In ancient times the Great silk road crossed the territory of the present-day Karachai-Cherkessia. One of the lucrative goods that caravans transported was «the Golden fleece» and products made of it.
Today we have a good opportunity to remember about it: the Company "Quest-A" is constructing a modern wool processing, yarn spinning and knitwear production factory. This factory will undoubtedly contribute to the revival and preservation of traditional crafts, but now on modern innovative industrial level.
A new wool processing and spinning factory started its activities in the capital of Karachai-Cherkes Republic. The factory was constructed in the framework of the investment project initiated by the «Quest-A» company. It is a modern high-capacity enterprise focused on innovative technologies. The company was founded by Khalkechev Marat Nurchukovich, Doctor of Economics, Chairman of Board of trustees under KChR Ministry of the Interior.
THE HISTORY of the factory began in 2010 at the international economic forum held in Sochi, where the Karachai-Cherkes Republic presented, among other innovative programs, a project providing construction of a modern wool processing and yarn production factory. Taking into account that the agricultural sector and especially sheep-breeding were well developed in the KChR, and woolens produced by local craftswomen were famous far beyond the North Caucasus, the project was considered promising and was widely appreciated by the business community. Very short time has passed since the project presentation day, but plans are already coming true. More than 70% of construction works have been realized to date, several production units are in operation, including the staff-training workshop. For almost three years, the factory has been producing a large range of knitwear and custom-made garments. No wonder that its products are popular in different regions of the country: from the first days of its creation the company «Quest-A» is focused on high quality. The head of the company Marat Khalkechev is sure that by 2014 all construction and erection works as well as starting-up procedures will have been completed. Future prospects envisage construction of a special yarn-dyeing workshop, construction of an own knitting factory and development of related production areas. Of course, the major concern of the Director is the preparation of highly qualified personnel capable to perform all the operations that the innovative process flow requires. The top management strives to meet this challenge successfully: well thought-out cycles of intensive training are organized, workers take internships abroad and foreign specialists come for consultations and training of the personnel in situ.
There are a good many enterprises which work actively in Karachai-Cherkessia, including new ones, but an enterprise of such a sophisticated type is unique in the Republic: it is a high-tech, low-waste and, above all, ecofriendly factory — a very important fact for our resort region.
Editors of the «Golden Plaza» magazine R. Erkenov and B. Appayev visited workshops of the new enterprise and had a talk with the Director of the factory Marat Khalkechev.
B. Appayev: Marat Nurchukovich, could you tell us a little about yourself and about when and how the idea to create the company occurred to you?
M. Khalkechev: I was born in Cherkessk. After finishing studies at secondary school, I entered the Karachai-Cherkes technological Institute and graduated from it with the degree of civil engineer. After military service I continued my education in Moscow. There I defended my Ph.D and Doctoral theses.
I recollect that in my childhood I often watched with interest my grandmother spinning wool yarn and then knitting sweaters, shawls, socks and other things by hand.
Political reforms of nineties brought huge changes, many sought to create their own business. We, few friends, directed our attention to yarn supply and went in yarn purchasing and selling activities. Having visited several yarn production factories, we concluded that we could produce it ourselves, even of better quality. Initially, we decided to carry out business in Moscow neighbouring provinces, but things didn't go well due to the lack of raw materials in the capital nearby region. On the contrary, here, in our Republic, in the North Caucasus, people have been breeding and shearing sheep from time immemorial. We have decided to construct the spinning mill in our native city of Cherkessk: apart from everything else, it is also a convenient transport junction; the region abounds in hot water springs that can be used both for technological needs and for heating of buildings. The construction site was allotted in a marshy place representing an abandoned wasteland without any utilities or service lines. We had to exert maximum effort in order to bring the site up to the necessary condition. Today we have already constructed two buildings, the third one is in the course of erection, the fourth and additional facilities are next to build. All these constructions will be heated by thermal source water.
R. Erkenov: Effective and successful enterprises, undoubtedly, favour the growth of the regional economy. People should really feel positive changes in the standard of well-being. In your opinion, what particular advantage will the citizens of the Republic take from this new enterprise? Indeed, such a large project needs large investments.
