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Kazakhstan 2017 | CONSTRUCTION & REAL ESTATE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Aidyn Rakhimbayev, Chairman of BI Group, on sector standards, working internationally, and the state of the real estate sector today.

Aidyn Rakhimbayev
BIOGRAPHY
Aidyn Rakhimbaev is among the 50 richest businessmen in Kazakhstan, with a fortune of USD280 million. He transformed his own small construction company into the largest holding with a turnover of more than USD1 billion. BI Group is included in the rating of the world’s 250 largest construction companies. He is qualified as a civil engineer and a lawyer and holds a master's degree in business administration. He is also a Member of the Board of Atameken, a member of the Council of Entrepreneurs, and a member of YPO Kazakhstan.

BI Group covers many spheres of Kazakhstan's construction sector, from private to public infrastructure. Where do you see the biggest demand for your services and in which sector in particular?

We want to be present in every sector for the diversification of our business, so that we will do well when the market grows; if the market goes down then we can offset this by working for the public sector. In addition, it is an interesting period for us now because we are involved in the oil and gas sector. We do interesting projects with great responsibility. There are only two companies in Kazakhstan that can have general contracts, one of which is BI Group. The sector's standards and requirements are high and at a global standard. We are pleased to be able to do that. It was not as easy for us 10 or 20 years ago. 15 years ago, we started working with residential construction, nine years ago we started working with general construction, and two years ago we started working with oil and gas.

You are eyeing expansion in countries like China, Iran, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. What potential do you see in these countries and how are these plans going?

We started work in the Russian region in 2016, in Saint Petersburg and Moscow. We also started a contract in Georgia. The next step we want to take—though we do not know when—concerns developing our competence. We have increased the level of our engineers in order to be able to move to other regions and other countries. Three years ago, we also started work on a government contract in Uzbekistan; however, we were unable to implement it because unfortunately it is still a closed country. Georgia, on the other hand, is open and we were able to start our work there early. We were also in Iran, which is a hospitable country. Iran is great; however, the competition there is higher because Iranians have been excellent traders for a thousand years. Russia does not have that much competition. Currently, there are enough sellers in Russia; however, for Iran that figure is not enough because everyone is successful. In three years, we might be able to go to China with a contract. However, Russia is our target for 2017. That is a priority. We have an advantage there over other foreign companies because we are fast and have the Russian proficiency and mentality. We are like a Turkish company, but closer to Russia.

How would you assess the construction and real estate sector today in Kazakhstan?

Unfortunately, we do not have the support of banks because it is not a great time for them. Loans are expensive and approximately 20%, which is too much. It is not a great way to start a business and is not supportive. That is a problem not only for our company, but also for the entire construction sector in Kazakhstan. However, the government will work with programs. It wants to boost the financial sector and include the construction sector. If it can do that, that will be good. If the sector grows, it might only grow by 10-20% per year. That is not that large for us. For the past five years, we grew by approximately 30-40% per year. We are growing faster than the sector here.

Where will BI Group be in five years?

We have a strategy to grow by two and a half times. Using the Russian market, profits will increase. We are the biggest construction company in Kazakhstan, but that is not that large for Russia. Even if we move to Russia and aim for a two and a half or triple increase, Russians will not notice our presence. The market is that big compared to the market of Kazakhstan. Now is also a great time to move into the Russian market. Though it is a time of crisis for them, it is good for us.