NEW TIES THAT BIND

Kazakhstan 2018 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Baurzhan K. Ospanov, Chairman of the Investment Industrial Corporation (ZHERSU), on national capacity, the agriculture sector, and opportunities for international partnerships.

 Baurzhan K. Ospanov
BIOGRAPHY
Baurzhan K. Ospanov is an entrepreneur and philanthropist. He takes 44th place out of 50 influential businessmen in Kazakhstan according to a 2015 Forbes Kazakhstan annual ranking of "The top 50 most influential businessmen in Kazakhstan." Ospanov serves as the Vice President of Kazakhstan Boxing Federation and Wrestling Federation of Kazakhstan.

How would you describe the successful journey of ZHERSU from its inception in 1992 to becoming one of the leading industrial holding companies in Kazakhstan today?

When we were just starting, we did not have much knowledge about how the market economy functions. It was not easy to start a business in 1991-1992 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when the legal framework was not established yet and the economy was in crisis. As the former ties with the republics were lost there was a need to find new partners to provide new equipment and technologies for the country. Gradually, we came to realize that we could produce the same equipment and goods that we were bringing from abroad here in Kazakhstan much cheaper, faster, and of higher quality. We started developing in various directions such as construction, energy, agriculture, and IT.

What are some of your upcoming plans in the agriculture industry?

Most of our companies are developing successfully, but I would say the major focus that we have had for the last two years is in the agricultural sector. Here we have new projects that will support our production—gas and water purifying and water desalination plants. In the future, the agricultural sector is going to be the key for Kazakhstan. Therefore, we are planning to develop our brand in meat and honey production. The countries most interested in importing these goods are Russia, China, Japan, and Australia. We are hoping to finish a new horse farm and two farms for the breeding of cattle at end of the summer or in early autumn 2018, totaling thousands of new livestock. One of our major goals right now is to make our product competitive in foreign markets. Farming has great potential here.

How active are you today internationally, and how important is it for the business today?

Of course, we are always keeping an eye on international markets and opportunities, mostly because the local market is quite limited in size. We work with various countries depending on their expertise. For example, in energy, our major partners are China, Japan, Germany, France, the US, Italy, and Spain. In agriculture, we have close ties within Eurasian Union but also cooperate with some other European countries. So, based on the sphere of economy, we partner with the companies in specific markets that possess the technology necessary for us to develop further. At the same time, we are trying to develop the technology here as we are seeing great improvements in local manufacturing. Economic conditions in Kazakhstan will gradually improve in the years ahead, so we want to be well positioned with a sustainable and diversified local portfolio.

What are your expectations for 2018 specifically?

In 2018, we are planning to start the water purifying and desalination project as it addresses a serious problem throughout Kazakhstan today. If the project turns out to be a success, we will implement it in different regions of the country. We are preparing a number of energy stations projects to be built in 2019 based on anticipated legislation. In 2018, we will finish the longest electricity cable line project (1,800km) in the northeast region of Kazakhstan. Also, the gas purifying plant is an interesting and significant project for the country because oil extraction is growing and gas recycling negatively effects the ecological situation. We are quite optimistic about the year ahead, specifically about our current and upcoming projects in various spheres, such as in agricultural. These projects will have significant importance for the country in terms of its international image and branding. At the same time, at the local level these projects will also have a positive effect by creating new work places and bringing true value to the local consumer.