Aytaj Mukhtarzade: “Making an impact and contributing to the well-being of society are among the main goals of PASHA Holding”

Economy Materials 30 May 2024 16:38 (UTC +04:00)
Aytaj Mukhtarzade: “Making an impact and contributing to the well-being of society are among the main goals of PASHA Holding”

Aytaj Mukhtarzade, the Head of Corporate Communications at PASHA Holding, discussed the initiatives and endeavors undertaken by PASHA Holding throughout the year 2023 in an interview with Trend.

Good day, Ms. Aytaj. We appreciate your presence today. To begin, could you outline the social initiatives undertaken by PASHA Group in 2023?

Hello. I'm grateful for the opportunity to participate in this interview. As a leading entity in our country, PASHA Holding recognizes its duty to the country, our employees, and society as a whole. Our commitment to social responsibility is integral to our corporate values, encompassing a diverse range of areas including education, culture, sports, healthcare, and other community-focused projects. It's important to highlight that our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives are dynamic, aligning with evolving local and global landscapes. We believe that companies have a moral obligation to support the communities within which they operate. We seek to address community-based challenges through thoughtful, beneficial, and impactful projects with communities and thus Corporate Social Responsibility stands at the core of our strategy.

In 2023, PASHA Holding allocated substantial resources, amounting to tens of millions of AZN, towards impactful social endeavors. Furthermore, our company remains dedicated to fostering economic growth and stability within our country through our core business activities.

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Thank you for the information. Could you please provide further details on how the mentioned amount was allocated?

Certainly. PASHA Holding supports the financing of various social and charitable projects in the fields of education, health, and care for the socially vulnerable in our society. Notably, in the past year, our commitment to education amounted to an investment of 5 million AZN. These expenditures include the "Əlaçı" scholarship program, the "Birincilər" project, dedicated to supplying school essentials to first-grade students from low-income families, sponsorship for international scientific conferences, as well as the assistance extended to educational initiatives undertaken by governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations. The Holding’s fruitful cooperation with ABAD (Simplified Support to Family Business) back in 2019 resulted in a number of successful projects aimed at the active participation of citizens in the socio-economic development of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the improvement of small and medium-sized businesses, increased employment and the formation of competitive family businesses. Moreover, our subsidiaries, PASHA Bank and PASHA Life, have long-standing partnerships with the Red Crescent Society and the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of the Azerbaijan Republic to provide social assistance to economically disadvantaged families, particularly during holidays. Noteworthy is our significant contribution as one of the primary benefactors of the Red Hearts charity fund, established in collaboration with Kapital Bank.

Additionally, within the sports domain, PASHA Holding, and its subsidiaries have maintained consistent investments in various sporting federations, such as the Azerbaijan Volleyball Federation, Azerbaijan Boxing Federation, and others. Our contributions extend to football development through sponsorship of clubs like Sumgayit and Zira. In 2023 alone, PASHA Group's contributions to the sports sector exceeded 3.6 million AZN.

Turning to the arts, PASHA Life actively supports the publication of culturally significant books through the IRS publishing house. The efforts were showcased through book presentation events held in Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Italy, contributing significantly to our country's international recognition. Furthermore, PASHA Holding has been a steadfast supporter of the International Jazz Festival hosted in Baku for several years, further enriching our cultural landscape.

Could you shed some light on the importance of supporting women and children in your company's agenda?

This is indeed an excellent question. The welfare of women and children holds paramount importance in our corporate agenda, as evidenced by our dedicated projects and initiatives. PASHA Holding has long been committed to empowering women in various sectors, particularly through initiatives like the AFAQ project, which provides crucial support to women entrepreneurs in agriculture. Through comprehensive training programs and the provision of essential resources, we aim to foster economic independence among women in our society.

Moreover, we recognize the unique challenges faced by women who have experienced adversity, which is why we collaborate with organizations like the Gender Hub to support women entrepreneurs who have overcome violence. These initiatives not only contribute to the economic empowerment of women but also serve as a catalyst for societal progress and development.

