Kanat Kopbaev: "Every problem has its own solution, and complexity too. There is no problem without a solution"

Business is an important aspect of state development. It directly affects the country's economy and the social situation of its inhabitants. The authors of the history of Kazakhstani business were the representatives of the dashing 90s. First steps passed by them, together with young independent state, promoted the development of domestic small and large entrepreneurship. Their personal experience and their difficult path to success is now an example for the younger generation. Our founders talked to Kanat Kopbaev, one of the first to step into the world of business.


Kanat Kopbayev is co-owner of Kusto Group, managing director and member of the BOD of Kusto Group PTE Ltd "Kusto Agro"; partner of Yerkin Tatishev (#21 according to Forbes) and Daulet Nurzhanov (#39 according to Forbes) in Kusto Group, which owns assets in Kazakhstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Vietnam, China, Thailand, Ukraine, Turkey, Georgia and Israel. Kopbayev oversees the group's construction materials segment, which includes Tambour, an Israeli paint and varnish factory, and Coteccon, a construction company in Vietnam.

 – As Alisher Navoi said, "Grinding sugar and salt are very similar, but salt and sugar are not the same thing. In life, for any person, and especially for a businessman, not only victories are important, but also defeats. When challenges and difficulties come your way, how do you deal with them?

– Every problem has a solution, and so does complexity. There is no problem without a solution. For one problem you have to spend more time, for another, less. Accordingly, some of them require a lot of effort and energy. The main thing is to clearly understand that difficulties are tasks that need to be solved. It is always possible to get out of any difficult situation. The main thing is not to get stuck at this point, but rather to look for a way to a solution. Risks, expectations, hypotheses, analysis... These are things that business people face every day. Once you have chosen this path, be prepared for any ups and downs

– How do you deal with your failures?

– I don't struggle with anything at all. There is no "battlefield" in my life, no eternal worries, and so on. I just move on through this phase, without an emotional slump. I've always been like that, respectively, ready for any adventure. I have never had the desire to abandon the work I started: if every failure makes you drop your hands and suffer, how to go on living... I advise to think more about success, and a failure is a failed project, and that's it. You have to move on.

– How did you become successful?

– Working. For as long as I can remember, I always told my mother that I was going to be rich. At school I was still that bully, I had been selling everything since high school, and I always knew that success was waiting for me. Probably felt it or became successful because of my belief in myself, although everyone evaluates success differently. In our time everyone was doing something new and even risky.  Back then, there were no other options but to take risks. I believe that everyone can achieve the result they want if they pursue their goal with confidence, no matter what. All that matters is your focus, and practice and experience will make you an expert.

– Tell us, please, how did your path to business begin, where and when did your breakthrough happen?

– I came to Almaty to study and started to build my career here. The 1990s were very different, especially the beginning - before the introduction of the national currency. You could say that we, aspiring entrepreneurs, were the same. I'll give you a simple example: in one place you buy a Snickers for one ruble, walk a few meters away, and sell it for two rubles more. That's how it all started, that's how experience came, in the words of the classic, "the son of hard errors. At the time, our young, independent state was just entering the world stage. And I too was taking my first steps in business. Almaty was the beginning of the way, and then the cities and countries were changing...

When I was a student, I went for an internship at Astana Motors in the summer, and after a while I became a member of the team. It turns out, we practiced there during the summer, and we were asked if we wanted to stay. We were still in training at the time, but we were allowed to "come in the afternoon." We were a new workforce for the company: at first we worked half a day, then the whole day, in the end we even quit school... But I finished university and got my diploma. I continued down this road, and then I moved to the parent company, Astana Holding.

In 1997, Astana Holding bought the Kustanay Minerals enterprise from the state. In this regard, in 1998 we left for Kostanay region.

I got married back in 1997, at first my wife and I lived in different cities, but I tried to fly to her more often...

Long ago, in the last school year, I moved to my historical homeland - in Zhambyl region. It so happened that my future wife and I were newcomers at this school, we were in the same class, and even sat at the same desk. I always say that fate itself brought us together. Today we have six beautiful children and we can already say that we do not live in vain.

Then I worked at a plant in the Kostanay region, in Zhetygar. It so happened that Astana Holding decided to leave this business, and we, having managed to prove ourselves on the good side, took over the management of the enterprise.

