Interview – Antoine Biquillon
Antoine Biquillon in Baku
Bakou Francophones has been undertaking a series of interviews with French entrepreneurs who have successfully entered the Azerbaijani marketplace. Here we are pleased to publish an interview with Antoine Biquillon, who heads up a subsidiary of the French Groupe Lactalis in Azerbaijan.
Can you provide us with some biographical information about your education and explain why you selected your career?
My name is Antoine Biquillon and I was born in Paris in 1981. After education in Versailles, I attended a School of Management in Lyon (E.M. Lyon), where I developed my general management skills and became oriented towards finance and financial control.
How did your career begin, and what made you choose to become an entrepreneur?
After undertaking a two-year internship in Ukraine for Renault, I was employed as a financial controller by the Groupe Lactalis, which is now the leading dairy producer in the world. After periods in Kazakhstan and Ukraine, I became finance director for the CIS region, based in Moscow. I developed a good knowledge of the CIS countries and my finance experience enabled me to gain a global vision of Lactalis’ activities across the region. With this experience, I immediately accepted the challenge of heading the Azerbaijani subsidiary of the company.
What inspires you in your profession?
Firstly, I am convinced that we supply healthy, trustworthy, top-quality products. Secondly, I always enter into the spirit of competition, and have the will to succeed in our markets.
What challenges do you face in your industry?
The dairy industry is extremely volatile and changeable. It is impacted by the price of milk, equilibrium of pricing structures, new actors and regulations. The ability to adapt and flexibility of the company are the keys of success.
What are the essential elements of success in the marketplace?
At Lactalis, our motto is ‘no leadership, without the leadership of quality’. I believe our products have intrinsic qualities that determine their success, combined with a coherent marketing strategy for our renowned trademarks of Président, Galbani and Lactel.
Why did you decide to penetrate the Azerbaijani market?
We were attracted by the economic potential of the country and its tradition of consuming dairy products.
Who are your customers in Azerbaijan, and what are the differences to those in France?
Everyone in Azerbaijan is our potential customer, from French expatriates looking for their beloved Président salted butter, to local customers discovering the Caprese salad, thanks to our Galbani mozzarella.
You undertook a long journey to Azerbaijan. Where do you find the motivation to continue?
For me, expatriation has been a way of life since the beginning of my career, so I do not feel I have come so far. I am motivated by the professional challenge, and I enjoy discovering new cultures.
Having taken this route, is there anything you would like to share?
I was very glad I learned Russian at school, but I could have never imagined the impact of this choice on my life. Overseas life and travel have given me a perspective on the world that I could not have envisaged.
If you closed your eyes and foresee yourself in 15 years, where will you be?
It is difficult to say, but I hope that my knowledge of the world will have further expanded.
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who wish to enter the Azerbaijani market?
Azerbaijan is a very progressive country and is currently implementing a programme of important economic reforms. My advice is to develop an important position in the Azerbaijani market as part of a strategy of expansion across the region.
EU to support Azerbaijan joining WTO
Speaking at a press conference, Malena Mard, Head, EU Delegation to Azerbaijan, commented on the progress of the EU in its relations with the countries of the EU Eastern Partnership. According to Trend News, she acknowledged that the EU is the biggest trading partner and investor in Azerbaijan and would support the process of the country joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Mrs Mard explained: “Co-operation with Azerbaijan is very important for the EU, and we intend to further develop these relations in the future.” She stated that the EU has been working with Azerbaijan over the past decade, within the framework of the EU Eastern Partnership programme.
According to the diplomat, Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative, and Johannes Hahn, European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood and Enlargement Negotiations, have now begun consultations on the next steps within the EU European Neighbourhood Partnership framework. She continued: “We want to change the policy of work with our neighbours and begin extensive consultations to review this. I hope that the new programme will be ready by the autumn.”
Speaking on 9 April, Mrs Mard referred to the Southern Energy Corridor during a press conference, saying: “We are interested in diversifying the supply of resources away from the Russian Federation, so the Southern Energy Corridor project is crucial for the EU.” She also stressed that the project would not only benefit Azerbaijan, but other countries in the region.