Caspian Energy Journal Caspian European Club
Friday, 23 January 2015 13:30

Every crisis gives new opportunities – Cemal Yangin Featured

Caspian Energy (CE): ATIB’ official website defines the commitment to creating business opportunities for entrepreneurs and lending overall support to companies as one of ATIB’s key objectives. Could you please specify which opportunities does the ATIB create and what kind of support does the organisation provide in fact?

Cemal Yangin, Chairman of the Azerbaijan-Turkey Business Association (ATIB): ATIB is a kind of union, whose members are business people of both Azerbaijan and Turkey. Businessmen of the two countries speak with one voice. Our goal is to develop the country's economy by attracting foreign companies. A company entering a market has the advantage of obtaining full information about the market, opportunities available, tax and customs systems as well as migration laws. Companies should operate being informed. At the same time, I would like to note that we provide all this information on our site. That means, at the initial stage we give advice to companies about prospects of their business in Azerbaijan. We draw certain conclusions on the basis of correspondence with a company. But certainly it is up to a company to make a decision.


CE: How keen is the interest of foreign companies to Azerbaijan? From which countries do you receive requests most often?

Cemal Yangin: Most frequently we receive requests from Turkey or the Turks from different countries worldwide, for example, from Germany, France and even New Zealand. Meanwhile we are ready to cooperate with people or companies, which are not from Turkey. If, let us say, a company from Germany applies to us, we cooperate with it. But, first of all, we would like the Azerbaijanis and Turks, who now work abroad, to be interested and willingly come to Azerbaijan to set up their business here.


CE: Are companies that apply to you for information obliged to become ATIB members?

Cemal Yangin: No. We do not declare such demands. But, in my view, if a company receives support from us, it should at least as a gentlemen's step show willingness to become a member of ATIB. I tell it to you not as the ATIB Chairman but as a businessman. However, we do not have intentions to force anybody to become a member of ATIB. At the same time, we do not welcome any firm that is willing to become a member of the Association. We will not admit a company, which is just a newcomer on the market. Let it work for a couple of years and prove itself. Every year we admit on average 20 new members, though the number of applications may sometimes exceed 100. We do not set up an objective to have as many members as possible. ATIB member companies are those firms that make a contribution to the development of economy and have the say-so in the sector they are involved in. If a person intends to set up a company that is going to employ hundreds or even thousands people, of course, we will give all-round support. If an entrepreneur is going to set up a small business that will bring benefits to nobody except him, we will not cooperate with him. He can receive all necessary information by himself.


CE: How would you assess the business environment in Azerbaijan and to what extent does it promote setting up a new business?

Cemal Yangin: Nowadaysand in the short term growth rates of business in Azerbaijan will decrease a little bit. This process can proceed in 2015 as well. The fall in oil prices plays a certain role in it. The country gains income from the non-oil sector. But still the most part of income is secured from the oil and gas sector. At that, investments contributed to economy are mostly oil money. The drop in oil prices forces us to live, admitting this reality. I tell it as a head of Istambul Çarçı Company and also advise it to all members as the ATIB Chairman. On the other hand, the crisis in Russia, which is now experiencing economic blockade, has had a certain impact. Millions of our fellow citizens work in Russia, who for years have been sending money home to their families. It is a rather serious amount. And today Russia faces devaluation.


CE: All factors that you listed above cause serious difficulties for people, who intend to set up or develop business in 2015 or by contrast the crisis opens up new opportunities?

Cemal Yangin: In every crisis there are new opportunities. If a person starts up a business in 2015, no problems will be faced. The first reason is that because he did not see large income of the previous years. By contrast, it will certainly be heavy for those who already have own business. A person created a business and life, based on the income of 2011-2013 years. And now he has to revise a lot of things. An entrepreneur will never start spending what he has earned for the first five years. These are our estimates. He will invest income in business development and be able to reap the fruits five years later. I do not mean natural needs, but spending money, say, on a second or third car, construction or purchase of houses. A natural person is a managing director of a company. A company is a legal entity that pays taxes, salaries, accumulates money. Only five years later a natural person starts thinking about what percent of income he will be able to earn for himself. Now, when oil prices are falling, a person starting up a business studies all these processes because they are closely connected with business development. There was no need for that before when oil prices were rather high. The country enjoyed flows of big money and entrepreneurs only endeavoured to join the queue in the spheres where that money was spent. 


CE: How long will the crisis last?

