For 20 years Farid Novruzi realizes the most daring ideas. In the late 1990s, having firmly settled at the local market, the Novco Group of Companies under the leadership of Novruzi, started to conquer business positions in neighboring countries and eventually succeeded. Farid Novruzi has been to dozens of countries, raising the Azerbaijani flag at the conquered mountain peaks. He dared to take a dangerous trip to Antarctica, and the only continent where he hasn't set his foot yet is Australia. Finding blank spots on the world map, Farid transforms bright impressions into the fascinating story on his Instagram page.
Which personality trait, in your opinion, brought you to this success?
If I had to name one thing, that would be persistence. I never stop at one achievement, I constantly work on myself, I always strive for something bigger. When I was a student (I studied architecture) it was always hard for me to get the work done – I always wanted to improve it, and as a result a small idea developed into something huge. If I plan a trip, then in a big way, I include rare, not touristic places into the program. Well, and if it comes to business – then definitely a big one!
So, this means that you initially targeted large-scale projects?
I always tried to think big and I teach my children the same. Any idea needs development, improvement, and architect thinking helps me to bring any idea "into shape". When in Istanbul I thought of going into business, I straight away began to draw up the strategy, marketing policy, while knowing where exactly the shop will be located, how it will function... After opening the first LC Waikiki shop, I started addressing to different companies with cooperation offers, though I didn't have any funds for it. But it did not keep me from working and thinking big. As a result we managed to realize our ideas and today we function not only at the local market, but also in Georgia, Turkey and we also plan to reach Central Asia...
Do you plan to develop any new spheres? Let's say, entertainment industry, restaurant business?
In 2007-2008, when I got to the market of Georgia, I decided to try out couple new spheres at once: tourism, communications, dry ice production. But soon I understood one thing – you need to do what you are good at and what you like. I like to diversify business, but it can be done by regional expansion or through related areas of activity. Over past few years we started opening coffee shop chains - Bagel Bar, Second Cup; I am interested in this and will keep going in this direction...Today I try to expand my business regionally. All preconditions for this are here: for twenty years we managed to prove ourselves as a reliable business partner, so we get offers from the most diverse markets.
Do you delegate your authority or you always have your finger on the pulse? Is it possible to call your management style authoritarian?
At first I was doing all the work by myself. Naturally, there was not enough time for private life. I flew a lot: at that time we opened Benetton branches in Iran, obtained the rights for opening our shops in the Middle East, I often went to Makhachkala, Georgia, Turkey...These were just short business trips, you could hardly call them travel. I played sports a little, was too fixated on work.
I've got to tell, that one of my hobbies is studying life stories of the famous people. When reading their biography, I tried to find their key life mistakes. And at some point I understood that mostly the reason of their fiasco was inability to control – in modern terms, bad management. The key to success of any business is a professional team and good communication. Otherwise the failure is inevitable.
Since 2007 I began to build my team of professionals. I had more time for myself, started travelling. The team has a strict division of labour, everyone does his own part. I do not interfere with employees' job, I allow them to make independent decisions.
And on what criteria you choose them?
I very much appreciate the sense of humour in people, I always pay attention to this quality. Obviously, the professionalism is in the first place. But I always ask myself: will this person fit in our team, will he feel comfortable here? I try to make sure that employees feel good and that they love this work. Never had I put myself above another person, we always communicate as equals. Novco is the real live organism, inevitably rejecting foreign bodies. In twenty years lots of people went through our company, and the relationships between us were always built on mutual respect. After all, this is earned respect, the authority that descendants eventually inherit...
The western culture imposes the constant activity, and the eastern speaks about the importance of taking the break from time to time, encourages contemplation. Is it compatible?
I started my business together with family – brought the idea, and my sister and brother joined me. Me and my brother are very different: he is a supporter of eastern approach – slow, accurate sustained development, and I am restless by nature. He constantly slows me down, and I thanked him for that more than once: his approach often saved us from failures. I was just saying recently that, if everyone around was like me, we would be broke long ago. People need to be different, complete one another. Of course, there are also moments when it is necessary to stop, wait a little. I as an architect by education I try to maintain balance in everything. It finally leads to a perfect result: beauty and harmony.
Which mistakes did you make, when starting a new business? What would you warn the start-up entrepreneurs about?
I have a motto: I am not afraid to be mistaken – I am afraid not to try. There were lots of mistakes. But this is my experience which is invaluable! Only the one who does nothing is not mistaken, and the risk is always there in life. Especially the risk is high in mountaineering: life depends on it. Therefore everything here is planned down to the last detail – weather, companions, equipment... The loss in business is not lethal, so it's possible to act bolder.
First of all business needs strategy, accurate choice of the target market and competitive pricing. When starting the business, I certainly understood that I needed to fill a clear market need. I liked the bright tones of Benetton, and I took similar brand – LC Waikiki as a partner. As a result we introduced brightness on both local and Georgian market.
Important feature of your business is customer orientation. How did the clientele change during your activity on the market?
