The Business Year

Ahadpur Khangah

AZERBAIJAN - Economy

Leader of The Pack

President, AzGroup of Companies

Bio

Ahadpur Khangah was born in Tehran in 1952 and graduated from university in the UK specializing in engineering and road construction. Between 1975 and 1986, he worked in road construction for a family-owned business in Iran, and later worked on projects including the modernization of the Iranian Social Club in Dubai. He has lived in Azerbaijan since 1993 and is currently President of the AzGroup of Companies.

TBY talks to Ahadpur Khangah, President of AzGroup of Companies, on the leading role of the Group's diverse range of business lines for the economic growth of the country and the wider CIS region.

AzGroup has a range of businesses in many different sectors. How has it contributed to the preparations for the First European Games?

The inaugural European Games in Baku is providing Azerbaijan with a perfect opportunity to showcase the wealth of potential that our Republic has. Azerbaijan has a great deal to offer and it is our job to ensure that the international community can appreciate the high level of development that the country has achieved. For AzGroup, it is an opportunity to demonstrate the range of areas that we now successfully cover. Currently, AzGroup has contributed in providing building materials and heavy machineries for the building of venues, stadiums, and the village for the athletes’ accommodation. The AzFPCo, our dairy product factory, won the tender for supplying all dairy products to be consumed by the athletes, and will sell its products in all the venues throughout the Games. It is an excellent chance for us to promote our business and showcase the quality of our products to the large number of visitors that will be in Baku for the Games.

In January, 2015 was announced as the Year of Agriculture. What does this government focus mean for AzGroup?

The Year of Agriculture is crucial for the modernization and continuing development of a sector that has so much potential. It is not only a recognition of the possibilities in agriculture, but also a reminder of the natural resources that Azerbaijan can provide both to the internal and external market. We hope that many farms will be built and that the President’s instructions will be carried out in terms of sector wide development and modernization. For AzGroup, our dairy factory has a great demand for fresh milk; therefore, there is excellent potential during the year to be successful from the point of view of agriculture. Considering that AzFPCo is also the sponsor for the first European Games, AzGroup can contribute a great deal to this government initiative.

What role can AzGroup play in developing Azerbaijan’s burgeoning export market in the non-oil sector?

The non-oil sector is fundamental to the development of Azerbaijan’s economy, and we are fully committed to supporting this. Azerbaijan is in a strong position to overcome the decreasing oil price by focusing on non-oil sector development and promoting a strong export market in sectors, such as agriculture and industry. AzGroup of Companies is now exporting dairy and wood products throughout the region as well as to Gulf state countries. Our products are highly valued in the global community, and it is likely that our export market will increase significantly in the coming years.

Focusing now on Caspian Fish Company, plans to produce caviar and introduce more sturgeon into the Caspian Sea were mentioned in 2014. How are these objectives progressing?

Caspian Fish Company Azerbaijan works in two directions: manufacturing of caviar and other fish products, and promoting reproduction and fish farming. The company is well on its way to advance the plan of restocking the Caspian Sea with sturgeon fingerlings. As the stock in the sea is on the verge of extinction, this is an important project both for Azerbaijan and for the region. If we can make a positive contribution to this, we can not only support environmental concerns in the Caspian, but also develop Azerbaijan’s caviar market. One of the advantages of this product is that it is unique. Caviar is a famous delicacy, but Caspian Sea caviar is something that we are eager to produce on a large scale. The Caspian Sea historically has a lucrative fishing industry. However, over fishing caused a great many problems in the 20th Century, which harmed the ecosystem in the Caspian Sea. Caspian Fish Company has already made great progress in reinstating the Caspian Sea’s fishing business according to international standards. In the coming years, we will continue our work in this direction, developing a sector of the economy that has great potential, while protecting the Caspian Sea and its inhabitants.

At what stage are preparations for the opening of the ISUZU Plant?

Our ISUZU plant is programmed to start assembly by the beginning of September 2015. We are hoping that our partnership with ISUZU will allow us to export ISUZU trucks to other CIS countries as our assembly capacity is well beyond the demand in Azerbaijan; our negotiations with ISUZU are promising. ISUZU is already renowned in Azerbaijan due to the high quality of modern buses that are used, meaning this is an important step for us. This is also an important step for Azerbaijan as it is advancing the automotive sector to a new level. AzGroup is innovative and our work with ISUZU should be able to boost nationwide development in this area.

What new projects are being established under AzGroup in the coming years, and are there any new external markets that are being explored?

Our AzEDU Company is investing more than $60 million into building a school for 2,500 students from kindergarten to university. The school’s enrolment will begin September 2016. Education is an important investment for AzGroup due to the high percentage of youth in Azerbaijan currently. We are striving to cater for the future of our country by providing the best possible education, not only at university level but also at kindergarten and primary levels. There are many opportunities in Azerbaijan at the moment in a variety of sectors; however, it is fundamental for us to focus on education in order to support the development of youth.

How would you assess the investment opportunities for foreign and domestic corporations to work with AzGroup and its subsidiary companies?

We always welcome opportunities from any foreign or domestic investor to work alongside AzGroup of Companies. AzGroup consists of 24 different companies, and each one has its own unique product and service, providing any potential partner with excellent opportunities to cooperate in a lively and diverse business environment. With such a diverse portfolio of subsidiaries, we are able to cater to the needs of any investor, both domestic and international.

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