American University of Central Asia - AUCA - SPOTLIGHTS


Azim Azimov and Ruslan Ilyasov

JMC '11 and BA '09

Azim, you have finally graduated from AUCA in 2012, while you were supposed to do it earlier.  What is the reason for such an overdue graduation?

Last couple of years I've stayed behind my classmates because was not doing so well academically.  I started working and work took a lot of my time.  I’ve had a rapid career growth.  I was promoted and then started working on my own projects.  I was in PR since my junior year, first in advertisement agency, then in Megacom as director on corporate communications, also worked on election campaigns of candidates to Presidents and political parties.


Ruslan, what about you?

 I successfully graduated from Business management in 4 years.  Once, I was almost expelled due to my frequent abscences.  I’ve opened my first canteen in my senior year. A woman was cooking “samsy” and I was a cashier.  My first start-up ended as full bankruptcy.  After this failure, I decided to finish my studies and then get engaged in business. 


Why did you decide to start small-scale business?

Ruslan: Azim and I spent a lot of time together, I was in public catering, I had some dining rooms.  While Azim had experience in marketing, so he proposed we open a café.  Azim attracted clients and I was in charge of the kitchen.  I try to stay out of his marketing and promotion issues and he stays out of utility ones.

Azim:  This is the key to how friends could be doing business together.  We demarcated our functions and that helped us to reach common view.  Both of us after graduated did not wanted to limit ourselves to work in companies.  Always wanted to create something of our own. 


What is the main feature of “Olives” cafe?”

Azim: We had some concrete ideas on business organization that’s why we decided to start a café that would generate income.  Plus, Ruslan had great experience in that already. 


What skills acquired in AUCA helped you in business?

Ruslan: AUCA taught me to achieve goals and never limit to what has already been achieved.

Azim: AUCA provides confidence in your abilities, teaches how to “sell” yourself to employers.  Also, AUCA  system is useful in a way that the subjects are taught by US textbooks and in my sphere of PR  this is really relevant as this direction was born in AUCA.


What advice would you give to fresh businessmen? What they should focus on? 

Ruslan: Once, I’ve opened a canteen and was pressured by some people who tried to take away business from me.  But, I defended it in the end, even though the documents very already validated for other people.  So, my main piece of advice would be – just to start business.  In certain period of time you will possess set of skills and knowledge based on your own experience.  And, of course, you have to be confident in your abilities and capacities.

Azim:   You have to understand that responsibility totally lays with you.  You have to treat business seriously, it’s not a game.  And, in my opinion, before seting up a business, you have to gain experience in companies, so you would learn your capacity and how companies with big resources are implementing their ideas.


What else do you do besides “Olives”?

Ruslan: I teach “Banking” in financial technical school for fourth year now. 

Azim:   I also do PR.  Together with Ruslan we carry out media campaigns, also do political and commercial PR.  With other AUCA alumnus Ruslan Akun we shoot video-reels.  At the moment, I work at Electrical Stations as PR Director. 


How you know each other?

Azim:  We are former classmates.  We made friends because both of us lived far from school and made long trips on “marshrutkas” together.  We had a lot of time to talk.


 Why did you chose this name for your café?

Azim:  First, we wanted to open café for foreigners.  We wanted our café to be associated with foreigners, people working in international organizations, foreign companies and tourists.  We were interested in this segment.  My girlfriend Altynai proposed we name «Olives.»

Ruslan: That’s because we did not have any other options on mind

Azim: No, I proposed we name it “Friday and Friday.” But, this would end up sounding like well-known American chain of cafes, so we abandoned the idea.  Still, as we focus on Italian and American cousine, “Olives” fits in with the concept.


Near the entry to your café there is a sign “Koldo Shop”, does it have anything to do with “Olives?”

Azim: It’s neighboring our café and is ran by my girlfriend.  It’s a social shop of different hand-made products.  The set-up of the shop is quite interesting: the suppliers are orphans, people with limited abilities and pensioners with low-income.  The main goal of the shop is not to generate income, but to provide assistance to vulnerable people.


What are the best memories of AUCA?

Ruslan:  I remember critical skills classes.  AUCA is associated with this subject as most of the skills that I use were acquired in this class.

Azim: If I had an opportunity to return to 11th grade I would definitely choose AUCA.  I regret that during my studying at AUCA I was not able to deeply feel the social life of our university as I was working all the time.  I wish I could participate in different events, but I still feel that AUCA is the best place to study.  Here, students are motivated and encouraged by instructors/professors and assisted in gaining confidence in their abilities.   


AUCA is…

Azim and Ruslan: Spirit of freedom, creativity and self-realization. 


Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Azim:  I see myself as successful person in my sphere that already had set up a foundation, place of my own where I manage people and teach new specialists.  I would like to share my experience how to succeed without sponsor support.

Ruslan: I see that both of us are millionaires.  We are respected and are opinion matters.  We know people.  And that is when we would set our foot in politics.  I see us changing our country for better.


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