A group of Azerbaijanis here are making the most of relaxed visa rules for them in Turkey and Russia, to take the two-and-a-half-hour-flight to the Russian capital. This one-day cargo, mainly consists of womenâ€™s dresses, is important for Russian companies with a high demand for Turkish textile productions.
According to one of these very frequent fliers originally hailing from Azerbaijan who describes his business not as â€œsuitcase tradeâ€ but â€œtransportation,â€ adding that it is difficult to estimate how many Azerbaijanis are doing this job.
According to Turkeyâ€™s Central Bank, this so-called suitcase trade, in which consumers from Central and Eastern Europe fill their luggage with consumer goods from Istanbul shops, was expected to reach $7.4 billion in 2014.
The trade has been a significant source of revenue for Turkey since the fall of the Soviet Union, when people from Russia, Romania, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia began visiting Turkey in the 1990s to purchase consumer goods and pack their suitcases with items to sell at street markets back home.
The trade is primarily centered on Istanbul's Laleli district and in the back alleys of nearby Aksaray, close to the cityâ€™s historical and touristic heart.
Some of these Azerbaijanis who travel regularly to Russia have regular customers in Russia, especially at Sadovod market in southeastern Moscow. Sometimes a 20-strong group flies on the same plane together, carrying almost 1.4 tons of textile products from Istanbul.
One 40-year-old Ukrainian shop assistant in Istanbul explains how the process works: Customers give them a business card on which is written their name along with the products details that they purchased and a cargo company name.
They give the products and the card to cart carriers working around this neighborhood. When the products reach the cargo company they also write on the card that they received all the products.
But sometimes this â€œunreliableâ€ system does not work properly and incur loss, according to the shop assistant. The reason why some customers choose to send their products via these Azerbaijani one-day cargo specialists is the possibility of Russian customs seizing their goods and making them wait.
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