Assembly lines for Azerbaijan

President of Evsen Group of Companies

Evsenís dynamic president, Ali Evsen, is taking the country by storm, manufacturing everything from cars to TVs and carpets

Times have indeed changed in Azerbaijan if mobile phones are considered indispensable. With the Caspian’s oil boom, regional demand for consumer products has skyrocketed. By negotiating agreements with multinationals, Ali Evsen has single-handedly jumpstarted a new brand of domestic assembly plants. The president of the Evsen Group of Companies is in charge of factories that assemble everything from mobile handsets to refrigerators, vacuum cleaners, TV sets and air conditioners. Eventually, he will capture a piece of the GDP pie and shift attention away from oil.

Evsen is a native of Adana, in southern Turkey. But he implanted his trading business in Azerbaijan in 1990. A graduate of Baku State University, he has a strong affinity with his adopted country—and especially with its private sector. Part of the corporate ethos at the Evsen Group of Companies is having fun at the workplace. The staff of 3,000 is taught core values like career growth, continuing education, creativity and risk-taking behavior for upper management. The ultimate goal, according to Evsen, is to realign the interests of Azeri producers and consumers. Eventually, ICT and automotive industries will take advantage of Azerbaijan’s fiscal incentives, he says.

Since 1993, the Evsen Group of Companies imports technological inputs from China, Japan, Italy and the US. Then it reassembles a full range of consumer goods and electronics on Azeri soil. The Star plant in Shamakhi, for example, consists of 35,500 square meters of factory space and provides 200 local jobs.

The Group’s AzSamand automobile plant, also based in Shamakhi, sells to emerging markets in nearby CIS countries and Iran. Outfitted with a Peugeot 405 engine, the AzSamand brand is one of the fastest-growing Azeri exports. Evsen has also worked out a partnership with Lenovo Computers to assemble CPUs in Azerbaijan.

By taking industry to rural areas, Evsen has come up with his own economic model. Traditional carpet weaving is not left by the wayside either. The Evsen factory employs 100 workers, most of whom are women, to revive a craft that has almost been forgotten. Aside from its industrial assets, the Group also operates the Elite Shopping and Entertainment Complex in Baku, a mall that includes supermarkets, fitness centers and high-end stores. Since 1998, the Evsen Group of Companies has a license from the Ministry of Finance to operate the Star Alliance insurance company. The Baku-based insurer has hired internationally, claims Evsen.

“The world is changing and people are getting closer to one another. At the Group, we have a development program through 2020. Each consecutive year has been planned out,” comments Evsen. The masterplan is to keep expanding into high-tech, car-making and trade services. By end-2007, operations will begin at an electricity plant built by Media, a joint-venture between US and Japanese firms. No matter what industry it is involved in, the Evsen Group of Companies is careful to add a social component. “It’s like driving a car on or off the road. If you feel responsible toward your country, there is hope for the future,” says Evsen.

Aside from Azerbaijan’s stability, the Group’s competitive advantages include the potential for expansion in the sub-region. From 1995 to 1999, the partnership with Renault led to additional contracts in neighboring countries. The Evsen Group of Companies is particularly proud of its modern outlook. The company structure is a reassuring factor for first time foreign investors. “We believe we are being useful to Azerbaijan by guiding and advising foreign companies willing to invest here,” says Evsen.