EY Entrepreneur Of The Year 2023 candidates

Winners were announced at the Award Ceremony.


Seymur Mammadov is a CEO and founder of Simbrella, a company providing IT solutions to mobile operators, banks.  Simbrella has its branches in the Netherlands and Singapore and currently has activities in more than 20 countries in Africa, 2 countries in South America and in Myanmar. Success of Seymur started in 2005 when his company developed the new product for mobile operators - SimCredit - the service which was unique in the world by that moment. Simbrella also developed micro-crediting solutions for banks, which help to serve underbanked people in African countries. Its 'Data as a Service' product lets clients analyze big data, which helps to improve the quality of services and create new products for various industries.

Aesthetics and balance are key elements in the money-making process that make it enjoyable.
Seymur Mammadov,
Founder, CEO

Innovation nomination

Baba Aghayev is the Founder and CEO of Pickvisa.com, a travel-tech company providing electronic visas and travel documents for travellers across the globe. The platform offers more than 100 countries’ visas online to various nationalities worldwide. Citizens of 141 countries used the product in 2022. Pickvisa has several unique e-solutions which make it easier for travellers to undergo travel formalities and visit other countries with minimum time and money spent on getting necessary permits. Pickvisa users can process the payment by cryptocurrencies, too. In 2021 Pickvisa was named an ‘E-travel company of the year’ in the MENA region by Dubai Chamber and Entrepreneur.com Publication. The company has an outstanding ranking globally on electronic visa services in TrustPilot.com, one of the most trusted review platforms worldwide.

Any employee benefits are not paid by directors but by customers. When any company team accepts this simple rule, genuine customer service starts.
Baba Aghayev,
Founder , CEO

Social Impact nomination

Zaur Darabzadeh is the Chairman of the Board of CinemaPlus, the largest and most innovative cinema chain in Azerbaijan. Within 10 years, they built a network of 10 cinemas with 60 halls and more than 5,000 thousand seats. CinemaPlus has more than 1 million viewers during a year. It is the only chain that has cinemas not only in Baku, but also in Ganja,Sumgayit and Nakhchivan. For the first time in Azerbaijan the company sets up outdoor viewings in Open Air Cinema in Shamakhi. The largest cinema of CinemaPlus located in Deniz Mall is equipped with the latest 4DX cinematic experience. There are also Skybox areas and VIP Diamond halls with premium seats and desks. In order to give access to disabled people to the halls, stairs at the entrance in all their cinemas have been removed. Zaur’s main approach is to ensure that all films are shown on the day of world premier. He plans to open new cinemas in different regions of Azerbaijan.

Opportunities don’t happen. We create them.
Zaur Darabzadeh,
Chairman of the Board

Regional Development nomination

Fuad Seyidaliyev is the head of Savalan ASPI Winery, producing one of Azerbaijan’s most popular ranges of premium quality wine. The company has its own wine-making facility. The distillery has a modern laboratory, which helps to immediately analyze the index of sugar, acidity and other parameters of wine. Today, the company’s international winemaking team combine expertise from Italy and Azerbaijan to create a range that includes nearly 20 different wines, fruit distillates and brandies. All the recipes belong to the winemakers working at the factory. Savalan Wines are being sold in more than 100 renowned restaurants listed in the Michelin guide in France, Netherlands, Belgium, UK, Turkey, Russia, etc. Each year Savalan receives numerous medals at various exhibitions. Fuad’s main idea is to make an Azerbaijani wine recognizable all around the world.

Do better if possible, and that is what is always possible.
Fuad Seyidaliyev,

Nezrin Sadikhova is a head of Spektr Medical Group with clinics in Baku, Ganja and Shamkir, where trained medical professionals provide a wide range of medical services. Special attention is paid to the recruitment of local specialists in Azerbaijan's regions with the aim to increase the overall quality of healthcare services there. Nezrin is the founder of 'Global Association of Business People of Azerbaijan' (GABA), established to develop networking and business relations amongst the country's entrepreneurs. She is also involved and runs various charity initiatives which involve the business community.

Keep your face always toward the sunshine.
Nezrin Sadikhova,

Ramil Rzayev is a founder and CEO of Baku Holiday Travel which has been one of the leading companies in the field of tourism in Azerbaijan since 2013. He is also a founder of Baku Holiday Academy designed to increase the quality of tourism services in the country. Ramil has succeeded in building a reputation of a reliable partner, while his company enjoys the status of IATA-accredited travel agent, thus connecting it to the network of global tourism. Ramil is focused on the development of inbound tourism, striving to increase the number of foreign tourists visiting Azerbaijan, which generates income for the national economy. He is eyeing the possibility to launch a number of charter flights out of the country in order to make travelling to the region more accessible and affordable.

When I launched a business 10 years ago, everyone used to tell me: "There are many big companies in the market, choose another field". Now these big companies say that BHT is a very powerful tourism company.
Ramil Rzayev,
Founder and General Director

Nahid Jabbarov is a founder and executive director of Crispa Snacks, which produces healthy snacks under Crispa and Labulab brands. The product range includes chips from dried apples, persimmon, figs, strawberry and pear, as well as chickpeas, corn and peanuts. Crispa Snacks aim to meet the demand for healthy eating habits of people who follow a healthy and active lifestyle, practice sports on a regular basis, as well those who follow a special diet. While the company is selling its products locally, Nahid is focused on exporting it to overseas markets as well. At the same, Nahid shares his insights and experience in exporting with other local companies in the same segment, as he wants other Azerbaijani producers to thrive in foreign markets too. Nahid is constantly looking at ways to make his production more sustainable and aims to achieve Zero Waste. As only 60% of sourced apples are being used for the production of chips, he has decided to use the remaining 40% of apples to produce freshly squeezed juice, Natural Apple Cider Vinegar and Natural Apple Molasses (Bekmez). He also came up with an idea to process apple seeds to extract oil that is used in production of cosmetics.