In acknowledging women's entrepreneurship, it's important to honor the resilience of those who have endured loss. PASHA Insurance, in collaboration with PASHA Holding and GID CSR Consulting, initiated the “Ana Sahibkar” project for the spouses of martyrs and veterans of the Second Karabakh War. This initiative aimed to empower those women with entrepreneurial skills while providing essential support and resources. Over a span of 4 months, the “Ana Sahibkar” project facilitated skill development for 30 participants, with many successfully transitioning into employment opportunities.

Furthermore, PASHA Insurance spearheads the “GüclüSen” project, a CSR endeavor aimed at educating women about breast cancer. This initiative focuses on raising awareness about early detection methods and emphasizes the importance of regular screenings. Through collaborative efforts with local healthcare facilities, the project ensures accessibility to screening facilities and educates women on self-examination techniques, empowering them to take proactive steps toward their health.

Regrettably, a portion of our efforts must also be directed toward the well-being of children. PASHA Holding organizes charitable initiatives supporting children afflicted with thalassemia, autism, and other serious illnesses. Additionally, our involvement in events such as “Soyuq Əllər, İsti Ürəklər” fair underscores our ongoing commitment to alleviating the hardships faced by vulnerable children through charitable endeavors.

You've emphasized the significance of honoring the memory of our heroes. Your commitment to the Karabakh-related topics is apparent. Could you provide insights into your involvement in this matter?

Indeed, the revival of Karabakh, the restoration of liberated territories, and the well-being of war participants and their families hold profound importance for our company. PASHA Holding, along with our financial entities - PASHA Bank, Kapital Bank, PASHA Insurance, and PASHA Life - have actively participated in the restoration efforts led by the Heydar Aliyev Foundation in Karabakh.

We extended our support to the reconstruction of mosques in Zangilan, Aghdam, and Shusha. Additionally, our company contributed to the construction of the Victory Park in Baku, aimed at honoring the perpetual memory of our martyrs.

Moreover, we recognize the importance of safeguarding the deposits of those who have entrusted us with their assets. For the second consecutive year, PASHA Holding, and its subsidiary companies implemented the "Guardians of the Motherland's Savings" project. Under this initiative, a tailored social program was organized for the children of individuals who were martyred during the 44-day Second Karabakh War and the subsequent conflicts. These children received festive gifts on occasions like New Year, Novruz, Ramadan, Qurban holidays, and Victory Day, along with school supplies at the beginning of the academic year. In collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Population of the Azerbaijan Republic, we were engaged in providing housing to the families of martyrs and renovating existing homes. In 2023, with the support of PASHA Holding, 28 new houses were constructed and presented to martyr families. Since 2020, fully renovated houses have been refurbished and allocated to 101 martyr families, supported by PASHA Holding.

Additionally, I would like to mention that PASHA Insurance has joined the 'Increasing Psychological Rehabilitation Opportunities in Azerbaijan' (APRIA) project implemented by "For Azerbaijan" International Charity Organization in order to support the emotional and psychological well-being of family members of martyrs and veterans.

These initiatives underscore our unwavering commitment to honoring the sacrifices of our heroes and supporting their families during these challenging times.

You mentioned earlier in our discussion that one of your priorities is your employees. Could you elaborate on what this entails?

Absolutely. At PASHA Holding, our unwavering commitment to our people is the cornerstone of our success. As we reflect on the past year, it becomes evident that our workforce of over 20,000 individuals embodies the very essence of our organization, serving as the driving force behind our achievements and growth. Recognizing this, we prioritize the health and well-being of our employees by adhering to international standards and continuously refining our organizational practices. Regular employee satisfaction surveys ensure that we create a work environment conducive to talent development, characterized by a culture of continuous growth, transparent communication, mutual respect, and support.

Throughout the years, we have remained steadfast in our dedication to fostering an environment where our employees can thrive and excel. Central to our commitment is the provision of diverse career pathways and comprehensive educational initiatives. By offering opportunities for continuous learning and skill development, we empower our employees to reach their full potential and contribute meaningfully to the success of our company. With that in mind, we launched PASHA Hub in 2020 which generates the development and implementation of programs, hosts events, activities, and programs, as well as provides co-working space for employees. This collaborative platform was established with the aim of cultivating a culture of continuous learning, development, and knowledge exchange among employees across PASHA Group companies, while also fostering closer relationships and cooperation within the organization.

