As part of the EU4Business initiative, the European Union and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are developing the private sector in Armenia through advisory services and improved access to finance for local SMEs, provided through the SME Finance and Advice Facility.
“Usually business owners come to us, present the issues they have and we advise local consultants and international best-practice advisers to work with them to ensure company growth,”says Tigran Aghabekyan, Principal Manager at EBRD. “We also select certain sectors to develop via Sector Development Activity.”
“Anyone can produce some quality and quantity. We work on making sure there is a consistency of quality, quantity, and time frame,” says Aghabekyan. “Everything from quality control to branding strategy to packaging and sourcing financing is offered by our consultants and advisors. Most companies we work with have skilled management knowledgeable about most of the process with clear knowledge on which areas they need an expert’s opinion. It’s very important that they already understand that advice is available whenever they decide they need it. If business owners want to expand to foreign markets, there’s an international expert available. If they prefer to stay local, a local consultant is standing by to assist. If they seek financing, they can work with our bankers to better structure a deal. We have a comprehensive package of available services.”
Education seminars and trainings are also organised in cooperation with other banks as part of the EBRD’s ‘Women in Business’ supported by the EU Neighborhood Investment Facility and Sweden.
“We’ve supported more than 1,300 enterprises since the EBRD started assisting with advisory services in 2003. The average turnover of the supported business has grown by 50%, the productivity and employment have grown by about 25%, and they have obtained more than 130 million euros in financing.”
“There are very interesting developments in the programme, a big network of women entrepreneurs,” says Aghabekyan. “Some of our clients have achieved remarkable successes. LOOM Weaving, for example, a local producer of knitwear, has been invited to participate in a number of fashion shows, and I know they will grow to become a successful exporting company.”
The founder of Apage Resort and Yell Extreme Park in Yenokavan, Tigran Chibukhchyan, is one of the clients of the EBRD SME Finance and Advice Facility programme. He says: “In 2015 EBRD helped us restructure and bring to order the financial system of our resort’s restaurant facility. They advised us through a consultant from Vink Consulting, who supported us with optimisation of our software programme to be able to closely monitor our financial flows. Since we had a positive experience, we have applied to EBRD again to be able to train and manage our HR department better.”
The rapidly growing business was an unlikely endeavour when Chibukchyan and his family were still starting out – the sleepy and unknown town of Yenokavan was off the map of both tourists and locals. Now the newly renovated roads barely cope with the summer traffic: everyone wants to take a horse tour or zipline across the famous scenic mountains of Armenia. Chibukchyan calls his business a case of social entrepreneurship, and expresses hope that with the help of the programme he will be able to find employees able to handle the fast pace and the planned expansion.
Whether you own a local knitwear producing company, a resort and an extreme park, provided you meet some requirements, the EU-funded SME Finance and Advice Facility is currently open for all your consulting and financing needs, so feel free to apply to become the next success story of enterprise development in Armenia.