The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is aiding a book promotion and literary project in Azerbaijan alongside assistance from the European Union.
EBRD’s Small Business Support (SBS) in Azerbaijan, funded by the European Union, has helped more than 800 companies in the country since its launch in 2003.
The literary project is the brainchild of Nigyar Kocharli (photo) and centres on Ali and Nino, a book about romance between a Muslim Azeri nobleman and a Christian Georgian princess and now the name of Kocharli’s book enterprise.
“I have always been fascinated by books because they change people’s lives,” Kocharli said, sitting in Ali and Nino, her book café in central Baku, according to EBRD. “I used my grandfather’s furniture when I first opened the café. It is new now, but the photos on the walls are still from the original design,” she added.
About 7 per cent of business-owners in Azerbaijan are female. Kocharli studied mathematics but reading was her pastime from an early age. As a child, she says, she fell in love with Ali and Nino and, inspired by the book, launched her business in 2001, pooling $600 into the start-up, buying her stock in Russia and Ukraine. She now employs 70 people in five stores, six departments in stationery shops, two book cafés and an online bookstore. The project was helped along by the EBRD’s Small Business Support.
“Our work consists in developing a more diverse economy with dynamic enterprises like Ms Kocharli’s for the future,” said Lala Rzayeva, the National Programme Manager of the EBRD’s Small Business Support (SBS) in Azerbaijan.
Kocharli said, “I realised the potential to grow from a small to a medium-sized company. But how? It isn’t simply a question of money. You need proper advice and the know-how to develop.”
For Ali and Nino bookstores, the main challenge was related to efficient inventory management and embracing the opportunities of the online market. The SBS team helped Ms Kocharli find an experienced consultant, who made the management of the businesses more efficient through various IT solutions, including inventory management.