The Business Year

Farid Musayev

AZERBAIJAN - Agriculture

Pomegranate Potential



Farid Musayev was born in 1982. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Baku State University in Applied Mathematics and Economics and a Master’s degree in Finance from Khazar University. He holds an MBA from London Business School and Columbia Business School. He started his career at ENI/Saipem as a Project Analyst. He then became Director of the Economic and Trade Relations Department at the Embassy of Israel in Azerbaijan. He has extensive experience in working with companies in diverse industries through the Azerbaijan Investment Company as Chief Investment Officer. He later became Commercial Manager at the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR). From 2011 to the present, he has served as CEO of AZ-GRANATA.

How did AZ-GRANATA expand its international presence in 2013? We saw a fantastic period of growth in 2013, with a 157% increase in export sales, more than tripling our target. […]

How did AZ-GRANATA expand its international presence in 2013?

We saw a fantastic period of growth in 2013, with a 157% increase in export sales, more than tripling our target. For a beverage company this marks healthy growth that gives us hope for further expansion and diversification within our segment. Currently, we are exporting to 22 countries worldwide including the US, the UK, Germany, the CIS region, the UAE, and 15 other European countries. And in 2014, we are set to commence exports to Canada, Sweden, Israel, and China. Aside from this, AZ-GRANATA is fully determined to extend its operations beyond Azerbaijan and expand its beverage distribution to Georgia and Kazakhstan. The impressive potential for growth in beverage consumption and lower distribution costs are the driving factors of our interest in these markets. We also proudly offer Vita1000, Azerbaijan’s top-selling juice brand that holds a 23% share in the fruit juice market. With a strong domestic presence and export potential, AZ-GRANATA has set a path for its long-term, ambitious growth target of doubling revenue by 2018.

AZ-GRANATA was awarded for technological innovation at Prodexpo in 2013 for its new Leyli juice. To what extent do you rely on innovation in your growth strategy, and what other products are you looking to launch?

AZ-GRANATA’s dedication to constant innovation has allowed us to perform effectively on an international level. Currently, Leyli is the best-selling and only BIO freshly squeezed pomegranate juice brand in the Russian market. By using the best ingredients, modern technology, original design, and practical packaging, we launched an optimum-quality product. Leyli also captures important consumer trends, as it promotes a healthy lifestyle and good eating habits. This combination has made the brand uniquely successful, having become the number one pomegranate juice brand in Russia by surpassing established Armenian and Italian brands within a short period of time. Another huge international success came last year when we launched premium juice brand +More. The brand was highly acclaimed for its creative packaging and won silver nomination at the Pentawards 2013 annual packaging design competition. No other brand from Azerbaijan, or the CIS region, has ever achieved such worldwide recognition. We are planning to introduce bottled water, tea, and lemonade products to our portfolio. By the end of 2014, AZ-GRANATA will have renovated and expanded its winery, doubling production capacity. Therefore, innovation will continue to foster greater success going forward, and is the only means of realizing AZ-GRANATA’s ambitious growth targets and export expansion.

How do you ensure that AZ-GRANATA’s products are organic and meet the highest standards of quality?

AZ-GRANATA has over 1,500 hectares of fruit orchards, which, along with related processing and farming methods, are frequently inspected by international and local specialists. Our products have been certified as organic by the German Lacon Gmbh institute. We also operate a USDA organic, kosher, HACCP system and hold 22000:2005 accreditation from Global Group. Over the past few years, AZ-GRANATA has invested in building drip water irrigation systems and taken extra steps to increase productivity and ensure organic standards.

How important are pomegranates in Azerbaijani culture and agriculture?

Pomegranates and the products derived from this fruit are famous for their healing properties. The tradition of pomegranate use in Azerbaijan goes back to the ancient times. Pomegranate and Narsharab have been famous in Azerbaijan for many centuries. It is a ubiquitous element in our cuisine. Azerbaijani pomegranates have a magnificent taste and guaranteed quality, which gives us a firm competitive advantage in the global market. Nevertheless, we think there is a further need for promotion at the international level. Therefore, we have committed to researching this area and promoting “Made in Azerbaijan” pomegranate products worldwide.

How does AZ-GRANATA select the location of its plantations, and what regions in Azerbaijan are benefitting the most from your presence?

AZ-GRANATA has fruit orchards in Agsu, Shamakhi, Astara, and Lankaran, where we grow pomegranate, grape, peach, feijoa, orange, lemon, kiwi, and other varieties of fruits. The total area of these orchards is 1,500 hectares and AZ-GRANATA employs 1,490 people across four regions. Since increased production is one of our foremost goals, plantations are chosen according to their proven fruit productivity levels.

How does AZ-GRANATA ensure adequate employee training levels?

Overall, our beverage companies and fruit orchards employ 1,840 people. AZ-GRANATA annually participates in over 10 international beverage fairs such as Berlin Green Week, Nuremberg BIOFACH, and Gulfood Dubai. AZ-GRANATA has a capability manager that deals with the specific skill development needs of its employees, and we conduct training several times during the year. Twenty finance and accounting employees receive semi-annual training in international accounting and reporting principles. And over the summer, workers have a full month in which they work with agricultural experts from Turkey and Israel. Engineers from our plant have also benefitted from exchange visits to internationally renowned beverage operations such as Döhler in Germany and Gat in Israel. Almost all managers at AZ-GRANATA are either trained or educated abroad. They are fully equipped with modern tools and skilled in the use of cutting-edge technology and farming methods.

In addition to your role in creating employment, how does AZ-GRANATA contribute to community development?

The arrival of AZ-GRANATA has created broad economic opportunities for farmers by removing obstacles to market access. Previously, many farmers had failed to bring their fruit to the market due to geographical obstacles and high costs of delivery. AZ-GRANATA supports local farmers by purchasing their crops at a fair market price. Additionally, the presence of AZ-GRANATA also means better-skilled human capital in the regions, and the wider transfer of agricultural knowledge and technology. We believe that such contributions definitely have an encouraging effect on the development of regions and local communities.

HE President Aliyev won a third victory at the polls in October 2013. What do you expect his third term to bring in terms of economic growth, and particularly in agro-industrial growth?

President Aliyev attended the AZ-GRANATA opening ceremony in 2012 and strongly encouraged us to focus on exports and the human development of the regions. Accordingly, we have benefited from his vision to increase exports, reduce import dependency and serve consumers by producing high-quality products. We have witnessed a decade of major investments, infrastructure projects, regional development, strong macroeconomic stability, low inflation, a stable currency, and firm economic growth in Azerbaijan. President Aliyev’s leadership and will to change the country for the better was the overriding factor in this enormous success. It further encourages us to invest in regional development. The coming years will be more successful for the economy of Azerbaijan. The Baku 2015 European Games (with a pomegranate-shaped logo) will be helpful in promoting our image abroad.



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