Kamila Ismatova’s life as an entrepreneur began abruptly, when she learned that her husband was seriously ill and she must provide for her two children.
Ismatova, of Sugd Province, Tajikistan, used rainy-day money to buy ten kilos of flour and baked and sold 30 flatbreads.
“We were saving on everything,” she recalls. “My son and daughter used to get up with me very
early in the morning to chop wood and fire the tandyr (oven). My son carried the flatbread by bicycle and sold it at a hospital to regular customers.”
Ismatova’s business grew and she needed financing to buy larger amounts of flour and
convert a room in her house into a bakery. In June 2008, she obtained a loan for $500 from Arvand, one of the lenders participating in an IFC effort to increase access to finance for micro entrepreneurs in Central Asia.
Microfinance has played a vital role in helping women finance and build businesses in Tajikistan, Central Asia’s poorest country. A civil war in 1992 killed many men and led others to flee the country to find work, leaving women to support their families.
Ismatova’s loan from Arvand boosted her output to 120 flatbreads a day, and revenues rose. She used the proceeds to lease two hectares of land to grow grapes.
Four years later, Ismatova has taken six loans from Arvand totaling $2,560. Her flatbread production has increased to 300 to 400 loaves a day, and she and her children harvest grapes and sell them to big stores. Her assets have increased more than seven times and her revenues more than four times.
Ismatova has used her income to renovate her house and buy a taxi van for her son, who works
as a driver. Meanwhile, the businesswoman plans to establish an outlet for her products in the local market.
“I am no longer scared of the future and look far ahead by baking bread,” she says.
Since IFC’s microfinance initiative, Central Asia Microfinance Transformation Support Project,
began in 2008, Arvand has disbursed almost 19,000 loans totaling more than $17 million and attracted more than 1,000 deposits totaling more than $350,000.
IFC advised Arvand on financial management, establishing cost/profit centers, and developing foreign exchange policy and procedures, allowing the company to provide loans in hard currency.