For many clothing companies in the Kyrgyz Republic, ensuring consistency of output is a continual struggle. The EBRD helped Aselina, a small garment manufacturer in Bishkek, gain the know-how they needed both to expand and improve quality and productivity.
When Nina Jumasheva, CEO of Aselina, launched her own business in 2000, she had little idea how far the venture would take her.
â€œI was working in a medical institution but, after the Soviets left, wages were low,â€ said Mrs Jumasheva. â€œI was tired of this and I had always loved clothes. I used to bring dozens back with me from trips to Moscow.
â€œThen I thought: I have the designs in my head. Thereâ€™s no reason why I canâ€™t make them myself.â€
With four sewing machines and the help of her husband and a small group of relatives, she launched Aselina. Starting out as a wholesaler, the company began manufacturing skirts and other womenâ€™s clothing in 2002 in a range of styles, all of which Mrs Jumasheva designed (and still designs) herself.
From originally producing a maximum of 40 skirts a day, Aselina now makes more than 1,200 daily and employs more than 50 people.
Such growth has not come easily. As the business expanded, there were many challenges: from limited working capital to confusion brought on by the lack of a formal strategy and business plan. But the main recurring problem was quality management.
â€œPoor quality production for us meant a lot of waste, which meant money down the drain,â€ said Mrs Jumasheva. â€œThe clothing industry is also a very competitive one and customers are very focused on quality.
â€œThis was a problem shared by all the businesses in this industry that we knew.â€
The EBRDâ€™s Small Business Support team helped Aselina to connect with a Bishkek-based consultant to provide the company with a technological solution adapted to its needs.
In a project funded by Switzerland, the consultant installed and configured computer aided design software. They also helped the company restructure its production processes and implement new procedures to give better quality assurance.
â€œBefore, we cut everything by hand,â€ Mrs Jumasheva explained. â€œThis naturally brings more inaccuracy and it meant that 10-15 per cent of what was produced did not pass our final quality control checks.
â€œIt also takes a lot of time to produce patterns and then modify them for different sizes. With the new system, weâ€™ve cut down the time needed to produce a new model from 14 days to only three.â€
Quicker pattern making and less waste has meant better margins. Only a year later, productivity has risen by 50 per cent and turnover by 90 per cent.
For Mrs Jumasheva, the priority was then to build new premises â€“ moving her business and her workers out of her basement and into a purpose-built factory.
Whatâ€™s next for Aselina? As the business continues to improve quality, the next step will be to open a shop in central Bishkek and she would like the company to be selling internationally within the next 10 years.
To help ensure success, Mrs Jumasheva is already talking to the EBRD about working with another consultant to help her bring Aselinaâ€™s marketing up to match her ambitions.
The EBRD helps small and medium-sized businesses in 25 countries access the know-how they need to grow their businesses. This work in the Kyrgyz Republic is funded by Switzerland as a core donor, and by
Japan and the United States.