Additionally, our Synergy Program, initiated in 2018, serves to enhance collaboration and communication among employees through various events, competitions, and meetings. Additionally, our internal incubation program promotes an entrepreneurial mindset and culture of innovation within our company, aligning with our core corporate values. Through this initiative, employees are encouraged to propose and develop new ideas, fostering a culture of creativity and innovation throughout the organization.

We've observed your company's emphasis on innovation, coupled with a dedication to innovation-centric social initiatives. PASHA Holding appears to spearhead projects that not only foster business development but also contribute to broader economic growth. Could you expand on this aspect?

Indeed, innovation serves as both a business imperative and a social endeavor for us. Our company also heavily collaborates with local government institutions and as such, has jointly so far introduced development and career counseling programs for local startups in collaboration with governmental bodies and non-governmental organizations. We persisted in awarding scholarships to students pursuing technical fields and facilitated their participation in prominent innovation events worldwide. Moreover, "PASHA Holding" actively promoted mentorship training in these domains and lent support to local incubators, accelerators, and venture centers. It's worth noting that the country's cyber security school continued to thrive with the ongoing support of PASHA Holding.

Additionally, PASHA Holding hosts the biggest regional summit, INMerge. INMerge Innovation Summit reflects our commitment to nurturing the innovation ecosystem and aims to ignite innovation and technological development in Azerbaijan and the region, foster collaboration between startups and investors, and provide a platform for exchanging ideas and experiences. The summit attracts thousands of participants from over thirty countries, featuring hundreds of speakers such as Steve Wozniak, Chris Barton, and JB Straubel. Additionally, we are organizing our fourth hackathon, a dynamic tech competition aimed at fostering innovation and collaboration within the tech community, with registrations still open for interested parties.

Furthermore, I would like to emphasize that PASHA Holding is a co-founder of the first Venture Fund in Azerbaijan called Caucasus Venture. Also, we introduced the Holberton school to our country, offering cutting-edge IT education. These initiatives empower young talents with theoretical and practical knowledge with high-quality technological programs from Silicon Valley.

In terms of economic impact, PASHA Holding plays a pivotal role in fostering business activity and competitiveness across various sectors. As one of the country's largest conglomerates, we've generated over 20,000 jobs by the end of 2023, with a total compensation exceeding 524 million AZN. Our contribution to talent development, through training programs and adherence to international standards, enriches the labor market. Notably, PASHA Hub orchestrates development programs for students and entry-level professionals, including the impactful Future Shapers initiative.

Moreover, as one of the largest taxpayers, we've contributed 258 million AZN in taxes in 2023. Additionally, we've supported small and medium entrepreneurship and the insurance sector through financial assistance to agencies like the Small and Medium Business Development Agency and the Azerbaijan Insurers Association. The "Karabakh SMEs" program, initiated in April 2023 under our sponsorship, underscores our commitment to social security and employment, particularly for families of martyrs, veterans, and war participants, by creating and equipping approximately 50 SMEs.

Ms. Aytac, thank you for providing such insightful details. Many of us, including myself, were unaware of the breadth of activities undertaken by your company. I understand that PASHA Holding is embarking on a new strategic phase from 2024 to 2026. As a final question, could you share your thoughts on this upcoming period?

Indeed, this year signifies the commencement of a new three-year strategic cycle for us. As we entered this phase, our team engaged in extensive deliberations to outline our expectations and overarching objectives. We contemplated the fundamental purpose of PASHA Holding: Why do we operate? What are our aspirations? What value do we aim to bring? After thorough discussions, we arrived at a unified message: our paramount goal is to be impactful —to create value. In essence, the raison d'être of our company revolves around generating value across various realms. Whether it's fostering economic development, enhancing societal well-being, or bolstering Azerbaijan's global image, our endeavors are geared toward value creation. Hence, our focus in this strategic period will be to diligently pursue this overarching purpose.

Furthermore, I'd like to touch upon the crucial issue of climate change. Recognizing its significance both locally and globally, we acknowledge our responsibility towards future generations as a conglomerate. Consequently, during this strategic phase, we are committed to assessing our environmental footprint and formulating a comprehensive operational plan to address sustainability concerns. I anticipate that our efforts in this regard will further underscore the values instilled by PASHA Holding.

Once again, thank you for your presence and engagement in this discussion.

My pleasure.