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What Emerging Market Executives Are Worried About

Members of II’s Emerging EMEA Executive Team discuss their greatest concerns and biggest opportunities in the second year of the pandemic.

A refugee crisis following the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan could derail a bumper year for Turkey’s Coca-Cola Icecek, according to its chief executive Burak Basarir.

Basarir is among the top-scoring chief executives in Institutional Investor’s Emerging EMEA Executive Team, as voted for by over 1,500 buy- and sell-side professionals. The recognition comes as Coca-Cola Icecek is expanding in Central Asia after completing a negotiation to acquire the majority stake in the Coca-Cola bottler in Uzbekistan. At the same time, Basarir has one eye on the movement of refugees around the region. “We are following closely the political instability in Afghanistan and the refugee movements across our key markets such as Pakistan and Turkey,” he said.

It’s the closing of borders — and access to markets — that keeps Grigoriy Fedorishin from Russia’s largest steelmaker Novolipetsk Steel awake at night. “We are witnessing a surge in protectionism and a trend towards further market regionalization,” said Fedorishin, II’s top-scoring chief executive in the metals and mining sector. “Key global economies will continue to defend their positions and internal markets. This could translate into additional barriers, or into more complex trading conditions among countries.” Nonetheless, Fedorishin said, NLMK has been working to insulate its supply chains against unexpected disruptions for some time. “We were able to quickly adapt” when the pandemic hit, he said, noting that the firm entered alternative sales markets and earned the trust of new customers when traditional business stalled.

At TCS Group Holding, a banking group domiciled in Cyprus and operating in Russia as Tinkoff, Russia’s isolated position on the world stage means it is somewhat insulated from geopolitics, according to chief executive Oliver Hughes. Nonetheless, Hughes, who was the highest ranking chief executive in the financial sector, said Tinkoff is growing faster than the competition. Now the firm faces two challenges: how to scale up quickly while maintaining the quality of its service and where to find the tech talent that it needs to grow its platform. Both will depend on the stability of the market.

“Hopefully we will have an uneventful 2022,” he said.



Burak Basarir,  Coca-Cola Icecek

What is the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

Without a doubt, the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak of 2020 and 2021 was the greatest challenge for not only our industry but also for every business and individual around the globe. And it is still not over: New mutations, uneven vaccination rates, [and] disturbance of social life and work have lasting economic impacts also today. The global economic recovery continues, but with a widening gap between advanced economies and many emerging markets and developing economies due to vaccine inequity and a lack of fiscal support. The biggest challenge under such an atmosphere was the constant uncertainty. Maintaining corporate culture and employee dedication was also quite challenging as employees work remotely. I can proudly say that during these unprecedented times, all our employees, business partners, suppliers, and customers worked devotedly and selflessly, prioritizing the safety and wellbeing of people, while ensuring business continuity. I believe today we are even stronger as a multinational company operating in ten countries. 

What was the toughest business decision you made in the last year?

During these stressful times, our main priority has always been the health and safety and economic wellbeing of our employees. At the very beginning of everything, when there was a lot of doubt and uncertainty, at CCI, we promised to leave no one behind and that all jobs were secure with us. [We] committed to never lay off one single employee because of the economic downturn due to the Covid-19. It was a bold promise at the time, but I can proudly say that we stayed as one team, as promised. This pledge was also was welcomed by our people, solidifying their commitment to the company. Thanks to everybody who has worked devotedly, we came out as one of the best performing Coca-Cola bottlers globally out of 2020.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business in the last year?

Uncertainties around limited mobility, curfews, and lockdowns were obviously challenging. Especially the on-trade channel, which beverage companies traditionally rely on considerably during ideal circumstances [and was] halted for a long period of time. The continuity of supply chains [and] the availability of our products in other channels while ensuring the safety of our people were priority topics in our agenda. However, by building on our digitally enabled marketing strategies, and by redirecting our focus and adapting to the evolving consumer trends, we prioritized the packages for people to consume at home, offsetting the negative effects of when other premises closed. We increased the visibility and availability of our products at digital and e-commerce channels significantly. So, I can fairly argue that we captured the new opportunities brought by the pandemic environment, whether it was the emergence of a new channel or a new occasion. Hitting the highest rate of volume growth in the first half of 2021 as a Coca-Cola bottler was not a coincidence but actually an outcome of the strategy and vision of management. We also signed a share purchase agreement in August to acquire the majority stake in Coca-Cola Bottler Uzbekistan following long negotiations and talks that started from 2019. After receiving regulatory approvals, it will be an important step in our history expanding our footprint and strengthening our position in Central Asia with the potential to create further expansion opportunities within the Coca-Cola System.

