From Learning to Earning
“BizKids” and UPSHIFT programmes help young people in Tajikistan develop a spirit of entrepreneurship and shape their future careers.
It is another busy day at the office of one of Dushanbe's local marketing companies. A portrait of Steve Jobs with his famous quote “Stay hungry, stay foolish” stares at everyone who enters the office space. A team of young developers and graphic designers work elbow to elbow at a table almost as big as the room itself. The sounds of typing and scrolling fill the room.
In a minute, the office will be filled with the excited voices of young people who have come to learn more about the company’s work and gain more insight from its director. The group of young people have been brought in by 20-year-old Khusrav Malangov, founder of the “BizKids” training programme, which helps young people aged 10 to 24 acquire financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills.
As part of the “BizKids” curriculum, Khusrav organizes learning visits to businesses to introduce young people to private sector initiatives, and various forms of entrepreneurship in the Tajik business environment. During the visit, young people learn about the companies' portfolios, and business models and receive personal insights from company owners. They also learn about a corporate culture - often for the first time, and what it means to work in an office, or start-up.
From UPSHIFT to “BizKids”
Khusrav Malangov, 20, is a young person from Vakhdat city, who moved to Dushanbe to further his education and follow his dreams. Like half a million other young people in Tajikistan who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), Khusrav was struggling to find employment.
Khusrav was looking for a training programme to help him develop entrepreneurial skills. Through his peers, he learned about the UNICEF-supported programme UPSHIFT, which was run at one of Dushanbe’s Centers for Additional Education under the Ministry of Education and supports disadvantaged youth.
UPSHIFT teaches young people how to design and develop effective solutions in the form of products or services to address those challenges. It teaches creativity and entrepreneurial skills as well as out-of-the-box thinking.
During a five-day training and pitch development workshop, Khusrav came up with the idea of organising a training programme for young people to teach them financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills. The training programme aimed to bridge the gap between the skills taught to young people in the traditional education system and the requirements of today’s workforce such as negotiation skills, teamwork, creative thinking, problem identification and solving skills, situation analysis and research skills.
My idea was born out of my own desire and dream to become an entrepreneur. When I was younger, I didn't have the knowledge nor the opportunity for any of the training programmes that were available to me at that time. I was just one of the many young people with potential but no idea where to go and what to do to build my entrepreneurial skills.
After Khusrav's pitch was successful, he received his first seed funding from UNICEF. Within weeks, he started identifying suitable partners and trainers to develop a customised curriculum for young people and conduct the first training sessions.
Currently, the “BizKids” training programme is being implemented in Dushanbe, Khujand, and Khusrav’s birthplace of Vakhdat, supporting over 250 young people.
Sustainable livelihood and economic resilience
Since “BiZKids” began operations in 2022, Khusrav has had a stable source of income from enrollment fees. Because of its financial sustainability, Khusrav has hired five full-time employees - training facilitators, marketers, and sales managers - enabling other young people to become economically resilient.
Today, Khusrav is more financially secure and even plans to support his family by covering some of the household expenses.
Building a network of future young entrepreneurs in Tajikistan
“I’ll beautifully wrap my product and make it more appealing, so that my customer spreads by word of mouth the virtues of my product and brings me more customers.”- said 13-year- old Madina, a “BizKids” participant, when the director of the marketing company asked her about her sales strategy.
Meanwhile, Khusrav is excitedly encouraging young people to ask more questions. Whenever necessary, he steps in and explains complex concepts in a simple way. Other company employees enter the office space and, sometimes smile and giggle as the young people ask their director challenging questions.
The exercise helps stimulate young mind, foster imagination and critical thinking, everything a child needs to perform a “visioning” exercise, which is critical to entrepreneurial thinking...
"Some parents don't understand the value of entrepreneurial skills for their children. Very few really understand the value of these skills in the 21st century. But I'm hopeful for the future, because our students’ number are growing,” says Khusrav.
As the group of young people leaves the building, Madina approaches Khusrav with a question, "Can I get the number of a girl who was featured on your Instagram page. I'd like to get some advice from her.” Khusrav explains that young people at “BizKids”, not only learn the basics of entrepreneurship, but also socialize, build connections and share insights through a peer-to-peer approach.
"BizKids is not only about entrepreneurship skills, but also about motivating children to put their knowledge and newly acquired skills into practice. Many of our students already have their own entrepreneurial ideas and are working in teams to implement them,” reaffirms Khusrav.
The importance of the right skills for economic growth
Tajikistan has one of the youngest populations in Central Asia. Young people under the age of 35 make up 70 percent of the population. In 2018, young people said the biggest obstacles to achieving their dreams included lack of financial resources (29 percent) and limited access to training opportunities in rural areas (16 percent).
To realize the potential of these young girls and boys, they need to be provided with training opportunities and an ecosystem where their newly acquired skills can flourish and be put to productive use.
In the near future, Khusrav plans to expand the BizKids programme to other regions of Tajikistan and beyond the country. Khusrav recently became a resident of the State Business Incubator of Tajikistan, which provides consulting and coaching to aspiring entrepreneurs to help them develop and accelerate their projects.
"Skills are essential to creating a generation of skilled young workers and a generation of skilled young entrepreneurs. When young people are trained in the right demand driven skills and supported, they boost the country's economy by working, and creating employment opportunities for their peers”, concluded Khusrav.