Today in the Yerevan Expo center “New opportunities for Syrian Armenians” exhibition was launched within the framework of «Week of economic opportunities» business conference. Participants of the exhibit are Syrian-Armenians who moved to Armenia in the past few years as a result of the Syrian war, and are engaged in business enterprises in the country.
Representatives of more than 70 companies and private businessmen today in the Yerevan Expo center had the opportunity to present their products and services not only to those in attendance of the exhibit, but also to President Serzh Sargsyan. Accompanied with the Ministers of Diaspora and Economy, Sargsyan took part in the opening ceremony of the exhibition. During the tour in the exhibition President Sargsyan not only looked into the results of hard work of Syrian-Armenians in various business fields, but also got more familiar with some current issues they are experiencing and their development plans.
The participants of the exhibition from various spheres – anywhere between printing, publishing, jewelry, woodworking, tourism, needlework, instrument-making and machine-tool industry, food production and others, assured that the quality of their products is guaranteed, which is perhaps not only due to their conscientious business, but also result of the experience and skills developed in Syria. Today in the homeland the Syrian Armenian businessmen pursue only one goal – to expand and reach the volumes they used to have in Syria in the past. Almost everyone would mention that the number one challenge in Armenia is the size of the market.
“We perhaps have no competitors among the local producers. There are plenty of Chinese and Turkish products in the market, but our products are different – we have better quality, Italian quality and at an affordable price”, – the executive director of «AVA Shoes» company Andranik Safar told Panorama.am. The head of shoe-making company underlined that he moved his business to the homeland from Syria, where he also used to work in the same field. The businessman said that after leaving Syria he decided to open business in Russia, but because of certain “scuffles with documents” he decided to settle down in Armenia ten months later and together with two partners established the «AVA Shoes» company. The size of Armenian market is rather small, but that’s hardly a problem for Andranik and his partners.
“We decided to make shoes not only for the Armenian market, but also for foreign markets. Now we are exporting to Russian, European and Arab markets”, – Andranik Safar said, assuring their products have Italian quality and at a more competitive price. “We do low-cost products”, – he said. When it comes to settling in the homeland, Andranik has firmly made up his mind: “We are trying to settle here, to expand here”.
Same intentions in place for the owner of #Sport (HashtagSport) shop Aram Plkhean. His firm produces and sells sportswear. And by the way, the company established just over a year ago already has around 50 employees. “I am sure, we have one of the most comfortable shops in Yerevan”, – Aram told Panorama.am, adding that one of the main reasons to launch this business was the great demand in the Armenian market. “When we came to Armenia, we felt really sorry that people would praise Turkish products, telling that ‘this is not Chinese, this is Turkish’.
That truly created this uneasy feelings for us. In Syria we used to be in this business and we thought it would be great if we could make Armenian things in Yerevan, rather than import Turkish or Chinese products”. At the present, according to Aram, they are importing the raw materials, and the rest is made here in Armenia. “Same products available elsewhere in foreign markets, we are making here in Yerevan”. We are making sportswear – the bottom and top – I mean, everything you need for everyday life. Here we design it, make it, print it and being sold in our own store”, – the owner of the firm told Panorama.am Aram’s family, too, used to work in the same field in Syria.
They used to be knitwear and clothing wholesalers, owning 6-7 stores. He is also certain about staying in the homeland: “Should I be willing to leave, I wouldn’t stay here for so long now”, – he said. Presently the only wish he has is about expanding his business. They are aiming at enlarging the volumes of production, eyeing on exports to Russia and Iran.
The general mood among the participants of the exhibition testified that while refugees in other countries would have difficulties in getting integrated with the local societies, most Syrian-Armenians have already overcome this. Moreover, they are now able to work in the fields where they have skills, and on the other hand they are doing well bringing in their best practices from abroad to their homeland.
President Sargsyan appreciated these efforts during his tour in the exhibition and said all that was quite encouraging. Apart from Syrian Armenian businessmen, the exhibition also hosted representatives of companies offering jobs and services to Syrian Armenians, as well as representatives of government agencies and international organisations offering support programs. There have been numerous projects and programs in Armenia since 2012 in support of Syrian Armenians, implemented by the Ministry of Diaspora and other government agencies and partner oragnisations, local and international bodies. For example, around 500 Syrian Armenians received varuous kind of support from the SME Development National Center of Armenia, more than 100 business projects were drafted, among which 85 received loans with beneficial terms from the National Center.
During the past four years, training and education programs about tax and customs legislation in Armenia has been offered to around 450 Syrian Armenians, a meeting with the President has been organised for around 40 Syrian Armenian businessmen to discuss relevant issues.