"The Times" news article about AF Holding
AS Azerbaijan enjoyed explosive growth in recent years. Azay Mokhnato, president of AFHolding, has been riding the wave. Though much of the country’s ongoing economic expansion was related to its hefty oil exports Mr Mokhnatov looked beyond that. In 2008, non-oil sectors showed double-digit growth, spurred by activity in the construction, banking and real-estate sectors. And Mr Mokhnatov is well positioned for the boom with a plethora of construction and tourism projects.
It's been a long road for Mr Mokhnatov, a born businessman and trailblazer in his developing country. During the Soviet era, he worked for the government, in the restaurant business and as the manager of a poultry farm. Then in 1990, he started a small import-export business. That led to building warehouses and offices 1997. He became interested in construction and began to work on big building projects-residential complexes and offices. He introduced innovative construction techniques to the country with his projects. And he became hooked.
“In those days”, he says, “my projects were considered the most modern and the tallest in Azerbaijan." Using monolithic concrete techniques. He explains”, “We were able to build without blocking the surrounding areas, an innovation at the time”.
He continued to expand his company over the years, setting up other business units: banking, mall construction, hotels and tourist facilities.
But Mr Mokhnatov is most excited by his construction and tourism projects, as they represent yet another new frontier for AF Holding, and indeed, for the country. He shed the company’s banking unit, deciding that it wasn’t as useful as he had anticipated, and focused on building awareness of Azerbaijan a destination. These days, he is concentrating on hotel and water-park developments, getting in on the ground floor of the country’s fledgling tourist industry.
“The guests we receive in our hotels always show great intefest in Azerbaijan, and, as an example, the people who stayed with us this year have made reservations for next year”, he explains. “I love the tourism sector, and because of that I’m working on a chain of hotels in Azerbaijan”.
He is working especially hard on publicizing Azerbaijan around the world, studying other markets and setting up an office in the major international trade centre of Dubai. “We try to explain the different possibilities and opportunities that the tourism sector in Azerbaijan has to offer because we realise that there is very little awareness about Azerbaijan in general and they also know very little about our tourisrn industry. But once they actually come to Azerbaijan and see all the opportunities in the country, they will certainly become our greatest advertisers abroad and create more customers for us.”
But Mr Mokhnatov is not one to pass up an opportunity as his country continues its explosive growth.
“Now we have a new plastic factory, unprecedented in the Caucasus region. We already have some contracts to export our products to neighbouring countries. We are not going to limit our production to the local market; we have a regional expansion strategy in place”.
Is Mr Mokhnatov worried about the global recession? Well, because the company has always maintained financial independence, not using bank loans or other extemal funding sources, not too much. “I have to say that we didn’t feel the global financial crisis”, he says. ”We were too busy for that”.