Making women business leaders in Tajikistan
Evelyn Seltier of the International Trade Centre talked with Farzona Tilavova, head of Consultancy group Kamolot 1, about the impact of her work, the importance of educated women, and how to be a successful entrepreneur.
Farzona Tilavova and her group of consultants are helping local and foreign companies to implement quality management systems for international certification, which can have a huge impact on business transactions. Back in 2012 their very first client signed 14 international contracts worth more than $18 million, for which Kamolot 1 won an international award.
Why did you start Kamolot 1?
Kamolot 1 was born from my desire to help enterprises use modern management methods. To truly understand how business owners feel and which type of business environment they confront, I realized I needed to start my own business.
Back in 2012, Tajikistan had lots of room for consulting services, so I knew that my services would be in demand, and I could make a difference.
Local businesses need to understand that they can grow by providing new services and exporting products and that any problems they face, be it weak infrastructure and logistics, narrow range, lack of or low demand or language barriers, are solvable. Kamolot 1 not only helps them be confident, but also provides the services to overcome these problems.
Have you faced challenges when establishing your business?
The road to success was thorny. Despite the untapped market and weak competition, it was difficult for consulting projects to go through a multi-stage hierarchy of regulation. But thanks to highly qualified specialists and a keen understanding of the specifics in the region, Kamolot 1 quickly gained a positive reputation throughout Central Asia.
We also faced difficulties as I, as the head of the company, and several consultants are women. It was a thin line to balance and difficult to cross. The company’s gender balance and my husband’s participation in our consulting projects, as he is Lead Auditor of several ISO standards, helped solve this. We have been implementing projects side by side, which made advising male heads of companies much easier.
How could women act as mentors in your field of work?
Being a literate woman is an achievement because the respect from society doubles. I am glad that my fellow female colleagues and I are examples of how women in patriarchal cultures can grow into creators of change. We also support young women to find their professional niche and involve them in our business model.
We strongly believe that educated women who run their businesses with a gender perspective must and will create opportunities for other women. Therefore, we train dozens of women in management techniques. Our team's consultants have a strong focus on empowering women business leaders, and their skills and knowledge are extremely helpful in achieving this.
What would one need to encourage more women entrepreneurship in Tajikistan?
Nothing in life comes easy and success requires hard work. One of the keys is to always seek more knowledge. I urge young girls to never stop dreaming of being the best in whatever field they like and making knowledge a priority. For developing women's entrepreneurship, it is necessary to assemble a professional team, set clear goals, realistically assess the available resources and not be afraid of difficulties.
I would advise young girls finishing their studies, to constantly work on themselves, study a lot, and at the same time share a lot. Be persistent, do not give up, always go forward – and only forward!
Kamolot 1 has been active through the International Trade Centre in the past 12 years, for example introducing HACCP in five food companies across Ghana. For this, the consultancy was awarded with an international Award by International Fund for Excellence in Consulting in the “Consultants Without Borders”.