Moscow Inlet for Small Business Exports
20 Mar 2016
By Blogging Consultant James Brindley
"I was very afraid at first and even refused to participate in the event, but coworkers persuaded me to go because there would be experienced export company staff who would join us. Also my husband supported me with his faith. After that, things started moving.”
Odinakhon Saidova is a member of Uzbekistan’s growing entrepreneurial society crossing more than one divide. By taking part in September 2015’s ‘World Food Moscow’ exhibition in Moscow, with support from UNDP’s ‘Aid for Trade’ project, she has demonstrated the dynamics of the new face of Uzbek business.
Since 2011, phases of the ‘Aid for Trade’ project have been working with small businesses throughout Uzbekistan to build their business connections overseas, as part of a push to develop the nation’s small and medium business sector, while also growing Uzbekistan’s image as a good option for overseas investment and growth.
Taking part in international business exhibitions has been a principal part of this work. Through the years, the ‘Aid for Trade’ project has supported the participation of over 60 businesses like Ms. Saidova’s in 15 trade fairs, held as far from home as China’s eastern urban hubs and setting up over 43 million US dollars in contracts.
“The immediate impact of businesses successfully getting involved in trade fairs like ‘World Food Moscow’ is the establishment of lucrative contracts and more employment places – this is important” said Shohruh Khodjaev of Uztadbirkoreksport Foreign Trade Company, established by the Government of Uzbekistan to support SME exports.
“It brings in new practices and technologies that build a business’s international success, which can be shared among other entrepreneurs, while also giving foreign buyers a window into Uzbekistan’s business potential. Most importantly it gives confidence to businesses, including women-led businesses, that accessing an overseas market is not an impossible dream."
As co-manager of the LLC ‘Agroproduct Export Agrofirma’ that produces a range of fruits and vegetables, Ms. Saidova’s success through the project has brought considerable benefits to both her own business and her broader community. During the exhibition she established a 100,000 US dollar contract with the ‘Siberia Invest’ company, for which she is in the process of sending a second shipment of produce.
Establishing this contract allowed her to take on an additional 10 hectares of land for growing legumes, which are in high demand in foreign markets. She also started building a cold storage unit for grapes, another product with significant export potential. By reducing product costs, Ms. Saidova has brought on eleven seasonal workers, and is creating additional employment opportunities for her community.
Ms. Saidova efforts have not just been about building her communities’ financial security, but also establishing a positive example for women throughout Uzbekistan. Her success is one example of a growing shift in the Uzbekistan’s business world, where women are receiving stronger support from their families and husbands to pursue careers in national and international business. Ms. Saidova’s work has been particularly inspirational, earning the 'Best Project by Women Entrepreneur' award in 2013, while the ‘World Food Moscow’ exhibition gave her another opportunity to show what could be done.
“I was very impressed with the exhibition, because it was very interesting and useful for the cooperation and development of business, and presented an outcome to strive for,” she said. “It is important to work hard and love what you are doing, and you will see results very soon.”
Conducted since 2014, Phase III of the ‘Aid for Trade’ project has been the latest stage in a long effort to boost the development of small business in Uzbekistan, engaging with over 160 rural and urban businesses.
Efforts to grow gender balance in the business sector have included boosting the participation of women-led businesses in international business training projects, and providing key capacity-building and technological assistance. Particular focus has been on enhancing and strengthening public understanding of the important role women play in Uzbekistan’s ever-expanding business sector.