Empire of the Ring Chapter 228: Summer of the Black Sea 2

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"You passed all of your work to me and didn't even give a call. Did you forget about here?"

As Youngho returned to Baku after five days, Jong-il who got tired of waiting came to Batumi on the Cessna airplane.

"Man, how would you live without the Cessna airplane?"

"Shut up. A person I call my boss is just an irresponsible human being. You need to keep your seat, whether there's work or not. Where have you been? Also, Ilkwon. You should've called me if you knew it was going to take time."

Jong-il's scolding lasted for a while. As Youngho and Ilkwon kept silent with smiles on their faces, he finally stopped.

"Jong-il hyung. Boss and I have been gone to make money."

"Money? What money?"

"You don't need to bother. Do you think being a boss is that easy? I go here and there to work when you guys sleep. Man, you sleep all you want and how would you know my heart?"

"Youngho, did you close a deal?"

"Ilkwon. Don't tell him anything. Let him die in curiosity."

"Hey!"


Listening to Youngho's explanation about what happened for the past few days, Jong-il got super excited.

"Man, I worried about those oak barrels getting rotten in the dead mines. That's exciting that you've found a market for the wine. You'd have made a better deal if I was with you though…"

It was true that if Jong-il was there, he would have bought Kemal's heart instantly. It was rare to find a guy like him who could get along with people so easily. He had made way more friends than Youngho, who had settled down in Baku a while before him. Youngho did not even recognize half of the guests at Jong-il and Karajan's wedding ceremony.

"Why would oak barrels rot? Also, I didn't negotiate the price yet. You can try to do it."

"Oh, yea? Okay, don't worry about it. This bro will be your help."

"Since Jong-il hyung is here, should I return to Baku?"

Ilkwon interrupted the two.

"Where would you go, aren't you his guard?"

"What do I need to worry about? You're here, hyung."

"Hey, you and I, we've got a match to finish. Why don't we have a match as North and South Korean special forces?"

The lobby of the hotel got loud with Jong-il's appearance. Zeynep, who overheard him as she was passing by, came to greet him.

"Oppa! You didn't bring Karajan but came alone here?"

Jong-il flinched at Zeynep's interruption. She would be trouble if she found fault with him.

"I couldn't bring her because I was in such a hurry."

"Meh, you must've come alone to have a drinking party with Youngho, oppa."

That was the exact reason why he came alone.
Youngho, who also wanted to drink with his dear friend in a long time, also flinched at her keen guess.

"Hey cutie, I was going to make sashimi with fish from the Black Sea. Are you up for it?"

"Call!"

Jong-il and Zeynep loved raw deer meat and their appetite for raw fish was the same. With Zeynep's joining, the gang got excited as if they need to get her permission, before drinking.


Everyone joined the sashimi and drink party.
After having a round of drinks, Youngho, Jong-il, Ilkwon, and Chulhwan were discussing the pricing of Zeynep Wine that would be distributed to Turkey.
Jong-il and Ilkwon were pushing a high price for the wine.

"Boss. Our wine is no worse than French wine. Let's not price it low. What about forty dollars?"

"Their aging period is longer than ours. Also, there's brand value. I don't want the high price to act as an obstacle for potential customers. I say thirty dollars is great as a starting price and we'll be able to slowly raise the price once it gains some popularity."

"You're right. Baku's country boys just don't know the prices around the Black Sea."

Cho Chulhwan interrupted and abruptly made Baku the countryside.
Jong-il snapped back at him.

"What are you talking about? Baku is not the countryside. It's a world-famous city that has more than twenty times the population of Batumi."

"Oh, yeah? Then why are the best hotels around the world all gathered in this small city, that only has less than one-twentieth of Baku's population?"

Chulhwan's statement was indisputable. Baku, which was the best city on the Caspian coast was not as famous as Batumi, on the Black Sea.

***

Sergey in Volgograd grudged, hearing that premium quality Zeynep Wine was going to be distributed in Turkey. He understood that three-year aged wine could be popular in Russia, but not five year-aged wine. Although the wine tasted better when it was aged longer, Russian people drank a lot of amount of liquor, so pricey wine was not a good fit for their custom.
Russians loved to drink and there even had been a case where a whole town people died, after drinking self-made chemical alcohol, in order to cost for drinks. It was hard to expect for the Russian public to have expensive premium wine.
Since Sergey already knew about that limitation, he had to let it go.

***

'The Arirang 1' loaded with wine, headed to Istanbul from Baku.
It had just unloaded some wine for Arirang Hotel in Batumi. The wine that was being transported now was worth 900,000 dollars. 5,000 boxes of six bottles of wine were quite a lot of amount. Youngho was able to send those wine bottles right away since he had bottled them in advance to send them to Frankfurt.
Because it was the first distribution to Turkey, he came along to observe the whole process and people's reaction to the wine with his own eyes.
In Germany, Arirang Hotel was doing a great job as an ambassador of Zeynep Wine. When people ordered a luxury course meal, a cup of wine was served alongside the main dish and the wine began to gain popularity through this method.
Because of Arirang Hotel, other famous hotels also wanted to try serving free wine as well, but they could not afford expensive wine prices. It was something that only the Arirang Hotel could try since it had its own vineyard and wine factory.
So, Cho Sangchun invited main chefs from top hotels in Frankfurt and had a free wine tasting event for them. The wine was reviewed well by the chefs and they began to recommend Zeynep Wine to hotel guests. Youngho remembered Cho Sangchun's proud voice when he said that Zeynep Wine would be distributed to hotels in Austria and Switzerland in near future.
Although it was being recognized well in Europe, he was not sure how Turks would take his wine, since Turkey's living standard was very different from other European countries.

