EBRD’s Small Business Support helps Kazakhstan’s Juldyz Kenan expand

By Svitlana  Pyrkalo
@pyrkalo

It’s the simple things in life which can most radically improve patient care, as Juldyz Kenan, a Kazakh firm which works with the EBRD’s Small Business Support programme, can testify.

Juldyz Kenan manufactures quality disposable plastic medical supplies, such as intravenous catheters, feeding catheters, stomach probes or umbilical clips. It is the only maker of these goods in the whole of Central Asia, employing 25 people in a factory outside Almaty.

“Imagine giving birth and then waiting eight days in hospital for your baby’s umbilical cord to fall off,” said Baglan Bakkulova, its founder. “Then we launched plastic clips for umbilical cords – and young mothers started going home after three days! Simple, you say? Maybe. But to many new mothers and their doctors, it was a revelation.”

Juldyz Kenan was created in 1993 by Mrs Bakkulova, then a nurse, and her physician husband Kenes Kussainov. His patients needed intravenous medication for up to a month, but disposable, thin, modern plastic catheters were in short supply at the time. Instead, doctors had to rely on reusable, thick tubes that were painful to insert or they had to use contraband goods.

“One day Kenes came home and said ‘OK, I’ve seen enough. We will start making the catheters ourselves,’” Mrs Bakkulova said. “At first I didn’t even understand what he was saying. ‘How can we produce them ourselves?’ But he was burning with this idea, and I started believing in it too.”

First they chose the name. Juldyz, which means “star”, is the name of their daughter, and Kenan is a contraction of the couple’s names. It was to be a family firm. The husband-and-wife team spent three frenetic years getting the business on track. And then, Kenes died suddenly of a heart attack.

She talked to her daughter Juldyz, and they reached an agreement: Juldyz’s job was to study hard and her mother’s was to keep the company, and family, going.

Meanwhile, times changed and the shortages of the 1990s were replaced by the inflow of low-quality, non-certified products, mainly contraband from neighbouring China and Russia. Proud of her national and international certifications, Mrs Bakkulova was learning to fight her corner. In the mid-1990s, Juldyz Kenan sold its products abroad for the first time when the Tajik government bought a supply of subclavian catheters for the critically wounded in the country’s civil war. In 2000, the Kazakh government sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, including a big cargo of their umbilical clips. Now, the company exports products to Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan and is hoping to work with the UN on future humanitarian missions in the region.

The company’s cooperation with the EBRD’s Business Advisory Services (BAS) and Enterprise Growth Programme began in the 1990s. The latest project with BAS started in 2010, when it was time for Juldyz Kenan to expand. The company wants to increase capacity from 500,000 to 4.5 million items per year to supply more hospitals in Kazakhstan and neighbouring countries.

Small Business Support helped Juldyz Kenan put together an expansion strategy. Once built, the new plant will be a testament both to Mrs Bakkulova’s incredible success in growing the business and to her husband’s idea of making simple things to ease people’s pain.

Juldyz, their daughter, has kept up her end of the bargain. She is soon to graduate from the world-famous Vienna University of Music. “She understood her responsibility after her father’s death,” said Mrs Bakkulova. “She did not waste her talent.”

*The EBRD’s Small Business Support works with small-to-medium-sized enterprises to connect clients to local consultants and international advisers. Their work in Kazakhstan has been financed primarily by Japan, the United States, the European Union, the EBRD’s own Shareholder Special Fund and Switzerland.