Helping small businesses grow

Friday, February 14, 2020
Azam Ahrulloev poses proudly with leather shoes that he produced with USAID support
Azam Ahrulloev

Azam Ahrulloev is a 26-year-old entrepreneur who started his business in 2016 by purchasing second-hand sewing machines for only $25. In the midst of an unfavorable business environment and with only a $3000 loan from his grandfather, Ahrulloev began creating shoes with minimal equipment and no additional staff.

Private enterprises play a central role in driving economic growth and generating employment in Tajikistan. Fostering vibrant small and growing businesses is critical for both economic development and poverty reduction. However, most enterprises in Tajikistan are micro and remain that way. The risk profile and regulatory constraints for financial institutions make it impossible to provide the type of financing required for small businesses to grow. The loan tenures are too short, collateral requirements are too high, and repayment terms are not flexible. With no access to technical assistance and mentoring services, small enterprises usually get stuck in a low-growth trap.

Ahrulloev successfully applied for and completed the business training program offered by Central Asia Accelerate Prosperity, to support start-ups and small and medium businesses. The project, funded by USAID and the Aga Khan Foundation, supports those enterprises that are women-led, women-operated or have significant impact on women’s employment. Ahrulloev advocated for his business at the project's Pitch Presentation event in Dushanbe, the capital of Tajikistan, and was able to secure an additional $23,000 to fund his growing business.  His company, Azam’s Shoes, employs 25 people, half of whom are women and youth, and the business has now become profitable.  

The funds allowed Ahrulloev to purchase a modern leather cutting press, folding and sewing machines, and a press for gluing soles and polishing the leather. In August 2019, the company opened its new branch in the north of the country to produce more shoes and reach more customers. Today, Ahrulloev is known as the first Tajik producer of leather shoes. He receives continuous mentorship and training on business acceleration through Accelerate Prosperity project to ensure he has every opportunity to succeed.

As a young entrepreneur, Ahrulloev has big dreams, “I plan to improve the design and quality of my products and increase my product line to enter Kazakhstan’s and Russia’s markets.”

Last updated: March 30, 2020

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