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Kazakhstan 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Armanzhan Baitassov, Publisher of Forbes Kazakhstan, on the company's success, developing local readership, and new trends in media.

Armanzhan Baitassov
BIOGRAPHY
Armanzhan Baitassov started his career in 1992 when he joined Kazakh State University in the Faculty of Journalism. Baitassov also founded the TV channel 31 Channel in 1992. 10 years later, he became Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Alma University. Armanzhan Baitassov is the owner of such TV channels as TAN, MUZZONE, and NBT in Bishkek, as well as a number of publications. He was one of the founders of the information portal Headline.kz in 2011, and of Forbes.kz in 2012. He is also actively engaged in development, and he is the majority shareholder of Jet Airlines JSC.

What have been some of the major successes for Forbes Kazakhstan over the past few years?

The main success has been opening the Forbes publication here in Kazakhstan, as the partners at the main office were initially skeptical. They offered a 50/50 deal to publish the business climate stories and all other related information from both the main office and globally. Forbes is highly regarded by businessmen here, as they realize the importance of its content and the conversations it generates. It is an important component of the business sector. At first, it was difficult to get businesses to buy in, but they have realized how important it is for them to share information. They are given the opportunity to discuss topics such as the successes of young businessmen and related start-ups.

Do you believe that the readers of Forbes in Kazakhstan are as interested in the business locally as they are internationally?

The local business people are more interested in the local information for their respective businesses, though international interest stories are also translated and published in the magazine. Forbes is a great publication to use as a guide for the business climate in terms of both local and global business, especially for those wanting to stay up-to-date on the latest information. Forbes is beneficial for new businesses, and it also has a healthy working relationship with the government that proves useful in providing insight on government projects, which is important to our local readers. Having the magazine circulated locally shows our readers that there is room for investment abroad, and this holds high potential for the local sector. It has been remarkable to see the effect of such a strong brand in the country, and it has a significant influence with the readers. It is an incentive for them to match the global brands since Forbes is a big name. The bigger the name the better it is, and we are working to be similar to the Forbes all over the world.

With such great insight into the local economy, how would you assess the current business climate in Kazakhstan?

The economy in the country is not easy right now, as we are experiencing a sort of crisis. Because of this crisis, it is difficult to conduct business, and a lot of this is attributed to the situation in Russia and Ukraine. Oil prices and the currency drop have also been problematic for business. I started my business in the 1990s and we have established ourselves in the market, which has allowed us to learn to adjust in a turbulent local economy. In the 1990s it was difficult, and in Russia the ruble was new, making it difficult to transfer money with the different currencies. All of the currency exchanges had to be checked, and during that time it was a complicated process. The current issue and environment is no less severe than that situation.

How does media play a role during these times, and what trends are you noticing in this sector?

The media sector is also facing problems here in Kazakhstan because many companies are not advertising like they did in the past. Prices have risen 20-30%, and most of the media companies are laying people off or closing entirely in order to cut costs. This crisis has its advantages, however, as the price of advertisements has decreased, which will hopefully translate into attracting more advertisers in the coming year as the economy begins to pick up again. Our greatest expectation for the year ahead is to remain stable, and for business to continue as usual for a respected magazine. We are hoping that the economic situation will improve so that our business and dealings with the media will be more profitable than this year. It is also a priority to continue to share important information with our readers.