It was difficult, but we believed in success.  We are our team: three very close friends and simultaneously partners. There are many people in the company now, but our trio is still inseparable: we move forward together.

– What is the most important thing for you in business?

– When you first start a business, you have to move forward without fear. You can't say, "We don't have it," "We won't make it. Always say "yes": it will open the way for you. You have to be able to present yourself more intelligently, that is, even if you don't have the right resource for some service, you can't say no right away. Confidence in yourself and in your team is important, especially in the beginning. After all, sometimes it happens that no one believes in your strength but you. And if you doubt yourself too, your end in the business world is near. It's very important not to mistake it all for deception. A promise, and in our business it's a contract, must be kept. If you put your signature on it, bring it to an end.  There is always risk in everything, but it is important that you approach the situation wisely. A businessman must allocate his forces wisely and know the price of every word, that is, not to throw them to the wind. Character is also very important, sometimes it's useful to be cheeky and to rush forward. In short, there are no stereotypes, everyone reaches his or her destination in his or her own way.


– Tell me, do you have any special dream that you aspire to, because businessman Kanat Kopbaev has everything!

– I don't have everything yet! I think anyone would say that. We strive for something new every time. For example, I dream of seeing the Earth from space. Technology is advancing so rapidly right now that I believe my dream will come true. Probably, in 10 years, we will be shooting interviews in space.

– We hold different Kazakh events in schools, we finance the production of domestic books. When we go abroad to study or work, we try to show our culture, because the whole nation will be perceived by individual people. Businessmen are representatives of the country. We give chapanes, books "Kazakhstan", we hold Days of Culture of the RK, we cooperate with embassies. In the countries where we work, we necessarily hold national holidays at stadiums, invite national artists.

– What do you like about our country?

– I like people in Kazakhstan - I adore our people. In recent years, I work a lot with young people and I see their potential, their desire to learn and their ability to absorb everything important. Today there are many doors open for specialists - masters of their craft. The main thing is to start and not to be lazy to work. I am also very happy about the intergenerational continuity. For example, I try to educate my children by personal example.

We live with our parents: my wife's mom has been with us for several years, and my mom lived with my younger brother and recently moved in with us. I think the atmosphere that our grandmothers create is priceless. There are always guests at home, relatives, their girlfriends... You can feel the Kazakh vibe right away. We, in turn, try to be respectful to them, we are never rude to our elders, and they always have the last word. Our children see this and show similar attitude to us. You cannot make today's children do anything - it's a different generation. For example, when choosing a sports club, additional courses, we always take into account their interests. I myself like golf very much. It just so happens that my third daughter is also interested in this sport. I support all the endeavors of the children. The main thing - I try to create all conditions for their development. But when it comes to the Kazakh language, I am very demanding. Rule number one: "Speaking Kazakh" is not always possible, but we try.

It is our duty, and it doesn't count the interest of the children or their desire. One does not prevent the other, so I am very principled on this issue. The duty of parents is to make their child a worthy citizen of his country. Our nation is famous for its national traditions and customs, in which ancestors advise what to do and what to do in any situation, starting from the birth of a child and throughout life.

I would like to remark on another important thing. A little while ago I became the president of the Baigue Federation. Baigue is a national Kazakh game, horse racing across rough terrain. It is one of the traditional sports of our people, counting back to our nomadic past. We have gathered together a motivated team that can help us take Baigue to the next level.

– What do you think served as a muse for the nomad, what inspired him? What inspires you?

– The Kazakh people's centuries-long culture, their desire to learn new things... This is in our blood, because nomads are people of eternal movement. Our people did not stand in one place, apparently, for their convenience they created a yurt, which they easily moved from the "kystak" to the "zhailau". Each time the desire to learn something new moved them forward. That's our peculiarity. I am also interested in trying something new - it inspires me. For example, we invest in start-ups. We have had not only successful projects, but also big failures. Investment is a business sense and at the same time it is a risk: invest and forget, some will be lucky, some will not. The most important thing here is to support the idea of a new generation. As a true nomad I want to be in motion regardless of time. That's why we went beyond the borders of our country. Business, like the human mind, knows no boundaries. We are children of the Steppe, and it is our nature to go beyond limits. You can't limit yourself to anything.


Interviewer: founders MUSEOFNOMAD

Photo: from the personal archive of the author

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