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Pioneers in developing a new Kurdistan

Article - October 4, 2012
The Zagros Group has become one of the region's most valued companies, leading the way in numerous sectors
In 1991, after the liberation of the Kurdistan region from the Iraqi Government, the Zagros Group began its operations in Erbil, Kurdistan to help rebuild and develop the area. Since then, the Zagros group of companies has been prominent in many areas of Kurdistan and has expanded into sectors such as oil, IT, health, aviation, energy and tourism in response to market needs.

The Zagros Group is now made up of 12 different companies under the Zagros umbrella. Things have developed a lot since the company began operating. Today they are one of the three biggest companies in Kurdistan, with nearly 1,000 employees.

The Zagros Group began with construction, but what has led the company to grow is the obvious need for facilities after the country was almost destroyed following the second Gulf war and the Saddam Hussein regime.

The company cooperated with the government with its rebuilding plan as Delsoz Sherwani, CEO of the Zagros Group explains: “We started our parliament in 1992 and we tried to help and participate in the Government’s reconstruction program. From 1992 until 2003, when Iraq was liberated, this area was separated from Iraq, so we helped the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to do a lot of projects like building roads.”

Mr. Sherwani says doing business in Kurdistan has been easier since 2003. There are less political interventions and in fact people realized that growth was needed because before 2003, all businesses suffered from the banking system, as there simply wasn’t one. Companies had to do their banking business in other countries.

“After 2003, when we were liberated, there was more budget for additional projects in different sectors. So the government looked to companies like ours to support the development of the country,” says Mr. Sherwani.

The political transformations in the country benefited Zagros Group, but without the vision to develop their strategies, they could not be in the position they are today. The first Zagros initiatives after 2003 were in telecommunications and IT. This was closely followed by health projects.

Mr. Sherwani explains: “Zagros Technology became the first certified partner of Oracle (the American software giant) in Kurdistan, so we did a lot of projects for them. This is how we started. There were also lots of projects in the health sector and we created a master plan with the help of British consultants.”

The progression continued when embargos were lifted and Iraqi companies were allowed to work in the oil sector. The Zagros Group became a pioneer in this field Mr. Sherwani says.

“International oil companies started to sign projects with KRG in 2005. The first company to start with oil production was DNO, so we registered Zagros Oil to participate in those projects. We were the first local company to work with DNO and together we did the pipelines for the central processing facilities, which was the first oil exported from the Kurdistan region,” he says.

The priority now is the energy sector for KRG and Zagros Group.

“We are willing to increase our participation and get more involved in this successful process as the KRG has been focusing on this sector more than others as it is a priority,” says Mr. Sherwani.

The Zagros Group also progressed into the aviation sector. Seeing that Iraqi Air could not cope with growing demand, they started Zagros Air, leasing aircrafts and starting to fly to neighboring countries like Turkey, and in 2006 the company moved into international carriers.

“We made an agreement with an Austrian airline and they have been offering  a daily flight since 2006. This has changed the image of Kurdistan as it shows that the country is safe if companies are offering flights here,” says Mr. Sherwani.

With regard to the future, Zagros Group will continue to cooperate with international companies in different fields.

The aim going forward for Zagros Group is to extend its business opportunities on a regional level, to protect the reliability of the company according to international ethical codes and to continue developing Iraq with local and international partners.