"If the public likes the wine, I'm going to display my wine in hotels in Istanbul. If the hotels wouldn't take it, I might buy a hotel in Istanbul."

"People look for wine at bars, are you saying you're not going to distribute them in bars?"

"I heard bartenders and main chefs hold the power to supply alcohol brands. If alcohol companies pay them promotion fees, they'll recommend the companies' alcohol brands to guest tables. If they're not paid, any brands of alcohol are not allowed in hotel bars or restaurants."

"Man, why are they acting so high and mighty?"

"Those chefs and bartenders have high reputations and skills. Istanbul is different from Western Europe and chefs and bartenders' authorities are absolute. People are so picky about tastes here."

Since this was the situation in Turkey, it was almost impossible to supply a wine brand to bars or hotel restaurants, unless one used physical threatening like mafias. There was a high entrance wall for restaurant and bar industries in Istanbul since those industries were guarded by quality specialists.

"I haven't been having any physical activities lately. Should I make a move myself?"

"Man, I'm afraid to say anything in front of you. If you're bored, just dip yourself in the sea water. People say that sharks appear frequently. You can go and chase them away."

"We should make a branch office of our security company in Turkey and take over hotel security services. Since there are frequent terrorist attacks now, security companies are in high demand."

"Where did you hear that?"

"You've been focusing on Kazakhstan too much and turning blind on what's happening to our company lately. We've got a security service request from a hotel in Istanbul. It seems security service companies in Turkey cannot satisfy Turkey's demand."

"You're getting too smart these days."

"I know, right?"

"So, you're saying that we should accept the request and convince chefs and bartenders?"

"Now you're warming up."

The security service company was only based in Azerbaijan and worked for guarding important figures or businessmen in Azerbaijan, but it had not made its foray in a foreign country yet. It was the company's first time to receive a foreign request.
Zeynep Security Service had many experiences in hotel security service. It was because the company was in charge of the security of four locations of Arirang Hotel. Youngho was a little bit concerned about sending security crews to Turkey since there was a danger of terrorism, but it was a tempting opportunity.
If guards wore safe gears at all time and prevent terrorism ahead of time, it would be a great opportunity for the company to make its name known to the world. Also, since Youngho could hire Yaniv's mercenaries for dangerous places, it would also be a win-win business for him and Yaniv.
A charming business opportunity was waving at Youngho.

***

Mustafa, whom Youngho met in a long while, expressed joy at the news that Zeynep Wine from Baku had made its foray in Istanbul.
Saying that it was good news to Istanbul since travelers had decreased dramatically in the city lately, he kept on sipping on his drink.

"Brother. You know that I'm taking care of immigrants in Kazakhstan, right? The women residents there are handcrafting high-quality carpets. I was wondering if Serbian carpets had advantages in the Turkish market."

At the sound of Serbian carpet, Mustafa opened his eyes widely.

"Serbian-made carpets?"

"They're making them now, but I don't know about the quantity yet. I will bring samples when I come here to deliver wine next time. I've taken some pictures of their working process on my phone. Do you want to see them?"

Mustafa groaned as he scanned the roughly taken photos a few times.

"Lee. This is the best quality craftsmanship. Look at that pattern. If they are made to completion, they would sell out immediately in the market. Would you provide them to me?"

"Whom will I ask for a favor, if it weren't you?"

"Oh, sweet. Please don't ever change your mind, Lee. This will make more money than selling tens of cheap carpets. I will sell them at the right prices, I promise. I'll just be the agent between you and the carpet sellers."

"Aren't you going to sell them on your own?"

"I can't negotiate with you. You're my friend. I'm a carpet seller but I can't do that to a friend. It's better for me to just receive agency commission."


Turkish merchants were known to have great business skills. Especially, carpet merchants possessed the best skills. It was because the products they sold could be bought at 20% of their first prices.
The key to buying a product at a cheap price was to pretend to leave when the merchants called out their price. Then the price would immediately go down. If those steps were repeated a few times, a buyer could buy a product at a magical price, but the merchant still would not lose anything.
Mustafa's skills did not fell behind compared to those merchants, so he did not want to negotiate with Youngho and rip him off since he cared for him a great deal.

Serbian women on Arirang Farm only started making hand-made carpets since they had nothing to do in the winter and wanted to be of help for Arirang Farm's finance. They had said that those were high-quality carpets and it was proven by Mustafa. Since he had been a carpet merchant for a long time, his compliments meant a lot.

"Brother, are these carpets high quality for sure? I guess carpets have classes too?"

"Carpets become more expensive if intricate patterns are woven up and if all patterns are symmetric. With quality threads and dying skills were added, carpets could become pricey as gold. People would not use them for carpets, but use them for displays on the wall."

"I had no idea that these could be so valuable."

"No matter how bad the economy is, the luxury market would never be in recession. Rich people would make more money in bad recessions, so they'd buy more luxurious products. In the past, Persian carpets would sell at hundreds of thousands of dollars. You'd know why people are so into carpets if you go to a carpet auction."

Youngho did not get why people would buy old and smelly carpets at hundreds of thousands of dollars, but it seemed some people liked to collect unique things. Anyway, it was good news that what Serbian women made could be a profitable business.


Even in any remote regions of the Caucasus, carpets were a staple in each house, since they were used to keep out the coldness from the floor. Those people would usually make their own carpets. It was not a special skill to make one's own carpet since many people lived self-sufficiently and carpets were a staple piece of their living.
For a long time, carpets produced by automated machines gained more popularity, but in traditional markets, hand-made carpets were still treated as the best quality.
Rather than a perfect product produced with modern technologies, a hand-made product with some human flaws were more valued in carpet markets. People valued that humanly touch in those markets. It seemed that Istanbul was still a humane place.
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