street seller pots

Day to Day Life in Hostile Places: Doing Business in Central Asia

The challenges to doing business here are many. The market is small and corruption is massive. There is a deficit of qualified professionals in the employee pool. This means that you need to fully train whoever you hire, knowing that when they have marketable skills, they will be seeking to emigrate to a country for a “better life”.

Inflation is another significant risk factor for business, as well as sudden bouts of devaluation which can be disastrous when supplies are purchased in dollars but customers are paying in local currency. Corruption and lawlessness are rampant in government institutions and there is an underdeveloped legal framework for doing business. We openly declare our position against corruption and this is a plus and a minus. We have no sense of protection from the government here, and there is constant pressure. One of the most threatening developments has been the more recent rise here in Islamic radicalism.

When we published the book of Proverbs and began to openly distribute it we raised the wrath of certain legislators in the parliament here. They vowed to shut us down and began sending an endless barrage of inspectors from every possible government department, all instructed to find something that could put us out of business. We faced corruption that brought us to the brink of being shut down. Our refusal to pay bribes resulted in lawsuits, investigations and audits. In the end, however, most inspectors went away with a true respect for how we run our business. The auditor sent to “shut us down” ended up so impressed at our dealings that she came to the faith.

Day to day life has often been a challenge. People in power wielding too much control is a constant issue. One of our local neighbors is the head of a political party here and he held a personal vendetta against us for over a year. He called every form of government inspector that he could influence to come and once more try to shut us down. He repeatedly sent threatening text messages and even came onto the premises with armed guards, threatening our employees.

After realizing that sending inspectors to pressure us would not be successful, our antagonist resorted sending a mob of 60 people at night to our home. They threatened to burn our house down if we didn’t shut down the business. This was not the first time we faced such physical threats. In the early days we also faced the Chechen mafia and other similar issues when we published Proverbs. Thankfully we didn’t have to do anything about the Chechen that was harassing us, because he was killed by another mafia!

One way we mitigate danger and deal with the personal threats is to not bring our children (who have been studying abroad) back home, where they would be in harm’s way. Our three children have lived overseas since 2012.

I also usually pray together with my wife and our friends. We often ask our prayer chain (our company’s intercessors and outside intercessors) to pray for our business. We also try to do all things by law so that everything is above board and clear when some inspectors come.

Overall, there are so many more positive things to share than bad ones from our life in business. Our staff are like family. In the times of trouble our workers began to work together more effectively. We pray together for needs and for healing when anyone in a worker’s family is ill. We have a strong and well-knitted together technical and management team. Now 30 people work in the company and they are able to provide for their families. In these 19 years, 30 children have been born in our worker’s families! God has always provided for all we have needed and our business is rated one of the top companies in our country by the quality of its products.

More stories like this from: North Africa | South East Asia

Jo Plummer was interviewing Alex.

Alex‘ is a national living his home country in Central Asia and has owned a BAM-focused publishing business there for 19 years.

 

Join us on The BAM Review Blog this month as we explore the topic ‘BAM in Hard Places’. Have your say on social media on this topic by following us on Twitter or Facebook.

Photo credit: Flickr CC