Wednesday, January 8, 2014

For Your Consideration

Pretty much every day we run into what we affectionately call "business opportunities" to provide a good or service that could be of value here.

Are you an enterprising businessperson looking to expand into an exciting new market in Central Asia?  Here are some hot prospects: For Your Consideration!
  • Improved packaging materials.  Adhesive on cardboard boxes is strong but doesn't easily open.  We have yet to open a cardboard box (e.g., baking soda, table salt, aluminum foil) without having to rip off the entire top of the package.  Plastic wrap and aluminum foil are also flimsy compared to common US brands. 
  • Body Armor or elbow and wrist airbags for your winter coats. The winter streets and sidewalks of Astana are full of snow and ICE. This combined with the poor choice of highly polished marble steps and walkways surrounding most buildings and public plazas makes for very dangerous walking.  Friends at the local US Embassy tell us there are always a few employees with broken wrists every winter season. 
  • Plumbing supplies.  All pipes we've seen in residential construction are flimsy, pliable accordion plastic tubes. Bonus opportunity: plastic-pipe compatible Drano.
  • Ikea/Container Store/Bed Bath & Beyond or some store providing home-storage solutions.  There is a limited stock of Chinese manufactured products, but quantity and quality are low even though prices are high (one of the better options we've seen was a glass Pyrex brand dish with a rubber lid - $40 here, but seen online for $10). I showed two colleagues a picture of a stepladder online and neither one had ever seen anything like it.
  • Recycling.  While Kevin is delighted to not feel compelled to recycle or compost, I think there must be opportunity to reclaim some of the many glass and plastic bottles that are part of life (no one drinks the tap water; umm, vodka?).  OK, the economics for recycling programs are tight even in bigger markets, but surely there is some profit to be made. This concept doesn't seem to exist - I asked a colleague the first day if there was recycling and she said there was - but what she was talking about was getting bottled water delivery for the office and our apartment, which she then helped us to do. [Kevin: Two 5-gallon plastic bottles of water delivered to our home (of which the bottles are reused) costs us about $6.50. Not bad unless you figure in the $100 water bubbler we had to buy to get it all started. Hopefully we can sell it at only a slightly depreciated price when it is time to return to Los Angeles -- where Kevin drinks unfiltered tap water and Robyn doesn't.]
  • English-language tourism support.  With Astana's growing expat population and pursuit of economic development, this seems like a no-brainer... Yelp? A walking tour app that can be downloaded? an English-language tourist map with local sites?  English-language menus?
  • True-to-life menus - food stylists & photographers, take note! We have been to multiple restaurants and relied on photos to order something, only to be told that the image was downloaded from the internet. This is a big opportunity (see also: tourism support).
...and so many more.  Don't hesitate to contact us to express your interest in any of these exciting opportunities!

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