ASTANA – Uzbekistan’s mostly male-dominated entrepreneurial arena is slowly being populated by women. According to the Uzbek statistics committee, the number of businesswomen in small and private entrepreneurships grew 1.6 times in the past decade – more than 40 percent are successful managers and directors of small businesses.
The Astana Times wanted to learn what drives women entrepreneurs and how they manage to succeed in the modern economic environment.
Dilfuza Zaitullayeva, 25, is the owner of Uzbek Tours, a small travel agency. She was born and raised in Tashkent.
“Women are more often than not getting into politics and business around the world. Our main weapon to thrive in business is of course being tactful, flexible, having good organisational skills and listening – something men often don’t do,” she said, smiling.
“To have a successful small business, one needs a tempered character, patience. When I opened my company three years ago, there were times when I thought to myself that there was no way to further it; that’s it the dead end and now I need to shut it down. In these times, now I just sleep on it and when I wake up I always find the way out,” she added.
Zaitullayeva’s success is also motivated by her love of what she does.
“I realised that it is something I liked doing. We started with outbound tourism, but as you know, Uzbekistan is rich in its own culture and history and now we do both inbound and outbound tourism. But I really enjoy doing this and this passion helps me thrive,” she said.
A graduate of the English linguistics faculty of Uzbek State University, Zaitullayeva uses all the theoretical skills she acquired on the job.
“Of course, you have to understand that it’s not always like that – you just like something and open a business and you will be good at it. You need basic skills or at least to have an understanding of what you’re doing. In my case, I speak English and Spanish fluently that I majored in, so for me it was easy to communicate with tourists and foreign clients,” she noted.
Starting one’s own company these days in Uzbekistan is easy, she claims.
“Opening a business is very simple: you pick a name for your company, provide state authorities with all the documents they require and in about 10-15 business days you’re a business lady. Then, depending on your type of activity, you need to obtain the license – here it might take up to six months to obtain one, in our case in the tourism and hospitality sector,” Zaitullayeva explained.
“These days, seeing female entrepreneurs is a normal thing; there are more and more of us each day. This means that our economy is doing well; the middle class is growing and I think it is a good sign,” said Zaitullayeva.
She dreams of teaching young girls how to open their own businesses in the future, as she believes it is something that should be taught in public schools.
“I am grateful to my teachers for everything they taught me, but I never used biology or geometry or algebra in my adulthood. I wish I had learned a little bit about business management, the procedures and what to expect, etc. I want to thank the Association of Business Women of Uzbekistan, Tadbirkor Aiyol, for helping me find my path when I most needed it and all my relatives who believed in me from the very beginning,” she said.
Zaitullayeva realises Uzbek Tours is still a small company with a moderate income. She is planning on expanding and reaching out to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, however, and is looking for business partners.
“I want the people who are thinking about opening a business to draw a map of what needs to be done, where they see themselves and plan each detail carefully. And most importantly, so the business will not only bring financial stability, but also pleasure,” she said.