TBY talks to Savaş Uzan, CEO of Azersun Holding, on expanding its businesses at home and abroad.

Savaş Uzan
Savas Uzan was born in Bursa, Turkey in 1969. He graduated from the Engineering Faculty of Yildiz University in Istanbul in 1991. He started his career in Ankara in Sumer Hali A.S. as a Sales Representative and worked there for two years. In 1994 he started to work as assistant Foreign Trade manager for Etsun A.S. operating in Turkey as a part of the Group of Companies Intersun, the other member of which is Azersun Holding. He then moved to Moscow as the General Manager of ZAO Etsun for two years. In 1997 and 1998 he worked in Dubai as General Manager for Intersun Group. He joined Azersun Trade and Distribution Company in 1998 as General Manager and worked there until 2002. He worked for Wellington Marketing FZE Dubai as General Manager from 2002 until 2013 in the commodities business, before joining Azersun Holding as CEO of the company. He has been CEO since 2013 and he has also been a member of the Board of the Directors since 2008.

Azersun Holding recently constructed a logistics center in Aktau, Kazakhstan. What advantages will this new logistics center offer to your company and to Azerbaijani businesses?

The steps toward non-oil sector development are being taken by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, and have played a major role in facilitating the access of various local goods to external markets. The order recently signed by the President of Azerbaijan to encourage non-oil exports has been of tremendous help to business people, ushering in ample opportunities in terms of private enterprise development. Azersun Holding, one of the country's leading non-oil sector players implementing a number of export-oriented projects, is expected to launch a production and logistics center this year. Covering an area of 4.2ha, the center houses 5,000sqm of dry and 5,000sqm of cold warehouses, which is helpful for the storage of agricultural produce, food, and non-food products. Fitted with equipment from Europe's leading countries, the logistics center will be well-suited for exports to various Central Asian countries. This brand new enterprise will be instrumental in delivering Azerbaijan's non-oil products to new markets and play a positive role in promoting the goods made in Azerbaijan.

Azersun Holding created a joint venture in St. Petersburg to supply food from Azerbaijan to Russia. What is Azersun's role in this joint venture, and how will this move help ensure the availability of Azerbaijani agricultural products in Russian markets?

A delegation led by the Governor of St. Petersburg, Georgi Poltavchenko, visited Azerbaijan in October of 2015. During this visit, the framework and a meeting was arranged with the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Azersun Holding, Abdolbari Goozal. Members of the delegation also visited the enterprises of our Group. We have been cooperating with Russia, Azerbaijan's strategic partner, for many years. For example, about 80% of the agricultural produce we are cultivating in our Greentech greenhouse complex in the Bina settlement is exported to Russia. St. Petersburg accounts for most of this volume. However, according to the latest agreements, Azersun Holding will be represented in this market with a wider assortment and greater volume of products. Our Group currently sells its products throughout the Leningrad region and is expected to cover the entire North-Western federal region in the near future.

As an official partner for the 2015 European Games held in Baku, what are your plans for the Formula One European Grand Prix, which will once again put the country in the international spotlight?

Azerbaijan plays host to prestigious international events on a regular basis, which contributes a great deal to enhancing the country's credibility in the world. The inaugural European Games event held in Baku in 2015 was organized at a remarkable level. We are extremely proud to have been an official partner of the Games. The network of Bazarstore supermarkets within the Azersun Holding umbrella acted both as a merchandising partner and as an official supermarket. Azerchay tea was the official supplier of tea for the Games. In 2016, too, Azerbaijan is expected to host a number of major international events, including sporting ones. I can already state that our Group will support the organization of the U-17 European Football Cup in Azerbaijan. Some games of this football tournament will be played at Azersun Arena, which was put into operation in 2015 and is currently used by FC Garabagh. In addition, our Azerchay tea brand will be the sponsor of the European Cup. As one of Azerbaijan's leading companies, we will take part in the organization of all other international events in Azerbaijan.

Azersun Holding is looking to increase its agribusiness investments particularly in the Krasnodar region of Russia. In which particular projects in this region will you focus your investments?

Azersun Holding operates sales offices and enterprises in different countries. Our northern neighbor holds a special place among them. In Russia, the Group owns a tea factory, a cannery, and extensive acreage in the Krasnodar region. As a result of our successful operation in Russia in 2015, the Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Azersun Holding, Abdolbari Goozal, was awarded with a gold medal for an important contribution to the development of Krasnodar region and a Certificate of Merits from the Russian Minister of Agriculture Alexander Tkachev for a contribution to the development of Krasnodar region. A large delegation comprised of representatives of the Russian State Duma, the Federation Council, the Ministry of Agriculture, and Krasnodar executive authorities visited Azerbaijan to present these awards to Abdolbari Goozal.

What are your goals and expectations for Azersun Holding in 2016?

The year 2015 was declared the Year of Agriculture in Azerbaijan. In 2016, Azersun Holding is taking further steps to expand the geography of its exports. We have recently commissioned a new, fully-automated feed factory with an annual capacity of 200,000 tons. It has been a great help to farms and farmers dealing with animal husbandry. However, we all know that the world is experiencing an economic recession. The unpleasant developments unfolding in neighboring countries are also affecting Azerbaijan. Under these difficult circumstances, Azersun Holding is rendering full support for the policies of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev. The group is taking steps to enhance its export potential and earn the confidence of external consumers. Despite the challenges we are facing, I am confident that we will manage to maintain the momentum of our development and find success in this situation. At the same time, we intend to commission one or two new industrial sites in the Azersun Industrial Estate in 2016. This will also help create new jobs. The paper recycling factory and plastic processing factory, both based in the Sumgayit Industrial Estate, are expected to increase the collection of domestic paper and plastic, which will put an end to our dependence on imports. We will provide ourselves with raw materials, thereby preventing the outflow of currency from Azerbaijan. Another project will be implemented in Imishli. The commissioning of a sugar factory there has turned this district into a fully self-sufficient region. Our enterprise has played a crucial role in that, and we are very proud of that. We intend to build a greenhouse complex on an area of 30ha in Imishli this year. We will cultivate different agricultural products and provide hundreds of people with employment opportunities. Another major project is associated with the establishment of a livestock farm in Padarchol, covering an area of 5,000ha. This farm will store 2,000 heads of cattle. It will also be commissioned this year and contribute a lot to improving the wellbeing of the local population.