Cemal Yangin: I believe the crisis will not last more than a year. For an ordinary citizen, it is a long period. But for the history of the state is it very short. State plans are not for one or two years, the most short-term ones cover five years. In the crisis times states revise their priorities, undertake measures to avoid a crisis as much as possible. Companies follow the same policy. First of all, they consider effectiveness of job of every employee. For example, for me this question is under review all the time. For a businessman, every day brings certain type of a crisis. Work should be organised in a way so as to not face a shock when a real crisis comes. What should a businessman do during a crisis? He should start from himself and revise expenses. Then it will concern assistants, further a personnel, and finally families.


CE: Against the background of falling oil prices the development of the non-oil sector seems to be even more strongly required. Which areas would you assess as most promising ones?

Cemal Yangin: Construction is traditionally considered as perspective area. But for me personally, this is the sphere for expenses, but not for income. In my view, the services industry is perspective. It can be hotels, restaurants, auditor offices. The second perspective area involves healthcare and education. This is what Azerbaijan and the country citizens need today. The country needs people skillful enough in their specialities. What happens now is that people graduate from universities, without receiving competence in any profession. Later they attend courses to be competent in this specialty. Health is also the most important thing among others for every person. Without health, a person will not have other things. A citizen must be confident in the health sector if something occurs. The crisis can have a strong impact on such spheres as construction. However, healthcare and education are always in demand, regardless of any factors. The same can be said about the services industry. People will always spend money on food, clothes and services. During the crisis a figure can make, conditionally speaking, not 10 but 8 manats, but it will not disappear.


CE: So, speaking conventionally, if a businessman wants to open a restaurant, it can be regarded perspective now?

Cemal Yangin: Ifyou address your questions to me, my answer will be no, I will not open a restaurant. It is not my speciality. If you did not work as a cook, waitperson, administrator, and have no experience of achieving new and new heights from being at first at the lowest level, you will fail to build up a restaurant business. Certainly, you will earn something, but it is not known when money is invested either it will justify itself or not. Our people, without clear idea of what this business is like, very often invest money namely in the restaurant business. I personally do not understand the reason why do people do that? I do not have a restaurant either in Turkey or Azerbaijan. I do not see benefits for myself in opening a restaurant.


CE: What are the most common mistakes of entrepreneurs in Azerbaijan?    

Cemal Yangin: It is difficult to me to speak about it, but, for example, if I open a restaurant today, I will make a big mistake. My education and my knowledge do not allow being engaged in this business. A mistake is made by those who think they will open the best restaurant. My familiar Doctor of Science in Turkey somehow told me that any technological or innovative thought remains fresh for only 14 minutes after when it already grows old. This is the reason why you will hardly be able to open the best restaurant. But you may arrange, let us say, the best service. Yes, it is possible. It concerns the restaurant business, tourism industry.


CE: Imagine that you just start you path and have one million dollars. Whatbusinesswouldyoubuildup?

Cemal Yangin: Just the same, I own a construction company. All 22 years of my living in Baku I have worked in the construction sector. One should understand that the construction industry does not involve only construction of buildings. Services can be very different, and I am engaged in all of them. But you will hardly meet me in any other industry, except construction. A businessman will never swing from one extreme to another. It can bring only much harm to a businessman. However, some people call it sharing a risk. But it can be done in construction business as well. Let us say, it is possible to build buildings, houses in various areas, cities and even countries. I have to understand at least 50% of the sector I am involved in, chapter and verse. I should have my vision of how to address any concrete problem. So, if I understand nothing about it, then what can I do even if I have money. Of course, it happens that a businessman with no idea of the sector secures good results and his company sharply flies up. It can be observed in economy. But it is not an indicator. For me, stable gradual development is exemplary. In that case you always know what to do if suddenly you took a step backwards. In case of a sharp take-off, a person will lack such knowledge.


CE: What amount of money should a person, who wants to start up a business, have at disposal?

Cemal Yangin: It depends on a business plan. One million can be enough to construct several restaurants or not to erect even one. Depending on how you see it and what business plan is like. If you open a flower shop, you do not need one million dollars. But if you establish a bank, you need big money. One year of a bank’s operation is not enough to see how solid business is. It is impossible to judge about solidity of business by the amount of money. Solidity is defined by a business plan, stability, and development. At that, a business plan can be short-term, deigned let us say till the European Games 2015. In this case it will also be a serious business. Money is rather a material for a business.


CE: How did you start you business and why?

Cemal Yangin: My father and grandfather are businessmen, so since my childhood I have performed various works, even swept out and carried documents. My father was engaged in export of hazelnut cultivated in the area where we lived. He had a plant, and he dealt with export. I learned from my father how to do business. That is, before starting up a business, I learned the rules of business and how it is done.