What geopolitical situations do you expect to impact your business in 2022, and how?

As an emerging and frontier countries bottler, we proved to be resilient and recorded success while creating value for our people, community, and customers. However, regardless of the accelerating vaccination rates in our geographies, the continuation of the pandemic environment with new variants and new uncertainties are the biggest threats. We are also following closely the political instability in Afghanistan and the refugee movements across our key markets such as Pakistan and Turkey. Last but not least, the fragile macro-economic outlook is another challenge we are factoring in when making our future plans on the back of commodity-related inflationary pressures, a volatile foreign exchange environment, weak fiscal balances, and deteriorating purchasing power of the consumers. As the IMF says, the recovery is not assured until the pandemic is beaten back globally. For this reason, we work on our risk mitigation plans along with different scenarios as we did in the past.

What’s the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

Maybe not a lesson but years of experience have taught me more and more that the essence of everything is people. Starting from my own team, our employees, distributors, vendors, customers, clients, and our communities, all you do at the end of the day has to have a positive impact on people, to create value for them. Listening to their needs, empathizing with them, and genuinely caring is the only way. I always tell my colleagues that as long as you have a purpose in life and love and passion to fulfill this, you can not be unsuccessful. 



Grigoriy Fedorishin, Novolipetsk Steel

What is the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

We are witnessing a surge in protectionism and a trend towards further market regionalization. In 2021, matters related to regulating CO2 emissions are coming to the forefront. High product price volatility also triggers countermeasures from regulators.

What was the toughest business decision you made in the last year?

The Covid-19 pandemic had a significant impact on all areas of our business last year. Such changes are difficult to forecast, but we had been working on ensuring the stability of our business in the face of external conditions for several years now. Hence, we were able to quickly adapt, increase utilization rates where possible, continue our strategy implementation despite various challenges, and enter alternative sales markets, as well as earn the trust of existing and new customers. But most importantly, we were able to maintain safe working conditions for our employees and, therefore, their families.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business in the last year?

We went ahead with implementing our investment program in full and in line with investors’ expectations. As part of our efforts to develop low-cost production, we completed several landmark strategy projects in 2020, during the low market period, meaning we were fully equipped with additional production volume on top of that for this year’s rapid recovery of demand.

What geopolitical situations do you expect to impact your business in 2022, and how?

Key global economies will continue to defend their positions and internal markets. This could translate into additional barriers against all, or into more complex trading conditions among countries. 

What’s the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

Stick to your core values; don’t take shortcuts.



Oliver Hughes, TCS Group Holding

What is the greatest challenge for your sector this year?

The leading financial institutions in Russia are having a very good 2021. All are growing, especially in retail. As a digital player, Tinkoff is growing considerably faster than the market. So the main challenges are first, how to scale up quickly whilst maintaining our high quality of service, and second, where to find the tech talent that we need to develop our platform in the coming years.

What was the toughest business decision you made in the last year?

The toughest decision was to slow down our online consumer lending business in March last year as we went into Covid. In the event, the Russian market bounced back very quickly and we resumed strong growth in the third quarter.

Have there been any unexpected opportunities for your business in the last year?

The Covid crisis was also an opportunity for Tinkoff. We moved our staff into remote working very quickly and smoothly and the creativity levels, usually high in Tinkoff, went through the roof. We launched new products and services even more quickly and strengthened our competitive position in the market, particularly in terms of growth in customer numbers.

What geopolitical situations do you expect to impact your business in 2022, and how?

Difficult to say. Russia is fairly insulated from the world economy as a result of recent geopolitics and so hopefully we will have an uneventful 2022.

What’s the most important lesson you have learned in your career?

With a smart, hardworking team you can do anything.

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