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EBRD and donors help delivery company grow in Azerbaijan

By Nick Thompson

The transport and logistics sector has been heavily impacted by the twin shocks of Covid-19 and Russia’s war on Ukraine. Disrupted supply chains and rising energy and fuel costs have left the sector vulnerable, requiring high levels of resilience and adaptation.

Azeri Express Ltd is a family business in Azerbaijan run by Shaig Garibzade, a young and ambitious entrepreneur, who has fought to maintain and grow the company’s market position in the face of these challenging external circumstances and related economic headwinds. Shaig himself has simultaneously grown in stature since becoming Chairman of the Azerbaijan Postal Carriers Association in 2022.

With support from the EBRD, the European Union (EU) and Türkiye, the company has recently scaled up its business and committed to meeting international quality standards as it expands. Azeri Express is also looking beyond its business: mobilising and helping to deliver critical aid to the victims of the devastating earthquake in Türkiye.

Transforming challenges into opportunities

Founded in 1997 by Shaig’s uncle Anar Garibov, Azeri Express – or “AzEx” as it is known locally – is a delivery service business boasting decades of experience in the logistics space. It operates with a focus on continuous growth and a commitment to innovation and unparalleled customer service: core differentiators from its competition in Azerbaijan.

The company has been developing over the years and in 2016 launched a new domestic delivery service covering the whole country. At that point, management began negotiations on a long-term partnership with FedEx – the multinational courier company headquartered in the USA – and became the company’s official representative in Azerbaijan. Approved in 2018, the partnership enhanced the company’s reputation and created a valuable relationship with an established brand.

Recent global events could have derailed Azeri Express’s plans. However, Shaig and his management team quickly realised that they could use the situation to create a competitive advantage for the business and increase its profitability by turning the negative realities of the downturn into opportunities and leveraging the right technology while rethinking its approach.

When the borders closed due to pandemic, the business had particular challenges in terms of international transport, which they sought to address by changing focus to domestic deliveries with local companies.

Many large corporations also reduced the number of deliveries, in some cases ceasing to use Azeri Express. Therefore, the company adjusted its model and started catering to local SMEs, while also placing some emphasis on the business-to-customer sector.

Recognising the need for additional support

To optimise operational costs without lay-offs during the pandemic, company management decided to let employees work from home where practical.

In order to ensure that this process was as seamless as possible, they requested support from the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses programme in Azerbaijan to help deliver the project.

The automation of its call centre, allowed its call centre staff to work fully remotely with no disruption or loss of quality to the service. With support from the EBRD and the Türkiye-EBRD TC Fund, the company was able to introduce innovative remote working technology, which has transformed its operations: considerably improving the customer experience and performance, reducing customer service costs and increasing revenues.

Shaig also sought assistance in the installation of a specially designed management system to help the company streamline operations, improve interdepartmental communication, and enhance quality control.

This support has enhanced the business’s efficiency, market performance and brand perception. “We have become a truly customer-centric company with an exceptional level of service that we believe really sets us apart from our competition,” says Shaig.

To bring the business in compliance with international quality standards, AzEx management reached out to the EBRD again in 2021. With support from the EU, it implemented a new quality management system, allowing it to operate in accordance with international standards and raise its reputation. Shortly after, the company successfully passed an external audit and achieved ISO 9001-2015 certification.

This has cemented the company’s reputation as a reliable and certified partner among its clients. As Shaig says, “The purpose of our business and the motivation of the entire team is to go the extra mile: delivering an exceptional level of service and making a difference to the lives of our customers.”

A clear vision and corporate culture ingrained in his staff has helped the business to thrive, despite a challenging operating environment.

Türkiye earthquake aid

At the initiative of Shaig, employees and partners of the Azerbaijan Postal Carriers Association and Azeri Express recently collected and sent aid to Türkiye in response to the earthquakes which caused so much damage in the eastern part of the country.

The aid was delivered from the Azeri Express offices to the earthquake-hit region through the support of Türkiye-based Valour Logistics and included essential clothing, bedding, baby supplies and electronics to help those in need. A notable show of support for those affected by the destruction.

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