EBRD and EU support advertiser’s expansion in Azerbaijan and beyond

By Nick Thompson

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The EBRD and the EU recently helped professional advertising specialists Vitam LLC to implement a new ERP system in Azerbaijan.The project optimised operational efficiencies and increased productivity within the company, freeing up valuable resources and maximising the utilisation of its existing labour force of 33 employees.

Established in 2004, Vitam – meaning ‘life’ in Latin – has become one of the leading display and signage solution companies in the country. The company produces visual advertising that showcases brands, such as bespoke signage, furniture and exhibition stands, along with large-format printing and graphic design services, helping clients communicate more effectively with prospective and existing customers.

Growing pains

Once Vitam really started to establish itself in the marketplace, its co-founders, current CEO Tehran Aliyev and Director Vugar Maharramov, found that coping without an automated management information system was causing inefficiencies in day-to-day operations and a lack of control over business processes, ultimately hampering growth and opportunities to attract clients.

To optimise the business and become more versatile and competitive, the company reached out to the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme for support.

Tehran says, “We decided that a new management system needed to be developed for Vitam, and that it should be modern, based on data analysis and measurable. When we approached the EBRD, the sale of enterprise resource planning (ERP) software was an expensive option and we did not have the finances to cover it ourselves. However, we learned that the EBRD offers the potential for collaboration in terms of joint financing, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.”

Software to provide company-wide oversight

Because ERP systems are capable of tracking so many moving parts, once fully integrated into a business, they provide a single source of truth that facilitates seamless management of costs, inventory, people and much more, allowing the company to act more strategically.

Vitam introduced ERP software with automated financial, tax accounting and reporting systems to enhance efficiencies in the workplace.

Tehran says, “We applied the ERP system, which enabled us to set higher standards, decrease our expenses and start collaborating with international as well as domestic companies. We wanted to optimise our systems to enable us to analyse our activities and forecast areas of future growth potential.”

Transformation and resilience

The project between the EBRD and the EU helped the company undergo a transformation, which has ultimately led to the expansion of its client portfolio and richly improved the business internally, allowing staff to accurately calculate production costs, monitor production processes and mitigate the risk of print production errors.

Buoyed by these improvements, Vitam has even started new business lines, including the production of frames and stretched ceilings, and conceptual furniture design for restaurants and shops.

The company has also developed a strategy to enter the global market, exporting to Central Asia and Europe and gaining international experience fulfilling orders for global brands. It now plans to open a production facility in Uzbekistan in collaboration with Bosch.

Vitam was fortunate to remain largely unscathed by both the 2015 currency devaluation in Azerbaijan and the Covid-19 pandemic. While some companies were forced to make redundancies, Vitam maintained its entire workforce with no reduction in terms of the volume of work. Tehran says, “The key to our success is that we keep an eye on innovations in our sector and are unafraid to allocate budgets to smaller projects in order to reach our objectives.”

A polished portfolio full of potential

The business has expanded its client portfolio and signed contracts with Samsung, Sony, Bosch, GlaxoSmithKline, Optimal, Baku Electronics, SOCAR and the UN, among many others, resulting in turnover nearly doubling.

“The EBRD-EU project has helped Vitam improve its internal and external communication, increased customer satisfaction, and allowed the company to become more efficient, strategic and agile,” says Tehran.

A triumphant success story from a company that is in very safe hands under the stewardship of its two co-founders, who have the determination and vision to ensure the success of any further expansion and diversification of the business.

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