55 Group, which as the name implies, is a group of companies dedicated to advancing entrepreneurship and the entrepreneurial mindset in the emerging Tajikistan ecosystem. As a GIST Innovation Hub, 55 Group will work to learn what it can from ecosystems around the world in order to better support the growth of entrepreneurs in Tajikistan.
At a Glance
I-Hub: 55 Group
Location: Dushanbe, Tajikistan
Startups: Have helped more than 200 entrepreneurs grow their projects
Sectors: Business Consulting, Marketing Services, Information Technology, Health, Food and Agriculture, Logistics, Finance, and Tourism
A Closer Look at 55 Group
Entrepreneurship is still very much a new concept in Central Asia, in part because many of these economies were under Soviet control until the early 1990’s. As Farrukh Hojatov, international and investment issues manager at 55 Group, explained, Tajikistan did not begin diversifying its largely agrarian economy until the collapse of the Soviet Union. This has created unique challenges for startups in the region – challenges 55 Group is working to address.
As is the case in many emerging economies, entrepreneurs in Tajikistan are increasingly being viewed as engines of prosperity. But the journey for Tajik startups is not easy. Hojatov pointed to several roadblocks for entrepreneurs, including a lack of business training to help young people create viable companies, a small workforce with the skills necessary to support new company growth, and banks with high interests loans that deter young people from taking on financial risks in order to create new ventures.
Hojatov said significant efforts have been made by the Tajik government and support organizations, such as 55 Group, to create an ecosystem that foster entrepreneurial activity. 55 Group does this through a series of programs designed to educate, engage, and connect entrepreneurs in Tajikistan. As part of its efforts, Hojatov said 55 Group is joining the GIST Network as an Innovation Hub to learn even more solutions from other emerging ecosystems around the world.
“This opportunity will allow us to share ideas with the [GIST] Network and gain experience from other members,” said Hojatov. “It will be very interesting to us to learn about the startup ecosystems of other countries and how they overcome certain barriers in achieving their goals.”
Over the next year, 55 Group will use the GIST I-Hub program to learn from other I-hubs how to better support entrepreneurs in the Tajik startup ecosystem. One of the top priorities for 55 Group is to collaborate on certain projects that connect Tajik entrepreneurs to entrepreneurs from other parts of the world, said Hojatov. The hope is that by doing so, 55 Group can accelerate the growth of the startups in Tajikistan while creating an ecosystem that provides a better network of support.
55 Group Updates
Business School 55 Partners with Tajik Government to Support Rural Entrepreneurs
In 2018, 55 Group partnered with the Tajik government, and organizations such as UNDP and CARITAS, to implement Business School 55. The purpose of the program was to identify the needs of entrepreneurs in rural regions of Tajikistan. As part of the program, participating entrepreneurs also received business training.
55 Group Host Series of Events to Support Tajik Startup Ecosystem
Through a series of events designed to support entrepreneurship in Tajikistan, 55 Group connected new entrepreneurs with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the region. Both the G5 Startup Forum and the first ever Tajikistan Startup Ecosystem Summit provided opportunities for entrepreneurs to connect, engage, and highlight their success and where they still need support.
Startupstan Cup Launched during the Tajikistan Startup Ecosystem Summit
The Startup Ecosystem Summit, which took place November 14 – 15, 2018, brought together ecosystem stakeholders from across Central Asia to further a dialogue and increase cooperation in order to advance tech entrepreneurship in the region. Stakeholders included government representatives, universities, businesses and corporations, incubators and accelerators, investors, support organizations, and entrepreneurs. During this event 55 Group launched the Startupstan Cup, with a prize total $100,000 USD. The finals will be held in 2019, and work is underway right now to select the startups for the competition.