Kyrgyz small business produces coronavirus-proof antiseptic dispenser
EBRD and EU helped Matkasymov LLC to increase efficiency
Ubai Matkasymov represents a rare breed of entrepreneurs in the Kyrgyz Republic. Ingenuity and adaptation are some of his strongest skills and they are making a difference. Started as an informal operation, his company – Matkasymov LLC – is now a leading producer of household products. In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Ubai’s company is applying rapid prototyping principles to fulfill the urgent needs of the market.
Ubai started work in 2008 helping his parents sell shoes at a bazaar in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Six years later, after moving to the Kyrgyz Republic, he came up with an idea for a better home-made TV antenna. His design and early prototypes turned out to be far superior to any imported factory-made antennas in the Kyrgyz Republic. What began as an experiment soon turned into a local branded product, which rapidly outperformed imports and according to their estimations now holds 90 percent of the market.
By 2018, Ubai had explored the production of other home goods including ironing boards, TV, and air conditioner mounts. He was surprised to find that none of these items were manufactured across Central Asia. His new products were a hit and are now actively displacing imported goods in both the Kyrgyz Republic and Kazakhstan.
Shortly before Covid-19 hit the region, Ubai was on a business trip in Russia. Looking at the news, he quickly grasped that the crisis would soon affect his country and his business.
“I understood that the usual items I make would not be in demand for a while. So, I started thinking about a potential sanitation and hygiene product which would be useful in fighting the coronavirus and which my company could produce,” Ubai relates.
Ubai sprang into action, and before he had even returned from his business trip in early March, his company was already making and selling a suitable product: a hands-free elbow-operated antiseptic dispenser for use in medical facilities. Ubai approved the design, calculated production costs, and launched production on his way home.
The first large orders came from medical equipment vendors, who liked the quality, simple design, and affordable price, at 3-5 times less than imported equivalents.
Ubai then made the product available more widely: leading local companies purchased and started using it as part of their workplace sanitation arrangements. So far, he has sold over 10,000 antiseptic dispensers.
But it’s not all about business: generosity also plays its part. In the past two months, Ubai has donated sanitizer-filled dispensers to hospitals, border services, and high-traffic government offices. He also discounts his sales to government buyers.
Ubai anticipates more orders as he improves the design and expands production, realizing that the demand is there to stay, even after the coronavirus crisis.
Recently the EBRD’s Advice for Small Businesses and the EU supported Matkasymov LLC with the development and introduction of a Management Information System – a web-based and mobile software application adapted to the needs of the company that helps it to make strategic decisions, increase management effectiveness and employee productivity, and optimize costs.
“Before, all our production processes, stock management, and calculations were done on paper. I needed at least two days to produce a report. It was also hard to control the flow and the whereabouts of different parts in the warehouse,” says Ubai.
Now he generates reports in a couple of clicks, seeing at a glance the essential figures he needs to analyze the growth of his business, costs, and sales. He also gained visibility into the parts and their flow and can analyze product distribution, returns, and sales by product and location or market.
With the new digital system, Ubai is confident that processes will run smoothly even when he is away for a couple of weeks.
In the meantime, his mind is still processing ideas to fight the virus. A few weeks ago, he came up with a high-tech sanitizing booth for high-traffic public spaces. He installed the first prototype of a disinfection tunnel at his own premises to ensure the greater safety of his employees.