Investing in the Future
We need to create opportunities with long-term projects that invest in the country

They say that the only constant is change, and as the world moves into the Fourth Industrial Revolution the old adage is as pertinent as ever. Constant technological advances allow us to reach new heights of efficiency and resource management, representing huge opportunities for growth and innovation. And this is no less true in Armenia than it is anywhere else. If we can find a way to combine these new technologies with a continuing desire to better the lives of every Armenian, it could lead to a new era of prosperity for the entire country.

One place you can find that spirit is at the Karas Winery. I recently had the chance to visit their vineyards in Armavir Province, and during the tour it was mentioned that the company had specifically chosen to employ workers from the surrounding villages instead of using machinery that would be more cost-effective and efficient. The quick comment piqued my interest: the decision seemed like one calculated to better the entire country, even over the immediate interests of the company. After the trip, Juliana Del Aguila, the President of Karas and great-niece of Eduardo Eurnekian, was kind enough to agree to speak with me and answer a few questions about the company and its mission.

One of the first things she told me was that, if Armenia is to thrive, it’s not enough to provide answers to problems with short-term solutions alone. We need to create opportunities with long-term projects that invest in the country as well. That, she said, was one of the reasons they chose to build a vineyard. Aside from the work required to prepare more than five hundred hectares of previously uncultivated land for their first planting, wine-making is an industry that only gets better with time, which means that Karas will be able to make a positive impact for many years to come.

One aspect of that positive impact is the number of workers that Karas can hire: between work in the fields and the winery, the company has more than five hundred employees, most of whom live in nearby villages. In addition to their wages, each employee is also provided with benefits including health insurance, a bank account, and the best working conditions that the company can provide. As mentioned before, the company is able to do this in part because of the decision to use a human workforce instead of switching to machinery that could do the same job.

At face value, working by hand instead of using technological advancements to save time and money seems to run counter to the changes heralded by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Responding to complex problems with “unconventional solutions”, however, does not, and that is exactly what the company’s focus on long-term solutions hopes to do. The technologies that Karas has opted out of using are the ones that would lead to less jobs.

Those that allow for a better product or better management of resources are embraced wholeheartedly. The vineyards are watered with dripline to minimize water waste, and the water is pumped to where it needs to go by low energy gravity pumps. Inside the winery, new technologies (like phone apps for the filtering process) are happily adopted. Across it all, the common thread is a desire to help both Armenia and Armenians.

This philosophy is not just limited to Karas Wines, either. As Ms. Del Aguila put it, the drive to invest in the Armenian people is “in the DNA” of all the Eurnekian family enterprises in the country, of which the most well-known might be the renovation of Zvartnots Airport outside of Yerevan, which Eurnekian took on to make sure that Armenia presents itself well to visitors, which will in turn aid the tourism industry.

Right now, Armenia is a country of incredible potential, and despite the challenges that face us there is so much we can do. With the drive to see our country grow and prosper and new advancements in technology that make it easier to use our resources more and more efficiently, we have opportunities everywhere. We only need to find them and take them.

 
Faith Hakimian
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