Askar Baitassov, Kazakh Restaurateur

For this leadership issue, let’s first step aside of our “series” and get into the mind of Askar Baitassov, the owner of Kazakhstan’s largest restaurant group – Almaty-based, AB Restaurants.

Kazakh Restaurateur Askar Baitassov

Kazakh Restaurateur Askar Baitassov

To date, Baitassov’s restaurants number over 30; and offers Italian, Georgian, and Russian cooking, to American burger joints and European coffee shops.

Sounds good? Well, he doesn’t plan to stop at that; instead, he is thinking of something bigger – going global. Hmm… his overseas travels must have inspired him to introduce Central Asian gastronomy to the world this time. That’s nice.

But wait. Plans doesn’t stop at “nice” – especially in the restaurant business. The palate is just one tough cookie.

Okay, given that Baitassov is taking calculated steps, given that he tries to keep costs down by renting spaces instead of buying resto sites, and given that he invests his own money instead of using bank loans. Do these strides make a good move? Short-term, yes. Long-term, not necessarily. For one, consider the fluctuating and many times, the rising costs of real estate not to mention other overheads. While renting makes you flexible as you could exit anytime; purchasing space makes you more determined, resourceful and creative. So, the vision should be real clear – and every step should be guided by objectives other than profiting in a very short span.

Shaping Society

When you start out something especially something that gets accepted by society, you contribute to the area’s evolution – and that’s what Baitassov’s restaurants have certainly done. Yes, cultural change.

This is good if positive effects aren’t just incidental – if the “perpetrator” is not simply concerned about his business. While it’s understandable that an entrepreneur wants to succeed, there are those who’re just after influencing consumer behavior solely for profit.

Social Responsibility

When asked by the BBC of whether the two faces of Kazakhstan bothers him, his reply was – “Yes it does, but I am not a politician or the mayor of the city. I care about these things, but in order to improve things it has to be a joint effort including the municipal authorities. I prefer to focus on my business.”

Key words: Joint Effort. This makes his preference to focus on his business a “not so good” sign. As one who wants to contribute to societal change, Baitassov has to fully understand that if he helps his community, he empowers them. And what goes around, comes around.

Askar Baitassov may make it big internationally but entrepreneurship is more than just profits and providing jobs – more than ever, it’s uplifting esteem in all fronts. That’s Leadership.

What’s your take?