Oruj Ibrahimov: "I realize and expand business by digitizing it"

11:49 - 16.01.2023

In the post-pandemic period, it is observed that entrepreneurs are embarking on new steps in business and are expanding existing businesses by introducing new technologies and methods. Certain work on business development both in the external and local markets. For each period, there are people who will provide their support in these cases. These people have extensive experience in marketing and sales, as well as in the implementation of many business projects. They are called business consultants. At this time, we decided to interview a business consultant.

Our interlocutor is Oruj Ibrahimov, a business consultant who is an influential and well-known specialist in his field. Mr. Ibrahimov has 9 years of experience in banking. For the last 5 years, he headed the departments of corporate communications, marketing, and business development. During his work period, he implemented many important projects at national and international levels. He also has a large portfolio of both corporate and private clients that will be beneficial to any business. According to him, one of the clients he advises has an annual turnover of $19-20 million. At the same time, there is a project with an annual turnover of 300-400 million manat, which is underway. Let's start the interview by finding out who is a business consultant.

- Oruj, who do you think is a business consultant?

- I want to answer this question with an interesting story. More than 60 years ago, the

head of a toothpaste corporation was approached by a man from the street.

He said he knew how to increase production profits and it would hardly it wouldn't cost them anything. He wanted $100,000 for his idea. The management of the organization thought it unnecessary to pay such a huge amount of money. It was decided to summon his staff of specialists and set the task of discovering the secret. But the brainstorming of the best specialists failed to bring the desired result, and the head of the corporation signed a check for 100,000 dollars. In exchange for the check, he received a white piece of paper on which was written only three words: “Make the hole bigger”. The company immediately decided to increase the diameter of the hole from 5 to 6 millimeters. Thanks to this small change, the corporation's profits increased by 40%. Toothpaste sales increased as people began to run out of toothpaste faster. But no one noticed this, and if they did, they had no reason to complain. If you ask why I mention this, the answer is very simple. Even 60 years later, nothing has changed. Some people know how to increase your capital, let's call them consultants. Often companies themselves go to consulting companies for help in a particular area. Some get results, and some need time to get the result, it typically happens in the field of HR. Because every transformation takes time. However, it doesn't work that way in sales, It's either there or it's not. Unfortunately, in most cases, consultants do not understand what the client wants from them, and what they can offer. This leads to the following offer: let's rebrand you, shoot some commercials for you, conduct a campaign on social networks, and so on. As a result, only the cover or the color of the logo becomes brighter, but there is no sale. But there are people like our hero in the toothpaste story who know how to increase sales.

A consultant is someone with some experience who sees the business from a different perspective. From production to service, it can increase sales and take service to a more rewarding level. A person who reads business books all day long is less effective if he or she doesn't know how to apply them. For example, everyone knows Flip Kotler as the founder of marketing. At the same time, Jack Trout also wrote some very useful books on marketing, one of which is my favorite. "Marketing Wars." are compared very often. Jack Trout himself put an end to these comparisons with one sentence. He said that when Flip Kotler was writing a book, I was selling and applying what he wrote about. To write and to apply are very different concepts. That's why it's important for a business consultant to have both theoretical and practical knowledge. The first question to ask a business consultant is: What have you already done? What successful projects have you implemented?

- Our second question follows from what you said last time. I wonder what business projects Oruj Ibrahimov has implemented?

- I have had a lot of successful projects. In some of them, I was. As a project manager and in others I participated as a specialist in my field. For example, there were projects aimed at expanding non-cash payments in the country. So let me share some statistics with you. In

In 2013, the number of card users was 47% in Belarus and 9% in Azerbaijan. After I implemented the project, 9% rose to 16-19%. Thanks to the project, the interest of people in the country in cashless payment have increased. It may seem easy today.  But the technical systemic capabilities and tools were a very complicated process. Now, these kinds of projects are called fintech projects.

The creation of the website of the company where I worked was one of the successful projects. In 2019 was chosen as a business and financial platform with the best "fintech" solutions in Azerbaijan. Also, in the 2018 Asian Banking & Finance Wholesale Banking Awards 2018 event held in Singapore, our mobile app was awarded the "Best Banking App" category. I personally presented the product to the panel of judges, which included representatives of the Big Four from Deloitte, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, and Ernst&Young. These were very important factors. I was the manager of some of those projects.

But there is another approach to business. Sometimes you combine different businesses within the holding company and form a new business format. Not only was I able to build a sales mechanism for member institutions, but I also attracted other companies in the holding company and implemented a mutually beneficial sales system in them. Holding companies and implementing a mutually beneficial sales system in these institutions. I increased the sales of an establishment that had no sales in a way that never since that division of the business opened. For complete clarity, these were hotels, factories, etc. You may be wondering how different businesses can be related to each other. The fact of the matter is that the business consultant is the one who can see this and make the connection. This step is very important in the development of any group of companies. It is very important that small companies within such a group or holding company pass the business on to each other. It's not a referral of customers to each other. A product is formed that includes the service of another business. Perhaps the customer doesn't realize that he or she is also a user of another service. I can't name too many names because of the confidentiality agreement. But as a former bank employee, I can give an example of bank products to illustrate the point. For example, a bank gives a loan. The bank can provide insurance for the loan. The insurance company does this job. If the loan is related to travel, you involve a company, which can be a travel company or an outside partner in the institution that will serve those customers. Here the bank gets a certain percentage of benefits from working with the insurance and travel company, and the insurance company acquires a new customer. With a properly built business, this mechanism will have a return in the form of tourism, insurance, and banking cooperation. Here the bank thinks not only about itself but also about its clients, insurance and travel companies included.

- What project do you remember most from your time at the bank?