Keep it short and simple.
Nahid Jabbarov,
Founder and Executive Director

Afa Hasanova is the co-founder of IRES, one of the most reliable and popular companies for recruitment and job search in Azerbaijan. IRES has helped thousands of people to find a job that suits them in many respects, while also assisting companies to find the right candidates. In 2006, IRES launched JobSearch.az for placement of new vacancies. It soon grew into one of the most popular recruiting web-site used by people for job hunting. The list of JobSearch site subscribers includes thousands of customers and job seekers. The customers of IRES are international and local companies in various industries, government and financial institutions, non-profit organizations, medium and small businesses, and many others.

Building trust through honesty and sincerity.
Afa Hasanova,

Ilham Hajiyev is the owner of Lignum Logistic, which has extensive of knowledge and experience in all segments of logistical operations. As part of their services, they offer cargo transportation via sea, land and air freight. Currently, Lignum Logistic has its offices in Azerbaijan and Georgia and ensures export of Azerbaijani goods to over 20 countries.“Lignum Logistic” operation is based on an individual approach to customers. One of the options Lignum Logistic offers is that the clients don’t need to waste their time constantly tracking their delivery, since they get timely updates and notifications about the movement of consignments from Ilham’s team. Ilham managed to utilize Azerbaijan’s position as a hub between the East and the West by building partnerships with counter-agents in various countries. This helps him not only organize transportation of goods in and out of Azerbaijan, but also between distant destinations such as Vietnam-Netherlands, Korea-Tajikistan, Italy-Turkey, etc.

Grow with us!
Ilham Hajiyev,

Rubaba Murshudova is the co-founder and director of the “Qranit QP” - Granite Digging and Blasting Company – which was set up in 2011. In Azerbaijan, she is the only female entrepreneur who has the authority to run blasting and rock fragmentation operations in the mining industry. In partnership with several Azerbaijani and Turkish companies “Qranit QP” took part in the several important projects on the liberated lands, including works on Victory Road, Fuzuli International Airport, Horadiz-Aghband railway, Lachin International Airport, and others. Its drilling and blasting services allows construction of the roads and tunnels through mountains. Her company prepared a proposal for respective state authorities to build a mini factory for the production of explosive material used during the blasting processes. Rubaba’s long-term aim is to create new workplaces

Believe in the power of small steps. They can bring daily accomplishments, thus paving the way to the road that leads to achieving success.
Rubaba Murshudova,
Owner and Director

Rafig Hunaltay is the founder of Facemark, the company which organizes business events and trainings. The idea behind Facemark was to create a discussion platform, where people can exchange their knowledge and experience. Facemark aims to educate people, and people from all around the globe can join any of the events and benefit from them. Facemark has its business news website and acts as a media partner of both local and international events. Rafig is also the founder and CEO of the marketing company “Fil Agency” which has been working with more than 90 companies since 2017. The agency offers services for the optimization of business processes, setting up and improvement of the management system, and 360-degrees marketing. “Fil Agency’s” main focus is on social media and digital marketing. Rafig is a co-founder of “Marketing AIR”, the first practical marketing training program in Azerbaijan and “Business Management school”, one of the largest training companies with over 3000 graduates. Rafig has released series of 4 books called "Today's Marketing". It combines the articles of the majority of business authors who published their articles in Azerbaijan in the past 10 years. Also, Rafiq is the author of "From crisis to new era" book.

Your success is the best answer to all questions.
Rafig Hunaltay,

Elgar Baghirov is a Founder and Director of Times Consulting, a specialized advertising company offering 360-degree marketing services, from technical design of the product to its presentation, from outdoor advertising to digital advertising, from TV and radio placements to major campaigns. During last years, the company has shifted its focus more on becoming innovative OOH (Out of Home Advertisement) operator. Thanks to these innovations advertising messages of clients, are able to reach wide audience (collectively about 25-30 million contacts per month). As per Elgar, instead of following trends he prefers to create them. The goal for this year for Azerbaijani brand Times Consulting is to grow into regional markets.

Dream. Achieve. Fail. Learn. Suceed. Repeat.
Elgar Baghirov,

Elchin Babayev is the CEO of Baku Textile Factory (BTF - Bakı Tekstil Fabriki). The company currently has 6 production lines and produces more than 5,000 different types of textile products of high quality, including coveralls, promo clothing, school clothing, medical clothing, sports clothing, underwear, socks and others. In 2020, BTF established a company called Betex and began the production and exports for such famous brands as Defacto, LC Waikiki, and Polo Club. Elchin’s nearest goal is to attract global mass market brands’ attention to Azerbaijan in order to sell them not just raw material, but also the final product. BTF has a Sedex certificate which allows it to enter its company name in the global list of suppliers, so any client from around the world can choose BTF for its orders. Eventually, Elchin wants BTF to become one of the leading textile companies in the world with at least 3 known brands.

Think locally, act globally.
Elchin Babayev,

EY Entrepreneur Of The Year™ recognizes unstoppable entrepreneurial achievements among individuals and companies that demonstrate vision, leadership and success.

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