Uygurs learn what's in a name
Updated: 2014-04-22 08:42
By Cui Jia and Gao Bo (China Daily)
A baker works naan bread at a branch of Abula's Naan in Urumqi, Xinjiang Uygure autonomous region. [Chen Yan / For China Daily]
Businesspeople in Xinjiang turn to branding to find their recipe for success, report Cui Jia and Gao Bo in Urumqi.
"I have a special recipe for the dough, which makes my naan crispier than normal, and I realized that if I wanted to capitalize on that, I would have to find a way to make people remember my name". - Abulajan Mettohot, owner of the Abula's Naan brand
People chatted and stamped their feet as they waited, inhaling the smell of the hot, fresh-baked naan - a traditional Uygur round flatbread sprinkled with sesame seeds - that has made the bakery one of the most popular in the region.
Abula's bread is rapidly gaining a following in other parts of China, too, and businesspeople from the Uygur ethnic group such as Abulajan Mettohot, who owns the Abula's Naan brand, are beginning to understand the importance of effective branding in the battle to win customers.
Like many Uygur entrepreneurs, Abulajan used a variation of his own name to brand his product. He felt "Abula's Naan" was simple and easy to remember, an assumption that has proved true, judging by the success of the 43-year-old who now owns a chain of outlets across Xinjiang.
Abulajan arrived in Urumqi from Yecheng county in southern Kashgar prefecture in 1997. Despite few formal educational qualifications, he was ambitious - so he borrowed 2,000 yuan ($320) from relatives and opened a small bakery.
Business boomed, but Abulajan wasn't happy: "I once heard some people on a bus praising my naan. They had some of my naan with them, but were carrying them in plain plastic bags. That's when it occurred to me that the bags I gave the customers didn't have a design or my name on them, so no one could tell if the naan came from me or another baker," he said. "I have a special recipe for the dough, which makes my naan crispier than normal, and I realized that if I wanted to capitalize on that, I would have to find a way to make people remember my name".
In 2001, he registered his first trademark and designed the company's logo, which depicts a smiling Uygur man, complete with traditional hat and mustache, holding a naan and giving a thumbs-up. In addition to having the logo printed on carrier bags, Abulajan also designed gift boxes, which upgraded the bread from a daily essential to a presentable gift. Five years later, the company was designated a "famous Xinjiang brand" by the Xinjiang
Administration of Industry and Commerce.