M. Khalkechev: At present, interest in wool as raw material, is unfairly fading. The reason is that the wool produced on private owner-farms or on large sheep-breeding farms cannot be easily marketed. We did establish a network of wool collection offices where everyone, including rural population, can sell unlimited quantities of wool. In addition, new enterprise means new jobs for residents of the Republic.
Editor's note: New factory will create 350 additional jobs in the Republic (which is not limit). Indeed, this is also additional tax revenues to the republican budget.
You've mentioned investments. On a competitive basis, among four projects of thirty-four tendered, we've got a bank ten-year term credit covered by governmental guarantees. These state guarantees were at first approved by the Ministry of Economy and the Ministry of Regional development, which had appreciated the economic efficiency of our project. Credits allowed us to purchase modern equipment, to start construction of other buildings and workshops. Part of these funds was spent to finance the internship training of 15 specialists abroad, at a famous Italian yarn factory, as well as to invite foreign experts for training of our personnel directly on the workplace.
R. Erkenov: Marat Nurchukovich, President of the Russian Federation V. Putin noted in one of his speeches that 30% of Russian woollen products were manufactured in Karachai-Cherkessia. It is an important quantity, of course. How can your enterprise help to increase this percentage? And what could you do to reduce the part of foreign yarn, the use of which is still considerable in our country and the import of which is rather costly?
M. Khalkechev: I would like to make a special emphasis on the fact that our project became possible due to the ambitious program launched by V. Putin and providing creation of 25,000,000 new jobs. According to our analysis, we can satisfy 25-30% of the demand for yarn. The rest is so far to be imported from abroad. A large part of imported yarn contains acryl, which is dangerous for human health. We will produce natural wool yarn without any synthetic additives. The production capacity of our factory allows to process up to 5 thousand tons of wool per year.
R. Erkenov: A huge number. Surely, it will ask enormous quantities of raw material.
M. Khalkechev: Unfortunately, such quantities of raw materials are not available in Karachai-Cherkessia. Similar Nevinnomysskaya factory can buy only 25 thousand tons of wool per year. Formerly farms had large herds of sheep and cattle. Now the situation has changed for the worse, although there are enough pasture, grassland, mixed fodders. A special attention must be drawn to this sector; then there will be a lot of wool and meat. Moreover, now the population and farms need not to go far to sell the wool they produce; we will buy it on the spot and will pay ready money or finished products.
The Karachai breed of sheep is famous for its delicate and delicious meat. However, this breed gives little wool. Therefore, we must pay attention to merino sheep, they give wool of high quality. For example, you can get 1 or 2 kg of wool from one sheep of Karachai breed, we will buy it at the price of 15 roubles per kilogram. Merino sheep gives from 6 to 10 kg of wool, which costs 50-55 roubles per kg. Thus, breeding sheep, be it on a private farm or at an industrial complex, will become profitable.
R. Erkenov: Thanks to your enterprise, sheep-breeding industry is becoming really advantageous in our Republic. Taking into consideration high capacities of the factory, what can you say about the environmental safety of the enterprise?
M. Khalkechev: Since the project is qualified as an innovative, we strive to meet all the parameters that this qualification imposes. For example, we clean the water used for wool washing directly in the production area, that is to say that the polluted water is not drained into the purifying pits as used to proceed at other factories. This task is difficult, but feasible. Moreover, using of innovative technologies permits to make profits even of the contaminated water. How is it? Firstly, if you separate fat from process water, you can isolate «lanolin», which is widely used in other industries, including the cosmetic production. Secondly, this water contains mineral compounds that can be used in agriculture. Thirdly, when putrefying, this water produces gas which can be used for ignition of gas installations. After such a multi-stage purification, recycled water arrives to the workshop highly purified. This process can be called «closed water treatment system». It is very ecofriendly and is profitable from the economical point of view. This process is a patented invention; it is the know-how belonging to our company.
B. Appayev: When visiting your workshops, we saw modern high-performance equipment. What is the origin of this equipment?
