ICONIC LESSONS

Azerbaijan 2012 | ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Huseynaga Ragimov, General Director of Azpetrol, on the retail fuel business, regional development, and tourism sector opportunities.

Huseynaga Ragimov
BIOGRAPHY
Huseynaga Ragimov was born in 1966 and graduated from the Baku Branch of the Leningrad Finance-Economy Institute in 1990. As well as being the General Director of Azpetrol, he is the Vice-President of the National Confederation of Azerbaijani Entrepreneurs.

What have been some of Azpetrol's landmark achievements since it was established in 1997?

The Azpetrol Company began its activities following the opening of its first fuel station on Tbilisi Avenue in Baku on July 15, 1997. The principal activity of the company is in organizing the retail and wholesale trading of fuel. At present, Azpetrol operates 77 petrol and gas stations covering most of Azerbaijan's regions. In order to increase fuel quality, ensure the continuous operation of our stations, and improve service quality for our clients, Azpetrol brought into operation a modern oil depot with a 7,000-ton capacity and a fleet of tanker trucks in 1999, which today numbers 97 vehicles. In addition, technical service and car wash facilities, cafes, markets, motels, and other complementary services are also offered to our customers. Since 2001, Azpetrol has applied the “Petrol Plus Offline" system to non-cash settlements and, in 2006, we started to provide plastic card payment services to clients. Today, about 2,700 employees work at the company, and their average monthly salary is close to AZN430.

What is Azpetrol's development strategy?

Azpetrol ended its first year of activity with eight petrol stations. The number of stations has now reached 77; 20 of them are located in Baku, with the rest being spread across different regions of the country. All of our stations are furnished with the latest and most up-to-date equipment and offer a wide spectrum of services to our customers. Azpetrol operates just 8% of the fuel filling stations in Azerbaijan, though it has captured more than a 50% market share. Our trademark is recognized as one of the most well-known icons in Azerbaijan for providing excellent service and high-quality products.

One of the company's priorities is to contribute to the successful implementation of the “State Program on Social and Economic Development of the Regions of Azerbaijan Republic in 2009-2013," approved by our honorable President. Azpetrol has focused its attention on the development of its regional infrastructure. The company put into operation four new petrol stations in different regions of the country during 2011 (Shabran, Aghsu, Jangi, and Goygol), and it is expected to bring into service five more filling stations in Baku, Sumgait, Sheki, and Ismayilli over 2012.

Azpetrol was awarded the “Network of Petrol Stations of the Year" prize at the Azeri Business Award ceremony. What is the significance of such an award?

This award shows that Azpetrol is one of the most advanced and dynamic participants shaping a new image for the national business community in the Azerbaijani economy. It should be noted that over the last few years our company has been awarded many awards, among them “Success," “Business Prestige," the “Caspian Energy Integration Award," “International Gold Star for Quality" from Business Initiative Directions (BID), and the “Queen Victoria Commemorative Medal," among others.

Azpetrol has built motels in Shaki, Balakan, and Gazakh. What is your future business strategy regarding the hospitality sector?

Our main business activity is in fuel distribution throughout Azerbaijan. In addition to that, and as a strategy to improve customer satisfaction, we have diversified our activities, incorporating complementary services for drivers such as supermarkets and car wash facilities. As for the motel businesses we operate, these facilities are specifically located near border crossings as well as in popular tourism areas. For the time being, we do not have any plans to build more motels because the tourism industry is very active at the moment in Azerbaijan, with many hotels set to open their doors during 2012. However, the dynamics of this market could lead Azpetrol to consider expanding its activities in this segment of the economy.

Since one of Azpetrol's priorities is to provide employment opportunities in regional Azerbaijan, as well as to improve the skill level of its personnel, what role does staff training play in your development?

Azpetrol's success is closely related to the implementation of the right kind of personnel policy. Azpetrol's greatest wealth is its employees, and we intend to continuously develop the skill base of our personnel. Employees who wish to improve their existing skills and knowledge are firmly supported. We are always ready to help them climb the professional ladder and gain promotion. To achieve this, candidates with the right qualities are taught the necessary skills, while officers currently working for the company are encouraged to improve their existing level of professionalism under the guidance of experienced teachers at Azpetrol's specialized training facilities.

Our success is closely related to the code of conduct we have for our personnel. The employment process covers different stages, including a candidate's technical knowledge and intellectual level, as well as their personal skills, such as the ability to work within a team. The basic principles we encourage in our employees take into account the needs of our clients, as well as our desire to encourage professionalism, loyalty, ethical behavior, and dynamism.

Azpetrol celebrates its 15th anniversary in 2012. What investment and development plans is the company working on?

At present, Azpetrol operates filling stations in 36 cities and in regions across our republic. Our principal goal is to maintain our leading position within the sector and support the development of our economy by contributing through our achievements to the further development of regional Azerbaijan. We aim to expand the company's activities, open additional workplaces, increase multiple field service areas, study state-of-the-art practices worldwide related to our field of activity, and then apply them. In this regard, we believe we have a duty to care about education, culture, and sports in our country. Azpetrol has sponsored many international competitions and established a close relationship with the Azerbaijan professional boxing, gymnastics, and chess federations. Also, we signed our first partnership agreement with the European Hockey Federation in 2006, and we have sponsored many events organized by the federation. In 2010 we extended the agreement until 2014. Finally, we are committed to continuing our charitable work by providing financial aid to poor families, orphanages, charitable organizations, disabled people, and refugees, as well as the families of martyrs.