The growing influence of the CIS region within the New Silk Road has perked up many ears and pushed for investments within the region. In the first interview of 2022, we decided to speak with Great Silk Road Group, a recognized and dependable transportation and logistics company in Turkmenistan that has a long list of large international clients: a testament to their services, capabilities, and capacities.
Through our conversation with Alexander Belyayev, Head of Projects Division at Great Silk Road Group, we grasped an insight into the long of list achievements of the company, the logistics market in Turkmenistan and the CIS region and finally, the increasing developments in the country to facilitate the rail freight the New Silk Road. Furthermore, the interview illustrated the various services offered by Great Silk Road, their ethos towards their clients and the long-standing commitment to providing value-oriented services.
In conversation with Alexander…
NSRN: Great Silk Road Group was established in Turkmenistan a decade ago, and since then, has grown to over 185 employees. Over these years, the company acquired many interesting customers, such as the US Embassy, Cargill, Coco-Cola and most recently, Toyota. Evidently, there are many milestones for the Great Silk Road. What would be some of the key highlights for the company over these years?
Alexander: As you said, the “Great Silk Road” Group over the decade has seen spectacular growth, and today the company is one of the most recognizable brands in the area of transportation and logistics suppliers. In the last years, our customers’ list includes companies such as: Petronas, Hyundai Engineering, Hyundai Amco, Toyo Engineering, Ronesans, DMS, Schlumberger, Grundfos, Zeppelin and many more.
In our recent achievements, we have also acquired a fleet of railcars, as well as specialized equipment from the renowned Faymonville company amongst which includes five units of Multimax Trailers with carrying capacity up to 140 tons and twenty-four units of Combimax, which are hydraulic modular axles with a carrying capacity of up to 250 tons. They primarily help us to fulfil demands in Turkmenistan and the surrounding regions. Great Silk Road Group also secured an investment project to modernize and repair Turkmen dry сargo vessel MV “Balkan”. Since 2018, the vessel has been under the management of the Great Silk Road Group. MV “Balkan” is a unique vessel in the Caspian Sea, as it is designed not just for the transportation of containers but also for bulk and project cargo.
One of the most important milestones to be pointed out is that Great Silk Road Group started a shipping company located both in Turkmenistan and Turkey. There we provide services in the field of international sea freight on the routes from the Black Sea, Marmara, the Mediterranean Sea to the Caspian Sea and vice versa. Our services include a stable schedule of cargo delivery by sea during the navigation season through the Volga-Don Canal, and at the same time, the most competitive prices are offered to all customers of the company for any type of cargo, including partial cargo (consolidation). The schedule of departure of ships from the ports of Turkey to Turkmenistan is made on a weekly basis. All services can be arranged with ‘door-to-door’ facility.
NSRN: As there are many logistics companies in the region offering a range of services, what sets your service apart from the others in this region, which is very competitive in this field?
Alexander: One of the main criteria that supports the positive progress of the Group is our internal management system. Most logistics companies here have not yet implemented the ISO system, which leaves them lagging behind those who have it in place. Among other things, we are constantly improving our internal systems by resorting to various IT technologies and software, which contributes to accelerated processing of information at the input and output stages, reducing the likelihood of human error, increasing transparency, and offering convenient interactions with the clients.
Additionally, Great Silk Road has successfully passed the ISO certification procedure, carried out by Intertek and SGS companies for compliance to ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 requirements. The process-oriented service allows us to deliver immediate goals and better support our clients.
NSRN: For many people, Turkmenistan is an interesting market, with natural gas and agriculture products playing a huge role in the country’s export business. How would you describe the local logistics market? And how is Great Silk Road uniquely positioned to cater to this?
Alexander: As you rightly noted, the Turkmen market is very interesting, with many foreign companies purchasing large quantities of Turkmen raw materials. Despite the situation with the pandemic in the world, the demand for Turkmen products such as urea, potassium, sulfur, polymers, textiles and other goods has only increased.
Our company is a direct participant and consultant in government programs to increase the demand and competitiveness of Turkmen goods and raw materials, where we provide analysis of logistics markets, give suggestions for delivering discounts, reducing various fees and duties, and also offer other solutions that can contribute to the development of logistics and trade of Turkmenistan.
NSRN: Further from Turkmenistan, Great Silk Road is also present in the Uzbekistan market. In your opinion, what are the nuances of doing logistics in the CIS region in general? What is your advice to company who want to venture into Central Asia?
Alexander: Today, in addition to Turkmenistan, our Group of companies are also situated in Turkey, UAE, Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, Georgia. Having visited and worked in various countries across the world, it is obvious that the system and mentality of the Central Asian countries are different from the countries in Europe or the rest of Asia.
Despite the distinctive features in the thought process of peoples and regions in Central Asia, every year, we observe a trend of increasing globalization that embraces humanity and considering the latest technologies further enables the process of integration into the region. Thus, when thinking of investments or opening a company in the countries of Central Asia, first of all, as elsewhere in the world, one needs to accurately define the project or the type of business activity, designate a specific framework, carry out proper market research, identify risks with their subsequent depreciation, as well as choose a reliable partner.
NSRN: With the formal introduction of the Belt and Road Initiative, rail freight between China and the EU received a significant boost. However, most rail traffic passes through Russia instead of Central Asia. On the other hand, Central Asia is a region not to be overlooked when it comes to this initiative. - What is your assessment of the impact and future development of the New Silk Road in your region? Specifically, as Great Silk Road already had expertise in conducting rail freight, what considerations are necessary, especially when transporting to or from the CIS region?
Alexander: The route of the ancient Silk Road ran through the territory of Turkmenistan since ancient times. Currently, work is underway at the state level to improve and develop transit through Turkmenistan. The programs include full-scale analyses of cargo flows, throughput, terms of registration and processing of goods and block trains, discounts, creating a "Single Window" within the framework of customs and port structures, and more.
All of the above will favourably affect the development of Turkmenistan as a transit state, as well as attract new and existing transport corridors, including the "One Belt One Road". In the coming years, we will definitely witness positive changes. Regarding rail freight in the CIS region, the process is straightforward and routine, with software by the government that help us generate tariffs. As experts in the region, interested parties can contact Great Silk Road Group for rail freight service on the New Silk Road and locally within the CIS countries.
NSRN: The last two years have been harrowing in terms of rates and lack of equipment for the logistics industry. I think everyone is hoping that the situation will improve globally this year. Did these challenges affect your business, if so, how? What are your expectations from 2022?
Alexander: Of course, the last two years have had a strong impact on the whole world. Due to the increase in pricing and the lack of containers, the implementation of many projects has remained in standby mode. But despite the identified negative consequences caused by the pandemic, we also observed some positive results, such as the complete revision of all private and public sector structures by diversifying internal management systems and interactions with the world in a short period.
As an example, today in the region, almost all public and private organizations are interested in introducing electronic document management. One-stop-shop systems are being introduced in customs and port structures, which will lead to the faster and easier passage of goods for export/import and transit. Having studied the market, starting this year, we expect the awakening of many projects that were on standby, which will entail a positive trend in the development of the countries in the region.
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