TBY talks to Elshad Rasulov, Chairman of the Board at Atropatena, on supporting its brands, working with Danone, and expanding its dairy activities.

Elshad Rasulov
Elshad Rasulov was born in 1960 and is the Chairman of the Board at Atropatena. He founded the company in 1992, and it currently employs over 720 people and is involved in the import and export business.

What were the goals for the company when Atropatena began, and what are its main operations at the moment?

Atropatena was set up as a distribution company, importing brands into Azerbaijan. We have been focusing on the pharmaceutical and hygiene sectors mostly, but also importing other brands. Schwarzkopf, Calgon, Strepsils, Nurofen, and Henkel are among our customers. However, as we began collaborating with Danone and did some market research, we came to the conclusion that the market was lacking fresh milk products. This was in around 2005. That led us in 2008 to launch a project to establish the production of milk and other products such as cheese and yogurt. In 2011 we opened the factory in the presence of President Ilham Aliyev. It was a very important moment for the company. Overall, distribution amounts to 90% of our business activity and we currently handle the activities of more than 50 brands in the country. Production accounts for only 10% of our activity. However, we aim to increase this figure in the near future.

How does Atropatena support the brands it distributes in Azerbaijan?

We treat each brand in a unique way, supporting them throughout the whole process, and giving them special treatment. We promote them in the country with different advertising campaigns. In this context, we are one of the biggest advertisers in the country, with a budget that surpasses some of the big ICT companies.

What is the capacity of the Atena MMC dairy factory's production infrastructure in Agjabadi?

We started our production activities in mid-2011 when we inaugurated the facilities there. We are currently producing 25 tons per day, which is 10% of the factory's capacity. Our target is to have the factory fully operative and at its maximum capacity by 2015, when we expect it to be producing 250 tons per day. At the moment we are producing around 28 different products and we will increase that figure up to 54 by the end of 2012. We have an agreement with Danone, which has been a strategic partner in setting up our facility and with whom we work very closely. Danone will start producing its lines for Azerbaijan at our factory in 2012. That will increase the production volume we are currently handling. Our company also produces packaging for our products, which right now include only milk bottles, but we are planning to expand the packaging side in the near future as well.

How have Atropatena's manpower and quality demands changed?

Due to the expansion of the company's activities, we are constantly expanding our manpower. Apart from the factory, we are developing a project involving a farm with around 3,000 head of cattle. At the moment there are 600, and it will be completed in 2012. That farm will produce about 100 tons of milk per day, and we even plan to produce organic milk. To handle our distribution business, dairy production, and the farm, we will require about 1,000 employees. We put a great deal of effort into ensuring quality and high standards at Atropatena. Our factory is fully automated and features the latest technology for quality control to guarantee the freshness of our products. Our staff members are vital in the process, and we are constantly upgrading knowledge and standards.