Right after school, 10-year-old Bakhtiyor Misharovob rushes home to meet his father at the workshop, a primitive-looking building with old equipment, broken sewage pipes, and not much light. The two live with Bakhtiyor’s youngest brother and mother in a small house in Khujand, a major city along the ancient Silk Road in northern Tajikistan.
His father, Sayid, is a technician in repairing TVs and has worked in this field for decades. With a love for electronics and an eagerness to learn more, Bakhtiyor helps his father in any way he can, performing simple tasks like welding, connecting wires, and screwing bolts. He often stays at the workshop until late at night, causing his little brother to fetch him and bring him home for a regular scolding from his mother.
A NEW OPPORTUNITY
Ten years later and to no one’s surprise, Bakhtiyor follows in his father’s footsteps. After graduating high school, he found a job repairing and installing radios, while receiving vocational training. Bakhtiyor discovered his passion for fixing things at a young age, spending most of his childhood glued to his father in his workshop. But it was on a supply trip to Dubai where Bakhtiyor met a group of middle-aged men selling security cameras and became overwhelmed with excitement over the opportunity for a new market in Tajikistan. Without much hesitation, Bakhtiyor left his job, rented a small, Soviet-style building and began planning his business selling digital keypads, advanced surveillance systems, and security cameras.
IMPROVING ACCESS TO FINANCE
Due to the lack of employment opportunities, more than one million Tajiks are forced to leave their homes and work abroad. The country’s economy faces a difficult business environment, with an estimated 89 percent of the population lacking a formal banking account—making access to credit a major obstacle. Despite his longstanding background in electronics and a strong plan for his new business, Bakhtiyor was young, new to commerce, and had not much more than a penny to his name. After hearing about the First Microfinance Bank (FMFB) from a neighbor, Bakhtiyor applied for a loan of $50,000. He planned to use the funds to import products to kick-start his business. Through an investment of $1 million in FMFB, USAID’s contribution to ESCoMIAD has enabled the lending of 57 loans (totaling over $3 million) to Tajik entrepreneurs and businesses.
Since then, Bakhtiyor has opened a brand new store in Khujand’s city center—employing three part-time technicians and his youngest brother, Sohibjon. With a growing demand for his products, Bakhtiyor plans on applying for a new loan to open two new shops in the Konibodom and Istaravshan districts and hire more employees for each location.
“In order to succeed in business, you should provide the best service to your clients,” he says. “The first goal was never to make a profit, but to satisfy my clients. Then I knew the rest would come.”
The Larger Impact
Today, Bakhtiyor is married with three beautiful children. His new income—made possible by the ESCoMIAD loan—has transformed the lives of those around him. He can now afford to send his children to private school, help his brother support his own family, and create job opportunities for others in a country marked by severe unemployment.
But, according to Bakhtiyor, he is most proud of being able to give back to his father, helping him become the sole owner of his workshop and even renovate the worn-out building.
Bakhtiyor’s oldest son is becoming increasingly interested in electronics. Like his father and grandfather before him, he plans to continue the family business—but only after earning a university degree in IT.
By investing in local people and economies, ESCoMIAD is helping create a cycle of growth and development—expanding opportunities for people living along the Tajik-Afghan border, and in other regions of Tajikistan.
In 2014, the Aga Khan Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) launched a Global Development Alliance entitled Economic and Social Connections: A Multi-Input Area Development Financing Facility for Tajikistan (ESCoMIAD). Since then, ESCoMIAD has improved lives for people living in Tajikistan.