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EBRD and EU support growth of Turkmen dairy producer

By Tahmina Ovezova

It is not every day that an engineer transitions into the dairy business, but that is exactly what happened to Atamyrat Saryyev, the owner of dairy company Garagum in Turkmenistan. Recognising the large role played by dairy in the Turkmen diet and the potential for the sector, when the state-owned enterprise underwent privatisation, Atamyrat decided to take control of the company.

With the help of the Advice for Small Businesses programme, funded in Turkmenistan by the European Union, Atamyrat re-branded and developed the design of his dairy company’s product range, leading to its expansion and an increase in turnover, despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

“In five years, we took our business from a failing dairy producer to a successful company whose products line the shelves of every supermarket in Ashgabat,” says Atamyrat proudly. However, the dairy market in Turkmenistan is saturated – with competition everywhere from other local brands to independent farmers that sell their products directly to the consumer, establishing itself in the market is a challenge for any brand. And so despite being one of the main producers of butter on the local market and the only producer of cottage cheese, Garagum had difficulty making a name for itself after Atamyrat’s acquisition. 

“Our products are made with 100 per cent local milk from our local cows, with minimal chemical additives, but because there was limited awareness of the high quality of our products and our competitive pricing, we had difficulty attracting new customers,” says Atamyrat.  

To help Atamyrat overcome this challenge and raise brand loyalty among his target audience, the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme matched Atamyrat with a consultant that helped him rebrand Garagum and launch new attractive packaging designs for his products.

“We were aware that our products had outdated packaging, but for a long time we didn’t want to take the decision to rebrand, as this requires quite a lot of investment. Luckily the EBRD was able to help us and placate our fears,” says Atamyrat.   

Together with the consultant, the Garagum team conducted marketing research to analyse the brand’s position on market, and developed a new logo design and brand book as well new packaging for its products.  

As a result, Garagum introduced six new products to the local market. Its annual turnover subsequently increased 2½ times and revenue increased by more than 100 per cent. “The advisory project helped us to understand where we stood in the market, and how we could increase brand recognition and attract new consumers,” highlights Atamyrat.  

Today, Garagum’s dairy products have gained popularity due to their affordable prices and high quality. During the coronavirus pandemic, the company managed to grow its market share and the volume of production. Now, Atamyrat aims to green his dairy business by shifting towards zero-waste production.

“Implementing green practices is not only good for our planet, but also presents opportunities for small businesses to cut costs and increase revenue, hence we want to ensure we make the most of the best green practices and introduce them into our business,” he concludes.

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