The Non capitalises on EBRD, EU and donors-funded business advice
The coronavirus pandemic is having a huge impact on Uzbekistan’s hospitality sector, until recently one of the most dynamic parts of the local economy. The dramatic decline in production, the sudden decrease of customers, and job cuts are but a few initial consequences caused by the pandemic.
Uzbek companies, such as the bakery The Non, now have to tackle unprecedented difficulties and adapt to a new and challenging reality.
The Non is itself one of many small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which have previously been supported by the EBRD through its advisory programme and the donors who fund it: the European Union (EU) and the EBRD’s Small Business Impact Fund –or SBIF - (Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Sweden, Switzerland, Taipei China and the United States of America.)
Now The Non, like many other SMEs, is looking for new ways of doing business in the country.
Jakhongir Alimbabaev, Director of the company, explains: “The Non is a leader in the Uzbekistan market in the production of frozen semi-finished or finished bakery products. Our company was mainly B2B, selling our products to large international hotels and fast food chains. We were the first to export frozen bakery products to neighbouring countries.”
The company’s unique selling points in the local market are a shock freezing technology, which extends the shelf life of products, and brand new equipment meeting the highest standards.
Through advisory projects funded by the EU and the SBIF, the EBRD helped the company improve its food safety management system as well as establish its brand in Uzbekistan and abroad.
The Non was just about to pilot its own retail stores when it was hit by the closure of hotels and restaurants due to the Covid-19 crisis. The company had to react to the new circumstances without delay and decided to use the high-quality branding materials developed as part of the EBRD project to switch to online marketing and sales.
Mr Alimbabaev continues: “We had to reorganise our work completely and export was put on hold. Our company launched delivery of assorted bread at an affordable price. Currently, we receive up to 200 orders from our customers per day.”
One can easily order bread for delivery within seconds through their online bot on the popular social media application Telegram.
While business-driven, The Non has above all demonstrated its social support towards its customers. “The company makes every effort to stay afloat and retain its employees,” adds Mr Alimbabaev.
The EBRD’s and donors’ support has played a significant role in this transition period as the brand is becoming recognisable and the database of customers is expanding which, in turn, will help the company mitigate the consequences of the crisis.
Mr Alimbabaev is positive and is already making plans for better times: “After the pandemic, we hope we will be able to set up our own retail shops.”
The EBRD has supported over 60 SMEs in Uzbekistan since 2017. The advisory programme is designed to help businesses gain know-how and improve their performance and competitiveness.