- At the time our projects were focused on "fintech solutions". As of today, I can proudly say that my role in making payments via mobile devices is both on Android and iOS. I started this project at the bank where I worked. There was a lot of work, negotiations, and signed cooperation contracts. I started this project at the bank where I worked, a lot of work was done, and negotiations and contracts were signed with some institutions. I can safely say that today I am one of those, who started the implementation of the method of cashless payments through mobile devices which are nowadays used by very few banks in the country. In 2019, I was approached by the VISA campaign and offered to participate in the project VTS - Visa Token Service. Despite all the technical difficulties at that time I thought it was very necessary and important, I was chosen by our bank as a project manager for the adaptation of our mobile application and started the project.

- Have you had any projects in any other areas of business?

- Lately, I have been consulting in the insurance industry. There have been some interesting successes in this field. In general, my vision and approach to sales increase are different. Because I implement business by digitizing it. I don't just describe and show you how much money you can make if you do it. Because I have extensive contacts, I don't just focus on sales but also expand the business and bring in the right people who know their business. I tell the person who gets my advice that we can introduce them to someone to start a new business or take an existing business to the next level. Both parties have an interest here. Because our market is the way it is, it needs connections, it's called Networking in English. Maybe someone sells a product or service on their own and is very successful. But he needs, you to increase his sales. At the same time, you also need some tools to start a business. But you don't know about each other, you don't even know that you can offer each other anything. That can be done by a business consultant who has great connections and can look at the business from the outside. Fortunately, the companies I consult with today, are doing well in sales and growing because of this approach. We get the right people together at the right time and do things that will benefit both parties businesses. Because first and foremost, it's important to me that the business that I advise is sustainable and highly successful.

- You stressed that the business must be successful. I wonder what

is this an indicator that a business consultant's work is successful?

So how do you measure the effectiveness of your work?

- That's an interesting question. I would say that marketers and entrepreneurs, as well as business consultants, have a favorite melody. It's the sound made by the cash register (laughs). You have no idea how excited we get when we hear that "dzn" sound when we open the cash register. If the cash register is open, it means there's a sale going on, if there's a sale going on, it means the work of the business consultant is effective. However, we shouldn't forget about building a mechanism for feedback and customer satisfaction after the sale.

 - But in what time frame should the business consultant support the business entrepreneur? Sometimes entrepreneurs think that they will always depend on the consultant.

- Consulting can be intermittent if the business is organized properly. But an outside perspective is always needed. A business consultant focuses on a specific business. Do you want to increase sales and improve the quality of service? When you tell a business consultant what you want, he already knows which direction you should go.

- Do you only collaborate in the local market, or do you advise entrepreneurs in foreign markets as well?

- To be honest, most of my consulting is for foreign markets. Our work with American investors has been successful for the last 2 years. Well for obvious reasons the market there is larger and more profitable. Here I can share that now we are working on a project. This offer came to me from My classmate who is currently studying at Harvard, Elvin Aliyev. The idea belongs to Elvin, the investors are also very interested in this project because it is a fintech project, and most want to participate. At this stage, negotiations are ongoing, and the result will not take long, although the amount of work is not small.

- Is it possible to implement all the business ideas?

- I have a saying and I like it a lot. It says that Creativity is about coming up with new ideas and innovation is about implementing new ideas. If I'm not mistaken, the author of the idea is Theodore Levitt. Everyone today has certain thoughts and ideas. But how many of them can realize their idea? A person cannot realize his idea alone, there must be specialists around him. That is, there must be a specific team, but not everyone can work in a team. To do this it is necessary to correctly assess the person and his potential. Since you need to know exactly who can provide you with professional services in your work. A business consultant can help in recruiting the missing elements. Contacts play a big role here.

- Do you have a business project you haven't done yet?

- Yes, I have a project with an annual turnover of 300 million manats, which has not yet been implemented. It has to do with bank cards, and I have been working on this project since 2020. It is a great project, and there is a need in society today. I am meeting with the chairmen of several banks about the implementation and introduction of this project.

- Can you share some details about your project, I promise I won't tell anyone.

- (Laughs) Sure. Just imagine that the bank has a turnover of 300-600 million manats within a year at the expense of one card product. Of course, here you need to establish correct communication, which is not insignificant. The best part of this product will be that whoever does this will be the first bank to use the product I mentioned. True, then there will be competitors, but because the bank will be the first, it will have a certain head start. It takes 3 months to it takes three months to get results. We can complete this project within three months.

- We talked about the projects you were involved in as a business consultant and a direct supervisor. But let's face it, people always wonder if a person who gives business advice to other people, their own business, and does he even have to have one?

- He may or may not have one. It's not an important prerequisite. In fact, if you dig a little deeper, this is my business. I sell my knowledge, my ideas, my experience, my view of business, and my services as a consultant. But in case you're wondering, (laughs) I have my own business, and it's going very well. But I don't like to talk about it much, even most of my friends don't know. Because that can't be the basis for me being a consultant.

- Thank you for your time. Unfortunately, for reasons of confidentiality, you can't tell us which companies you work with and what methods you use.

- The issue of confidentiality is one that I pay special and is a priority for me. When I give consultation, there is a confidentiality agreement signed with the entrepreneurs. Sometimes

entrepreneurs say it's not necessary, but I disagree. The contract must be signed. It's important from the point of view of transparency of work. I have worked many times with investors or entrepreneurs who provide the same services or sell the same product. But I have written a separate business plan for each of them. Just because the business plan I wrote, worked for one, I don't apply it to another business in the same area. Individuality is very important in this field. As for the interview, I enjoyed it too. I hope that what we have discussed will be useful to the readers.

Gunel Azada