Yes, customer service is the basis of everything, because it's our main treasure. Gaining the customer's confidence, inspiring them to come back again and again is our priority, and we always work on it. Recently we made some changes to the policy of My Brands chain, and I personally contacted customers to explain to them that it was made for their own good.
Once I was in Italy with my brother by invitation of one company. Suddenly my sister called and said that one of the customers needed footwear. We dropped everything and went looking for the shoes and eventually found them in another city.
We serve already the third generation of our buyers whom we love and appreciate very much. Recently we celebrated the twentieth anniversary of our company, and we did not forget to also invite our regular customers to show their involvement in our activity and importance to us.
The Novco academy where we regularly hold trainings for personnel, openness on social networks, various innovations which we introduced since 2005, – for example, My Birthday program providing special discounts to customer's birthday – all this is targeted to satisfy even the most demanding clients.
What became a starting point of your trips all over the world?
I always liked to be out on the nature, me and my father often went to our regions, pitched a tent in some beautiful spot, made fire... However, when I got into business, there was no time left for myself anymore, and trips took second place. In 2010 I fell from the quad bike in Gabala. My face was injured and leg broken, I had to spend two months on crutches. Then for the first time it came into my mind to write down everything I saw and experienced. And I opened LiveJournal. First of all it was a message to my little at the time children, ‒ I wanted them to know about the past, to learn to appreciate it. Only later I've come to understand that the accident could've ended up very deplorably. Then I realized that I did not want to postpone my life for later, I wanted to see the world and do it now while I had powers, opportunities and physical endurance to swim across the seas or climb up the mountains. After the recovery, I started to do trekking, go to the Caucasus Mountains, found associates, discovered new places for myself. For example, in the surrounding of Ismayilli I found a very interesting lake Qaranohur. Found it on Google Maps, persuaded the local huntsman to take me there. The route is very difficult, but the revealed beauty was worth it!. Slowly I got involved in mountaineering. The first peak I climbed was Heydar peak in Qusar, then – Shahdagh, Bazarduzu... Then I wished to expand the travel geography, and I began to go all around the world.
And this is when you decided to share your impressions on Instagram?
After conquest of Kilimanjaro, Agridag, Ilinitza Norte, Savalan and other mountain tops I had a new goal: I began to write down for myself interesting places I would like to visit. The Cave of Swallows in Mexico – very hard-to-reach spot was one of such places, but I made it there after all. You'll remember this forever! And very long time ago I saw Tsingy de Bemaraha park in Madagascar in the National Geographic magazine. Eight hours on dirt roads, somewhere transported on the ferry, I reached this place, ended up at the malaria outbreaks where I was bitten by mosquitoes, but, fortunately, everything turned out fine... Eventually I arrived to the Tsingy de Bemaraha Park: the stone forests, similar to coniferous, but sharp, as a razor blade. It was spectacular! As it turns out, "Tsingy" means "to tiptoe". It was needed to be very careful there. Caves, grottoes, rough terrains, labyrinths – in a word, everything I love.
Being in Canada, along with Toronto, Montreal and other large cities, I wanted to see something special. The pearl of Canada is Banff National Park in Alberta, and the Lake Louise – probably, the most beautiful lake in the world. This is where exactly I got the idea to share my impressions on Instagram. I saw feedbacks, interest and it inspired me even more. Now on each my trip I try to learn the little-known facts from local guides and I talk about the experienced emotions.
And how you ended up in Antarctica?
Any traveler, as a rule, has a list of places he would like to visit. I wanted to visit all continents and I almost did, for today there is only Australia left. And, when was offered to visit Antarctica, I accepted it right away. The trip was planned in a year. I have to say, this became the real and the most serious challenge in my life. The shortest way is through Drake Passage, the stretch of water space between South America and Antarctica, the most severe passage in the world where the winds are rampant 365 days a year. A lot of ships sank in it, therefore seamen prefer quieter way through Strait of Magellan. The ship was pitching very badly, literally throwing us from side to side. The waves are impossible to tolerate without drugs. It is dangerous to even just walk on the deck – there is a high possibility to get injured... Antarctica is something completely different from all I've seen before. I really love painting. And so, this atmosphere can be compared to a painting: it's like you find yourself inside a picturesque canvas, where the snow and water are drawn with juicy, intense strokes...
Could you say that travel changed you?
Of course. Travel broadens the mind, meeting and talking to a range of people sits in memory, surrounding beauty gives bright emotions. And in general travel teaches tolerance and love to the world around. Of course, I always had all this in me, but travel revealed these features even more. Actually I am ascetic by spirit, I can live both in five-star hotel, and in a tent, without feeling uncomfortable.
What countries destroyed your expectations or stereotypes about them?
Probably, it's true what they say: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. For example, some pessimist will be horrified after visiting India. But me, being an optimist, I'll talk about its ancient culture, the wonderful Taj Mahal, I will tell stories of the masters whose ancestors built this mausoleum, I will describe picturesque Rajasthan... If you want to travel, you always need to see the bright side!