Zohir Shomusalamov, a young man from Khorog, Tajikistan, dreamed of finding a way to make use of his passion for cycling and the outdoors, but had little idea of what skills and knowledge he might need to do so. In 2015, Zohir discovered the Small and Medium Business Management (SMBM) program offered by the University of Central Asia (UCA). Eager to establish his own business, Zohir decided to join the program, with the hopes that it would afford him an opportunity to develop his skills and act on his ideas and aspirations. This decision, he later found, would mark a turning point in his life.

Zohir began his studies at UCA by taking a full-time business planning course for three months. Then he entered into the five-month part-time SMBM program. Following the successful completion of both phases of study, he founded his own business: Pamir Mountain Bike, an organization that rents out bicycles to tourists and adventure-seekers looking to mountain bike in the region. Zohir attributes much of his success to the knowledge and skills he gained in the program:

“First of all, I gained confidence in myself and my business ideas when studying at UCA’s SMBM program. Before, I thought that risk and competition were not good for business and, therefore, I was not confident enough to act. However, during my studies, I learned that every type of business in the world has its risks, and competition is useful—it improves one’s business. I have gained necessary financial literacy skills, as well as the knowledge to put together realistic business plans.”

These skills gave Zohir the confidence to embark on an entrepreneurial journey and start his own enterprise.

Launched with a Business Plan

Equipped with knowledge and skills gained at UCA’s business planning course, Zohir was able to prepare a comprehensive business plan for his startup that was both compelling and feasible. Zohir shared his business plan with various individuals and organizations in order to secure initial funding. As a result, with a well-planned business idea, Zohir managed to secure a 1,000 Euro loan investment, with no interest rates, from individual investors. Even with this small investment, Zohir was able to make his business profitable, with the potential for expansion. By the summer of 2017, just a few months after opening the business, Zohir had already paid back 40% of the loan.

Zohir has six bicycles and limited maintenance equipment for his services, but he has made smart use of his resources in a novel way, developing unique bike tour packages and networking with tourist-related organizations and individuals to promote his services. Soon after its launch, the business became popular not only among tourist but also locals. Currently, Zohir has four bike tour packages to offer: two in Khorog, one in the Shugnan district, and one in the Roshtkala district. The bike tour packages include sightseeing, visiting historical places, and touring spectacular natural sites. Zohir has already established good partnerships with local and regional tour operators, which is expanding the horizons of his business.

Looking to Expand

Zohir plans to purchase additional equipment, types of bicycles, and spare parts, to expand his offerings and meet demand, which continues to grow as more and more tourists visit the Pamirs. With his newfound entrepreneurial mindset, Zohir is constantly looking for opportunities to learn more, establish partnerships, and seek new investments.

Although Zohir has completed his studies at UCA, his connection with the university endures. UCA is unique in its long-term commitment to supporting its graduates and, as such, is planning to arrange a learning and mentorship visit for Zohir to a similar but more mature business in Kyrgyzstan. This visit will offer Zohir the chance to gain new knowledge about business administration, marketing, service cost calculation methods, and planning for additional services through the lens of a similarly structured business—such details that he might considering applying to his own business model. This will allow him to smartly explore different avenues for potentially expanding and diversifying the services of his business, as he continues to strive to reach new heights.

Daler Qubodbekov is SMBM program manager at UCA’s School of Professional and Continuing Education in Khorog, Tajikistan.