M. Khalkechev: Most of the equipment was bought abroad: in Italy, France and Germany and installed by engineers from these countries.
R. Erkenov: As we have seen, knitwear you produce is beautiful and of very good quality. Do you purchase yarn or do you already produce it yourselves?
M. Khalkechev: For the time being, we buy; or rather, we change it for roving. We make roving of wool and send it to the Baltic States, Bulgaria, Turkey, and in return, we receive yarn from there.
But soon we hope to launch our own spinning mill and fabric mill where we will produce knitwear for all seasons. Of course, we study the demand, it will determine our offer. We want our products to bring people joy.
What do we produce now?.. For example, we have recently received orders from the city of Ufa for the manufacturing of 100 000 sets of school uniform. The uniform will be made according to the sketches of the famous fashion designer V. Zaytsev — it is of good quality and has a fashionable modern design. To this effect, we have formed a special creative group of school uniform designers; this field of activity can become one of our specializations. We showed our products in several schools of Karachai-Cherkessia. Pupils, teachers and parents appreciated our models. I think that soon orders will come from the schools of our Republic; it is a question of time. Moreover, we are ready to offer individual customized models for each school.
We also manufactured different kinds of knitwear for our partner from Rostov region. Our designers slightly modified the models so that the customer really liked it.
On New Year's Eve, we executed the order made by the television channel TVC for manufacturing of festive headdresses and scarfs with logotypes. It is clear that we watched the New Year programs of this channel with special pleasure.
Here is another example. Recently we received an offer inquiry from the management of the Stavropol agricultural Institute. The institute has its own sheep-breeding farm. They supplied us wool and instead of money, asked us to sew uniforms for their students. Actually, our designers and tailors are working on this order.
R. Erkenov: We saw beautiful products, deserving to become trends. They can satisfy even a very exigent taste. Do you plan to make clothes for other age groups, and not only for pupils and students?
M. Khalkechev: Yes, we do. We already make such clothes, but unfortunately, this kind of our products is not yet known enough. So, it's time to think about advertising and demand will increase.
R. Erkenov: Telling about your personal assets, what helps you to progress?
M. Khalkechev: To run a modern enterprise, the director must know much about technical issues. And to sell goods with maximum profit, he needs to know the laws of commodity turnover and of financial management. The backbone of any enterprise is, first of all, its engineering staff, but calculations, however, are made by the economist. I think my two educations — technical and economic — help me.
B. Appayev: How do you imagine the future of your company, what plans do you make?
M. Khalkechev: Our plans are great. Sometimes, when being in mission outside our region, I am proud to see goods produced in my native Republic. So I try to direct employers of the factory toward high responsibility work, to focus them on the best quality of products manufactured under the brand of our company.
R. Erkenov: Summing up, I'd like to emphasize you creating capacities because within your growing enterprise you have managed to create a big and united international team of like-minded people. Everybody will benefit from it. This kind of project deserves all possible support both from the government and from the society. And may the Almighty bless your enterprise.
B. Appayev: Marat Nurchukovich, could you say a few words about your family, your children? Do they show interest in their father's business?
M. Khalkechev: I have five children; they are now pupils, students. Today it is difficult to say, but I think that some of them will continue the business.
R. Erkenov: I know many of our compatriots who lead business in different regions of Russia and make great strides. They have a lot to share: experience, knowledge. Unfortunately, there is not sustainable communication between them. Could it be worthwhile to organize something like a business club uniting successful compatriots?
M. Khalkechev: I completly agree with you: "one man doesn't make a team". Such club could be useful. I am very grateful to those friends and associates who have inspired, suggested solutions and supported me in the clutch. Their support shielded me from many mistakes.
R. Erkenov: A great thing is never easy. However, your first steps allow to be sure of your success and to believe that the enterprise will promote the development of traditional national crafts. We wish you good luck!
B. Appayev: Let all plans be realized to the benefit of people!
M. Khalkechev: Thank you. I wish success, prosperity, sustainable authority and large recognition to the "Golden Plaza" international magazine.
By Rashid Erkenov