The chairman of Kusto Group, Yerkin Tatishev, is once again putting his well-defined business philosophy to use. Tatishev honed his vision on lessons learned back in the late 1990s when he and a group of like-minded friends began, in what seemed an impossible task, to successfully turn around stagnated state mining assets in the former Soviet Union. These early successes fired a passionate belief in Tatishev that lessons and experiences learned from the mining venture could form the core of an entrepreneurial system based on a set of values and practices that could be used elsewhere; thus, the idea of Kusto was born. Today, these core values are evident in all of the Kusto Group’s partnerships and business undertakings.
Singapore has special meaning to Tatishev. Although the Kusto Group was founded in Kazakhstan in 2002, Tatishev, spotting the potential for further international growth, in 2013 moved the Group’s headquarters from Almaty to Singapore, which has now become Kusto’s adopted home.
Tatishev recently attended the Kazakhstan-Singapore Business Forum which was opened by the Singaporean Prime Minister, Mr. Goh Chok Tong, and the prime minister of Kazakhstan, Mr. Bakytzhan Sagintayev. During the course of the day, he met with business leaders and government representatives from both countries. He spoke about the tremendous potential of the Kazakhstan agricultural sector and how Kusto was to be part of that rapidly expanding sector.
Kazakhstan, the birthplace of Kusto’s founders, has been one of the business’ top priorities. Kusto has been expanding its agricultural activities to include locally reared beef. Kusto Group’s vertically integrated Kazbeef has recognized that Kazakhstan’s two biggest growth areas for the livestock market are exports to Russia and China and domestic consumption.
Despite the richness of Kazakhstan’s land, Kazakhs currently have had to turn to Australia or Germany for high-quality beef imports. With the goal of reducing dependence on foreign imports, Kazbeef has become the first company to introduce Angus and Hereford cattle to Kazakhstan from the US. Kazbeef is dedicated to producing beef of the highest quality, incorporating new techniques and utilizing Kazakhstan’s rich land. Today Kazbeef’s herd is 20,000 strong.
When Tatishev first began his business operations in Kazakhstan, the idea of a specialist high-quality agro-beef industry was still a distant thought. Thanks to the steady rise of the company, beef production has become an increasingly important part of the Kusto Group’s work. The use of advanced and highly precise agricultural technology across all of Kazbeef’s sectors has made this possible – from adopting the latest in breeding and feed production, to packing technologies that embrace green approaches such as wind power on feedlots. Kusto executives, including Tatishev, have taken a five-state tour of the United States to learn from one of the most advanced, high-tech cattle rearing industries in the world.
Dairy farming also features prominently in the Kusto Group’s agro-beef sector. The Agro branch recently began construction of a dairy facility complex in Lypne, Ukraine. The focus will be on a herd of 600 free-range milk cows and the facilities needed to process consumer milk products.
Beef is not the only area in which the Kusto Group applies its advanced experience and expertise. The Group’s Agro branch’s key strategy in the field of crop production is to ensure high yields in the long term with the use of 21st-century cutting-edge technologies. With its business model of taking land leases of at least five years and by using precision farming and telematics, Kusto is able to maximize yields over the long term to help meet the growing demands of developing markets for foodstuffs and animal feed. In 2014, Kusto invested in world-class modern machinery. In 2016, Kusto’s land bank held 12,300 hectares of cultivated land which it plans to increase to 50,000 hectares by 2020. This would yield 300,000 tonnes of grain.
Kusto has recently partnered with one of the leading non-GMO seed producers in the world – Baumgartner Agricultural Science and Service (BASS). Kusto established a new group company called Kazseed. Tatishev proudly announced that farmers in Kazakhstan will finally get access to world-class seeds specially selected to suit environmental and climatic conditions. To show their passion for improvement, Kusto invested $25m into this project.
At a recent conference, Tatishev remarked. “I am also pleased to see the Kazakhstan government’s support and involvement. This project is being developed in close cooperation with the Ministry of Agriculture to produce fodder seeds for the benefit of the entire country’s agricultural sector and beyond. It is essential that businesses and companies work together in the interest of society’s well-being. It is an attitude I have adopted throughout my career and my door is always open to partnership with like-minded institutions in the many countries in which we operate.”
Tatishev is always looking to partner with exceptional businesses in the most dynamic emerging markets. He shared insights with speakers from the Meinhardt Group, an innovative engineering leader and with Enterprise Singapore, the government agency championing enterprise development.
The two countries signed a bilateral investment treaty as well as twelve other agreements establishing partnerships in areas ranging from communication technology to education. Tatishev noted that there was significant scope for collaboration between the regions with the ASEAN countries situated on the Maritime Silk Road and the Eurasian countries located on the New Silk Road.
At the close of the conference Tatishev remarked, “For Kusto, a partnership between these two countries is in our DNA. I was honored to have been invited to participate in this Forum and to share my enthusiasm for what Singapore and Kazakhstan can achieve together. Here’s to the future!”
Yes, indeed. The vision behind Kusto is simple. Learn from the past, and follow a long-term vision of investment diversification and growth, spotting opportunities that create synergies between and across business sectors. This dynamic 42-year old native of Kazakhstan is in the right place and the right time doing what he knows best. And it’s working.