Career Summary: Robert is the co-founder and former President of the Association of Fashion and Textile Designers in Bulgaria, his home country. He has worked as managing director of the global apparel marketing and advisory firm R.A.G.S., and taught in the Fashion Marketing & Management and Fashion Design Departments at the Raffles Design Institute in China.
Area(s) of expertise: Textiles, marketing, export promotion, agribusiness
Education: Master’s degree, Economics, Institute of Economics, Svishtov, Bulgaria
Language(s) Spoken: English, Bulgarian, Russian, Portuguese, Macedonian
Project: Tunisia Small and Medium Enterprise Project
Volunteer Assignment and Impact: As part of a program providing technical assistance to export-ready and near export-ready firms in selected sectors in Tunisia, IESC recruited Robert as a volunteer expert to help small and medium textile and clothing enterprises enter European markets. Tunisia’s textile and garment sector faces significant challenges. It has shed 100,000 jobs since 2011 – a result of investors wary of post-revolutionary instability, the global economic downturn and competition.
Before arriving in Tunisia, Robert completed a detailed study of European clothing and textile market regulations, standards and trends. During his initial assignment in spring of 2013, he evaluated, advised and crafted export plans for 20 enterprises and provided technical training to a larger group of textile and clothing firms, government officials and consultants. Returning home has not stopped him from supporting and advising the firms regularly and virtually, even ones whose small production volume makes finding buyers more difficult.
In the fall of 2013, IESC asked Robert to return to assist firms participating in the TexMed Trade Show, the international textile and clothing exhibition that takes place annually in Tunis. He recruited another volunteer to accompany him, Ms. Margitta Wasmann, a German textile design expert. Together they advised enterprises on German market conditions and planning a trade mission to Germany to help Tunisian enterprises develop ties with German firms. Robert identified places to visit, arranged meetings and logistics and accompanied the group as an advisor.
The firms invested significant time, money and effort to implement Robert’s suggestions, and the results have been significant, with 50 percent of participants hiring new employees scarcely a year after the project began.
Mr. Walid Sahraoui, chief manager of Tanit Textile, who participated in all of Robert’s activities, reported that his company had high-quality production and on-time delivery, but he had not really considered his company’s potential until meeting with Robert’s. By participating in the technical trainings, on-site assessments, and remote coaching with Robert, Mr. Sahraoui was able to developed his company in a number of ways that not only increased his export production, but Tanit Textile’s ability to create market linkages internationally.
From 2013 to 2014, Tanit Textile increased its exports from $1.2 million to $3.8 million due, in part, to Robert’s coaching. “We brainstormed with Robert. He advised me to build a showroom, improve the website, and he coached me regularly. Robert pushed me. I needed a coach.” Mr. Sahraoui and the staff at Tanit Textile were able to increase orders from already existing business partners because of their improved quality, delivery time, and professional development as a company. Robert encouraged the Tunisian SMEs to become more integrated, make patterns in-house, and other business models that are attractive to international textile and garment buyers.
Take away messages/quotes: “It is always rewarding when you bring your experience to other people and see it make a difference.”—Robert Alexandriysky