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Lessons from WorldFood Moscow: Market Insights from a successful exhibitor

Quality products and solid contacts. Two simple ingredients that make success a robust prospect on the Russian market, according to Muhammed Asif Iqbal, Director of Pakistan’s Naqshbandi Enterprises. 

Naqshbandi Enterprises specialises in fresh fruit and vegetables exports, including citrus fruits and potatoes. They are a global concern. Over 40% of their business comes from Russia and Eastern Europe, where the company has been doing business for over a decade. 

ITE Food & Drink sat down with Mr Iqbal, Director of Naqshbandi Enterprises, at WorldFood Moscow 2016, to get his insights in how to succeed in a market racked with great change over the past 18 months.

Russia’s economic woes hit the food trade – but optimism remains in place

Naturally, the economic situation has posed some major hurdles to overcome.

 “People in Russia are not ready to buy,” Mr Iqbal said. “Their purchasing power has been going down, thanks to the currency problem. The real bone of contention that started this was the situation in Ukraine, then the fall in oil prices. So the biggest challenge facing us is really the economic situation.”

In the face of Russia’s economic woes, Mr Iqbal is confident Naqshbandi Enterprises’ relationship with the country will remain strong. Optimism is running high: “I believe over the next 12 months, our exports to Russia will be greater than compared with the last season. We have found some new partners, as well as keeping up with our older partners, so we are optimistic about the Russian market.” 

Supplying food to Russia? Focus on quality

One reason why Mr Iqbal is feeling particularly bullish towards Russia is his company’s overarching focus on keeping quality high. This is something Mr Iqbal feels is keeps Russian buyers coming back to Naqshbandi Enterprises. 

“Despite the last 12 months, because we are supplying top quality products, we are confident our Russian customers will continue to buy our goods,” Mr Iqbal said. “They trust us. We have good relations. The volumes have decreased, but they are still buying our products - all because of the quality.

“People in Russia prefer our quality. That's why they are repeating their orders. We finished two to three meetings recently [at WorldFood Moscow 2016], and they have confirmed their orders for the coming season. So things are looking positive.”

It has been reported that Russians place a high value on individual product quality. Since the government placed bans on food imports from Turkey, for example, the quality of fresh fruit and vegetables has dropped across the nation

Make the right Russian food contacts and you will succeed

There is a further string to Naqshbandi Enterprises’ Russian bow: a well-established network of contacts. “New companies entering Russia need to find one good client,” Mr Iqbal explained. “From there, they can succeed. Work with genuine people here, make the right contacts, and you will enjoy your work in Russia. There are good people over here.”

Of course, existing contacts are essential to market success – but it is equally as important to keep bringing in new customers. How? By attending exhibitions such as WorldFood Moscow.

WorldFood Moscow – an integral part of Russian food & beverage success

“This was our second time at WorldFood Moscow. It is a good exhibition. It is a good place to meet all the major players from each region. Without this exhibition, I don't think we would be able to reach further away areas such as Siberia. We would not be able to make the really big orders - perhaps we'd reach one or two customers.

But here [WorldFood Moscow], we have a very good opportunity to make contacts with great people in all of Russian's regions, including the buyers. This year, I am very, very hopeful we will ship good export quantities to Russia.”

A number of representatives from Magnit, Russia’s largest food retail chain with over 12,000 stroes located throughout Russia, visited Naqshbandi Enterprises’ stand at WorldFood Moscow 2016. Establishing supply deals with such a significant member of Russia’s food retail sector would be a major win for Naqshbandi Enterprises.

This only goes to show the power trade exhibitions hold. A stunning opportunity for further Russian expansion was gifted to Naqshbandi, unavailable anywhere else. Mr Iqbal declined to comment on the state of any ongoing deals while being interviewed for confidentiality reasons.

In closing, Mr Iqbal and Naqshbandi Enterprises’ experiences in Russia during a difficult period can teach us two big lessons. Firstly, ensure your products are of a high quality. Keep quality high and the customers will stay. Secondly, keep your old contacts happy but be constantly reaching out to new clients. 

The first part is entirely up to the individual company. With regards to ensuring ongoing networking with familiar clientele and newer players, head to exhibitions such as WorldFood Moscow. Here, you will be in touch with major Russian and international industry figures – and may score some huge wins not previously possible. 

More information: Naqshbandi Enterprises

Image: Sarolazmi via Flickr


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