CE: How to learn doing business?

Cemal Yangin: Before choosing a sector, a person should become a businessman. What does it mean? What is needed is to learn thinking like a businessman, plan your time, distribute money, know from where to take money and how to pay. After that, you can choose a sector, either  ahotel business, restaurant business, trade or construction.


CE: Why did you choose the construction sector?

Cemal Yangin: If I continued the business of my father, he would always solve all my problems. And it seems to me that it would do much harm to my working carrier. I chose another sector. Of course, I consulted with my father, he helped me. But it would be wrong to be under the care of my father all life. In spite of the fact I was the only son of my father, I refused from export of hazelnuts and decided to startup my own business. My father is involved in his business up to now. At the same time, he is also involved in the construction business together with his partner, who is the specialist in this area.


CE:  When did you get involved in the construction business?

Cemal Yangin: It was30 yearsago in Turkey. I came to Azerbaijan in 1994 and since then I have been involved only in the construction business. I do not know any other job.


CE: Which other countries do you work in?

Cemal Yangin: Besides Turkey and Azerbaijan, we work in Georgia and Algeria. At the same time we implemented individual projects in Ukraine and Kazakhstan, but did not stay there longer. Now we have proposals from Russia, but we do not have plans to stay there for a long period.


CE: The Russian market is large enough. Why do not you want to stay there longer?

Cemal Yangin: Big money is needed for a large market, and besides I do not consider myself ready for this. When a medium-sized company enters a large market, it will hardly withstand competition. The most successful businessman is that who knows what he is capable to be. You are not able to enter a million business, if your turnover, conditionally speaking, makes 100 manats. It is possible, but today I am not ready for that. I should feel that I am ready to enter so large market as Russian. I adhere to the same rules, working here in Azerbaijan. That is, I know the potential of my company. So, if I am offered job inadequate with my abilities, I will refuse perfrming it. Even small additional work can break all the rest.


CE:  Does it mean that you do not seek big money?

Cemal Yangin: Each male person seeks to earn as much as possible. And everyone thinks about it. But it is always necessary to keep in mind what ways you chose to achieve it. For me there is only one way, which is observance of the law, payment of taxes, benefits for the national economy. It is a way of stable and long-term development. A man should earn and think how to earn even more. However, if he does it, overstepping people, it is necessary to understand that one day someone will overstep you.


CE: Could you please describe negative aspects in the life of a businessman?

Cemal Yangin: The biggest problem is the lack of time and opportunity to spend enough time with your family. For me the only difference between weekend days and workdays is that I do not wear the tie at days off. The biggest freedom for me is a holiday and when I do not wear the tie. In summer I often ride the motorcycle and travel on it away to other countries. But, my holiday does not last for more than 3-4 days. I get up very early, sometimes even at 4 am, visit the object, check something, control. At the same time, I am happy with the way I conduct the life. My energy allows me working according to such a schedule.


CE: Does your family live with you in Baku?

Cemal Yangin: The family comes to Baku from time to time. My children worked here for five years. The emerging market offers many opportunities to learn doing business, so it was useful for them. As for my spouse, we often travel together to different countries on business or just to have a rest. Most often, it happens unexpectedly, but lasts no longer than 2-3 days. I can have a rest only when my business thrives, otherwise I will not be able to switch off from my work.


CE: What helps you to switch off from your work? How do you have a rest?


Cemal Yangin: First, my phone is on 24 hours per day. It is the principle of a responsible businessman. Besides, I constantly check my e-mail address because I should be always in touch with my workers. But I got used to it and have a rest without problems even in such conditions.


CE: What do you do in your spare time in Baku?     

Cemal Yangin: My rest is reading books. At home, during trips and even at work they are always on my table. Reading books enables my brain to relax. There are a few people who saw me having a rest in a five-star hotel, in the pool. At the same time I certainly follow developments of the situation in the world of economy and policy. These factors influence the business atmosphere, so I need to always know exactly what is happening.


CE: You said that your children worked here with you for five years. Does it mean that they are also involved in the construction business?

Cemal Yangin: Yes, but at first they became businessmen, and then went deep into their specialities. Besides the construction sector, they are involved in logistics. But it does not mean that I will just hand over the administration to them and that will do. They have to achieve everything themselves. They started business with my help and with my money. Of course, I help them, but they bear responsibility for the situation in the company. Nowadays they just like me receive a salary in the company and also take their share from incomes.



Thank you for the interview


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