About the company: SINAM Company based in 1994, is the largest system integrator of South Caucasus and Central Asia. Over a 20 year activity, the company implemented a row of infrastructural projects by introducing high-technology solutions into the system of state management, corporate and bank sector. HP, IBM, Alcatel/Lucent, Cisco, Oracle, Microsoft, EMC, 3M, IMC and ABBYY are the partners of the SINAM Company. The company exports its products and services to the USA, Europe, and countries of the Middle East, Russia and CIS.
Caspian Energy (CE): Reforms are currently being actively carried out in Azerbaijan in order to develop the non-oil sector. How much have they influenced IT sector where your company is involved?
Elchin Aliyev, President of SINAM: Economic reforms carried out by the government during the last half a year are indeed aimed at quality changes in the oil sector which are expected to give a serious push towards the development of Azerbaijan. IT sector is a very important part of the non-oil sector of Azerbaijan and this can be indicated by the market demand – local solutions are highly valued outside of the country and with the appropriate support may bring big income from export. Realistically, agriculture and IT have more potential for increasing non-oil income than other sectors. Economic reforms in these areas can allow the country to increase the income and to multiply the profits.
CE: How much the legislative base in the IT sector has developed? What advantages do you see for business and for the government budget?
Elchin Aliyev: In the framework of systemic economic reforms the government created benevolent environment for the local companies, including those in the IT sector.
For instance, last amendments to the Law ‘On Public Procurements’ will allow Azerbaijani companies to actively participate in the tenders. According to the amendments Azerbaijani companies whose quality does not concede and whose prices are not increased more than 20% than that of the foreign companies will be prioritized over all the others in winning the tenders. First and foremost, this will be beneficial for the government budget as the production and service cost of Azerbaijani companies is lower and the quality is, in most of the cases, equal to that of the foreign companies. This is especially so in the IT sector, where Azerbaijani companies have not only become equal to the foreign companies that attempt to compete on our market but also exceed them. It is worth to remember that for a long time Azerbaijan continues to move towards the steady development, including the establishment of the modern manufacture based on the high technologies and the preparation of the professionals.
CE: What obstacles in the IT sector still have to be overcame?
Elchin Aliyev: First and foremost, attention has to be directed towards preparing the professionals in order to develop the IT sector. This problem is being discussed for years but the issue is still standing. Currently we have a peculiar situation – without any system that is able to prepare the qualified programmers we have a lot of high level professionals. This happened grace to the immense aim to self-development of the young programmers and the local leading IT companies. Nowadays, we can consider the leading IT companies a cradle of IT professionals that constantly support their employees in their professional development. In reality, this is a very expensive and difficult feat for the companies and it would be much more profitable to receive the already prepared experts, rather than spend resources on their training. I consider that relevant government structures or private bodies have to pay close attention to this problem and establish the training courses for the programmers. If this target is achieved Azerbaijan will get an immense push towards the IT development because currently all the professionals are involved in the big companies and we almost do not see the ‘technological entrepreneurial boom’ that is witnessed on the West. Moreover, with the large choice of the professionals it will be much easier to find specialists for different tasks.
Also it is necessary to implement the system of the tax benefits for the local IT production. This could stimulate the segment and we could get the long-term growth and more opportunities for export.
CE: President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has outlined the target to develop the export oriented production. IT is the perfect opportunity for the local companies to show what they are worth. How far did local business move in this segment?
Elchin Aliyev: Modern level of the leading Azerbaijani companies allows to successfully compete in the foreign markets. Our companies have successfully implemented solutions that can be used worldwide, especially in the countries where the e-government development level is lower than in Azerbaijan. Our production is really competitive – implementation of our solutions is less expensive and our companies are much more flexible towards the wishes of the clients. Moreover, Azerbaijan as a country that moved from nothing towards the very good Western level of e-government development can serve as an example to many countries.
However, we still need the government support in order to be successfully represented in the foreign markets. The reason is that for a long period foreign companies are using the public-private partnership and are supported by the national funds when entering in the new markets which accelerates the successful introduction. This model is used by the USA, EU, China, Turkey, Israel, Hungary and etc. It is very difficult for us to compete with the company that is supported by the national fund and whose projects are often funded by it to demonstrate the quality of solutions.
If we want to be export oriented in the IT sector it is recommended to establish such fund in Azerbaijan in order to facilitate the entrance to the foreign markets. It is worth to note that high-tech market has a great potential not only in Asia but also in Africa where, according to some estimates, 40-50 billion dollars will be invested in the IT sector for the next 10 years. If Azerbaijan is able to successfully implement itself in this region we will receive a great opportunity for partial replacement of the oil income.
CE: As we know, SINAM is the active participant in the tenders in the local and foreign market. What projects can you especially emphasize?
Elchin Aliyev: All the activity of our company can be divided in two stages. On the first stage we paid attention to the Azerbaijani market and realised a lot of large-scale projects during the last 22 years. During the recent years we have fully automated the system of the social insurance, established the Government Payment Portal, Treasury management information system, Financial and Accounting Reporting Application for Budgetary Institutions (FARABI), e-map and navigation system of Azerbaijan - Gomap and various other projects.
Many our projects are highly valued by the beneficiaries and the World Bank even made a documentary about FARABI in order to demonstrate the successful realization of the project in the other countries.
Having immense experience in realisation of the complex high-tech projects and the professional team in recent years SINAM has initiated the second stage of development and started to enter the foreign markets. As a result we have successfully realised various projects in the e-government area in Kyrgyzstan with the financial support of the Asian development bank.
Our company is the constant participant of the tenders carried out in Asia and Africa. Currently we are taking part in the second stage of the tender concerning the implementation of the automated tax system in Tanzania. I would like to add that in this tender we participate with the other Azerbaijani companies – Cybernet and Bestcomp Group with the involvement of the Tanzanian company MFI Document.
SINAM and other leading Azerbaijani companies strive to actively enter on the foreign markets as this direction of the business development is the optimal one, considering the modern conditions.
CE: In what direction does your company currently work? What are your development plans?
Elchin Aliyev: SINAM traditionally develops technologies for the e-government. For many years we are one of the leading companies in South Caucasus and Central Asia in this area and constantly improve our services and solutions. We guarantee our clients implementation of the last technologies and this is not mere words. Our company was the first in Azerbaijan to develop the digital signature. We were one of the firsts to apply 'cloud' technologies and now we offer all the solutions in the 'cloud' form. We will continue to develop in this direction in the future.
However, recently we also started to develop products for the end users. For example, with the support of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism we created the most detailed map of Azerbaijan – Gomap. Currently we have already introduced the navigation system based on this map. The map also includes Georgia and Turkey. We have the very good solutions of geo-informational systems and we consider continuing to develop in this direction.
Moreover, we are looking forward to develop other Internet solutions and services for the end users. Our experts are constantly considering various projects, having meeting with the perspective start-up teams. We are sure that in order to develop any company has to take into account the market streams and offer those products and solutions that are not only on demand in the present but also will be demanded in the future. SINAM has always been one step forward and we will try to uphold this strategy.
Thank you for the interview
Interview made by Jeyhun Bayramov