Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Iraq: Dahuk's Kaiser-Roll King

Source: US Agency for International Development

Political stability and economic growth bring Iraqis home from Europe

In 1999, Ari Hishyar Sedeq Hassan moved to a small town in Germany where he worked in a bakery producing rye bread, cinnamon buns, and kaiser rolls. Thirteen years later, Hassan decided to return to his home in Dahuk province in northern Iraq. "The economy and security have improved so much here, there really was no reason to remain in Europe," he explains, adding "on the flight back from Germany I was one of 23 Iraqis permanently returning home on the plane."

Hassan arrived in Dahuk with the idea of integrating a working bakery into a Western-style supermarket. Studies show that the smell of freshly baked bread inspires people to buy food items. The Bright Future Foundation, one of 12 micro-finance institutions supported by USAID, loaned Hassan $9,000 to lease market space and buy the oven needed for German-style baked goods.

The success of Hassan's Laween Supermarket was not preordained. The majority of Iraqis prefer unleavened flatbread baked in a tandoor. Kaiser rolls are also more expensive in Iraq than they are in Germany. However, doubts about Hassan's marketing concept disappeared within days of Laween's opening. "People loved the concept and bought our bread the moment it came out of the oven," says Hassan. "Before long we were selling more than $500 worth of bread each day."

Today, Hassan's bread is so popular that it's sold before it's even baked. Thanks to four new employees, Hassan is able to fulfill orders from other Dahuk supermarkets and restaurants, which have standing orders for his sesame and poppy seed rolls that are produced daily.

Hassan recently decided to expand his business by applying for a loan from one of the nine private commercial banks affiliated with the USAID program that led to Hassan's loan. "If I can buy another oven I'll open four more supermarkets and a coffee shop bakery that will produce brioche and cruller for the people of Dahuk," he said.

Started eight years ago with financing from USAID, Iraq's microfinance industry has provided loans worth $808 million to 360,000 entrepreneurs. Timely microfinancing has produced 206,000 jobs and improved Iraq's private sector economy.