Sulaimani has become a major center within the Kurdistan Region for heavy industry—the province produces an enormous amount of cement and steel each year. To what degree does Azady Industries benefit from local strength in industry?
The industrial strength of Sulaimani is very important for us. Most importantly, factories in Sulaimani produce the raw materials that we use, namely steel. Currently the steel plants in Sulaimani use scrap to create their products. While this works on a small scale, most major steel producers use mined iron ore to make steel. Faruk Holding is working to establish such a system, and to begin mining iron ore outside of Sulaimani, which would increase the volume of local steel production massively. Azady Industries would benefit from such expansion, as steel would be easier and cheaper to source. Currently, when local producers cannot meet our needs, we must import steel from Turkey, which is costly. The challenge to developing these iron ore mines, currently, is regulatory. We are awaiting the development of a legal framework that will allow us to take advantage of these local resources and begin mining.
How do you view the evolution of heavy industry in Sulaimani and Kurdistan over the coming 5-10 years?
The foundation is already built for Sulaimani to become a major industrial center for Iraq and the broader region. Already, as it relates to Azady Industries, we can see synergies coming together in here to allow for this growth. As we create galvanized steel for construction, transmission towers, and communications towers, we rely on steel, but also cement, as a complementary good for the structures we build. We already have these inputs. As I said earlier, once Sulaimani’s steel factories can use raw iron rather than recycled scrap, this will only improve the efficiency and capacity of Sulaimani’s heavy industry sector. Further, we as a company have already taken steps in centering industry in Sulaimani. Azady Industries already has the largest galvanization pool in the country. This allows us to make power transmission towers for both federal Iraqi utilities, as well as the KRG Ministry of Electricity. Previous to this, these transmission towers had to be imported, typically from Turkey or Iran, but sometimes as far away as China. Making structures such as these in Kurdistan only makes sense, and with growth in industrial capacity in Sulaimani, this is now happening.
Which sectors provide your largest clients? Where do you see further growth?
As I mentioned, the KRG’s Ministry of Electricity is a major client. They have plans to expand transmission lines to sufficiently cover all of Kurdistan—all of which requires a huge number of towers. While they have, in the past, used foreign companies to supply these, we are now stepping into that role. We are also supplying towers for similar expansions of transmission lines throughout the rest of Iraq. In the telecom sector, Azady Industries has already established itself throughout the country as a partner of choice for the three major mobile operators, Asiacell, Korek, and Zain, and supply their cell towers. We provide high-quality solutions for setting up GSM towers in areas with challenging geography and weather, cost effectively. In construction, we have had a few clients, notably in construction of the Grand Millennium Hotel. However, construction in Kurdistan is still dominated by cement for structure, so we still view this as a market for future growth rather than a current focus.
What improvements or expansions has Azady Industries been working to complete in 2014?
One of the major areas that we have been investing in recently has been our quality control laboratory. We were the first company to have ISO quality certification for both quality management and oil and gas areas, and we are currently working on getting ISO certified for our testing laboratory. We already have the equipment to assess the strength and integrity of all of our products in a number of ways. The certification processes, and more importantly the lab and quality control processes themselves, truly demonstrate our international standards of quality to our clients.