Updated: Sep 16
Turn-offs in business can sometimes ignite innovative thinking. A stellar example epitomizes this: the case of Uzbek restaurateur-turned-tech founder of JOWi - Sanjar Maksudov. Loyal to his craft, he did not give up at the sight of hurdles but found a way to bypass them. This feature sheds light on obstacles entrepreneurs can face and the solutions they can come up with, using Sanjar's example.
Photo: taken from Spot.uz
Sanjar is a vivid example of a man unapologetically true to his passion. He left his law-enforcement career in the early 2000s to start a restaurant business. The underlying motivation was obvious to Sanjar: he felt like fulfilling his creative potential. Now he is the owner of multiple restaurants all over Tashkent and CEO of the restaurant automation software JOWi.
After opening dozens of restaurants, Sanjar started feeling frustrated over hurdles preventing him from achieving steady growth: low personnel engagement and commitment, managers unable to retain operational control, unfair wages, and scores of other issues. He also plateaued at some point, as each time he opened a venue, another closed down.
These obstacles lead him to seek concrete solutions, but he endeavored to solve them by thinking out of the box and creating the JOWi app - a restaurant automation software eliminating roadblocks. JOWi solves inefficiencies in the restaurant management system by digitizing all the positions and introducing the concept of ‘private property’ JOWi divides restaurants into many small parts where every employee can become a micro-entrepreneur at his/her own micro-level and possess his/her own private property, with which he/she makes profit. Workers are now incentivized to be fully involved in the process and interested in the result.
Concretely, the app turns employees into associates aiming at increasing productivity and owning part of the resulting financial rewards - quite a disruption of the traditional restaurant industry. As a result, restaurants double their profits due to personnel’s high engagement, and employees get 2-3 times higher salary.
Sanjar established JOWi 10 years ago by investing around $ 4 million of his own funds.
Currently, thanks to JOWi, Sanjar’s restaurants are self-developing and have no managers. He does not suffer anymore from the headache of managing multiple restaurants. His projects are boasting of frantic involvement, payrolls are lower than in the market while profits are higher. JOWi is serving more than 4000 restaurants in 9 countries at the moment.
We shared Sanjar’s story to inspire those willing to start their own venture out of a concrete problem they face. It does not always take a spontaneous groundbreaking idea to come up with something smart and useful for a business, a community or society. Sometimes all it takes is to stay loyal to one's craft and the revelation may come along. And most importantly, despite being tempted to see the hurdles in the business in a negative light, Sanjar’s experience proves that looking for the ways to overcome obstacles can ignite creative & innovative thinking.
We asked Sanjar to share his views on Central Asia’s tech scene. Below is what he had to say. We transmit here as is.
1- What do you think about the tech scene of Central Asia and Uzbekistan: Biggest opportunity, biggest turn-off?
Opportunities - the market is still underdeveloped and there are no strong competitors. The obstacles are still the same - poor market development. You have to be an innovator in every segment.
2- Where would you invest if you had the chance (country, verticals) and why?
It is now profitable to invest in the IT sector in developing countries. The markets have not yet been mastered, and the prospect due to economies of scale is very large.
3- What advice would you give to founders, investors, and the government?
For founders - look for investments in the west. Usually our investors are not ready to invest in big projects..except for rare VC funds in the region like TUZ. It is much easier to find funding for a restaurant than for an IT project. Although the risks are comparable, and the profit is hundreds of times greater.
Investors - do not invest in small local projects. They are doomed to fail. Invest in projects with the potential to enter the global market.
To the government - invest in the right education. India did and did not fail.