GETTING IT DONE

Azerbaijan 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Adigozal Agayev, Chairman of the Executive Board at AtaHolding, on the company's role in different sectors, international cooperation, and the recent elections.

Adigozal Agayev
BIOGRAPHY
Adigozal Agayev gratuated from Azerbaijan National Economy İnstitute named after D.Bunyatzade, Faculty of General Economics in 1983, and became an Economic Engineer. He started as an economist in the Accounting Center of the Ministry of Finance of the Azerbaijan in 1985, and became group leader in 1987. He then took on the role of Senior Economist and Chief Economist at the Agrarian Industrial Bank in 1989-1997. He moved over to the National Bank of Azerbaijan as a Senior Inspector and a Deputy Director of Department of Inspection over 1993-2004. Starting October 2004, he was in charge at the National Bank of a newly established group applying International Financial Reporting Standards. He collaborated with the team of experts over Banking Supervision of the USAID, for the process of transition of the banks operating in Azerbaijan to the international accounting system. He joined AtaHolding as Head of the Finance Department in January 2005, and later became Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board and a member of the Audit Committee in December 2005. At present, he is the Chairman of the Executive Board at AtaHolding.

AtaTechnology is the local partner of Cisco Systems and the gold partner of Oracle. As the ICT sector grows in size and importance in Azerbaijan, how is AtaHolding interested in expanding its role in this sector?

The information society is growing rapidly in Azerbaijan. E-government and ASAN Services operate successfully and the application of e-government solutions is constantly increasing. The establishment of technology parks, the application of advanced technologies to education, and state support for innovative investment projects have contributed to the overall development of the high-tech sector both in the country and region. Active on the market for more than 10 years, AtaTechnology cooperates closely with renowned ICT brands such as Microsoft, Oracle, HP, Cisco Systems, and others. Partnerships with these companies are developing quickly and our goal is to take advantage of the products these companies offer to meet the ICT demands of our customers. We continuously put forward new and innovative projects. In order to achieve further development, one of the goals at AtaTechnology has been the training of qualified professionals. AtaTechnology is also currently working on the development and application of ICT software. We are assessing market needs and plan to develop specific products to fill in possible gaps. We hope to eliminate the dependence on imported software, and we intend to export our software products as well. Thus, we are interested in expanding our activities and investment portfolio in order to meet these objectives.

AtaHolding cooperates with a number of international companies in different sectors, especially banking and insurance. What synergies does AtaHolding look for when entering into partnerships with international companies?

Local companies operating in the country have started cooperating with foreign companies not only in the spheres of trade, production, construction, and IT, but also in the area of financial services. The international cooperation of banks and insurance companies is worthy of special mention. This cooperation is expected to result in the emergence of new banking and insurance products on the Azerbaijani market and will enhance the quality of services provided, elevating the financial services market to a qualitatively new level. At the same time, a large number of syndicated credit operations are carried out during the financing of major national and regional business and infrastructure projects. This is a strong example of mutually beneficial international cooperation and synergy. Cooperation in the insurance sector, in particular its re-insurance segment, will contribute to more professional risk assessments and improved risk management standards on the local market. We can say with full confidence that the level of knowledge and competence of Azerbaijani specialists is fully consistent with international standards thanks to the international exchange of experience. Major banks and insurance companies operating in Azerbaijan are expected to expand their outreach to foreign markets and enhance their export potential.

In the last several years, AtaHolding has expanded its operations into the tourism and hospitality sector, establishing the Excelsior Hotel Baku and AtaTravel. Do you believe that Azerbaijan has the capacity to become an international tourism center?

The Excelsior Hotel Baku was launched in 2005 and the AtaTravel travel company in 2011. AtaTravel offers numerous travel opportunities to many countries around the world, including travel opportunities to Azerbaijan. The company specializes in hotels, transfer, air tickets, tour reservations, insurance, and visa services. Our goal is to expand our contribution to the development of tourism every year. The government attaches great importance to the development of tourism in accordance with international standards. This also contributes to developing the non-oil sector, as tourism accounts for a significant share of the non-oil economy. The government has implemented a number of infrastructure projects in order to facilitate the development of this sector, such as continually building numerous hotels that meet the highest standards in Baku and the regions. Thus, a competitive tourism business is being created. In addition, the diversity and originality of travel opportunities make our country rather exceptional in comparison with many other countries. The availability of beaches, sun, sea, spa resorts, winter activities, and other types of recreation are evidence of that. The government is pursuing a long-term and sustainable tourism policy to achieve successful results and beat the competition. It is also important to pay serious attention to issues such as security, quality of service, attractions, prices, and so on. One of the key factors in turning Azerbaijan into a globally attractive travel destination is the training of qualified personnel. The number of competent, knowledgeable, and experienced people working in the tourism sector must increase. It is also necessary to make use of the experience of the world's leading countries and to enact proper advertising.

In November 2015, parliamentary elections took place in Azerbaijan with high voter turnout. What will this election do to usher in new opportunities to the people of Azerbaijan in the future and what are the expectations of AtaHolding in 2016?

The parliamentary election held in Azerbaijan in November 2015 was held in a situation of complete democracy, transparency, and fairness, which demonstrated the position of our society, citizens, and voters. It showed that Azerbaijan's choice of secular and independent development was correct. The election symbolizes a victory of our democracy and law-governed state. Voter turnout was high and international observers also expressed their satisfaction. I am confident that the new parliament will work tirelessly to secure comprehensive development of our country, including the adoption of laws that would facilitate economic reforms. The most important aspect of the parliament's work for entrepreneurs is the adoption of regulatory acts that will secure the interests of business people. I have great hopes for the realization of our plans and expectations in the years to come.

AtaHolding provides support for the development of sport in Azerbaijan. What impact will the Formula One Grand Prix have on the country's further development?

AtaHolding is proud to contribute to the development of sport in Azerbaijan. At present, we are the main sponsor of the International Wrestling Federation. The athletes representing the AtaSport club have won numerous medals in Olympic Games, world, and European championships in wrestling and other sports. We are committed to continuing our support for the national development of sport. The fact that Azerbaijan has been honored to host the prestigious Formula One event represents recognition of the country's outstanding track record in hosting such competitions. In general, all spheres of sport have seen impressive growth in Azerbaijan in recent years. In 2015, Baku hosted the inaugural European Games at the highest possible level. The work carried out in the country in anticipation of the European Games, as well as the entirely new sporting infrastructure built specifically for the Games, left many visitors from Europe and the world awestruck. Our country has accumulated extensive experience, competence, professionalism, and a strong reputation for conducting such high-profile events. Therefore, the Formula One European Grand Prix will certainly attract the attention of the world. People watching the competition around the world and visitors of Azerbaijan will see the beauty of our city with their own eyes. This is an excellent opportunity for promoting Baku to the world. Formula One is also the most watched sporting event in the world and about 11,000 foreign fans and tourists are expected to come to Baku to watch the competition, which is also an important factor.