responsibility two fold.

What opportunities do you see for foreign investment in the food-processing sector?

Azerbaijan is a country with great history and rich culture, and it also has bountiful natural resources and scenery. The comfortable investment conditions established by the government are attractive for both companies and individuals. President Ilham Aliyev has paid special attention and concern to the development of the non-oil sectors of the country, and I believe the business and investment opportunities are continuously expanding in Azerbaijan. New fields and sectors are appearing; there is a range of opportunities in a number of areas, including agriculture and agro-industry.