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Story Of The 300 Dollar Entrepreneur From Afghanistan


21st May 2020 Down to Business

Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft; Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon; Warren Buffet, world’s most well-known investor; Mark Zuckerburg, youngest entrepreneur and founder of Facebook; Amancio Ortega, founder, and owner of Zara; Carlos Slim, a top telecom tycoon; Larry Ellison; world’s best software salesman and co-founder of Oracle; Michael Bloomberg, the most prominent media entity.


These are the few names that come to mind when the world talks about the most successful entrepreneurs and the wealthiest people in the world. These people either belong to the United States, the United Kingdom, or from the Western European countries. People from central or south Asia fail to appear on these lists. A self-made entrepreneur, Zabihullah Ziarmal, is a man who has put light on this matter. He talks about how it is time that someone from his country should make it into the list of top entrepreneurs or billionaires in the world. Zabihullah, who is the Founding Member and the First Vice Chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce in Afghanistan, is encouraging the young entrepreneurs of his country to work on unique business ideas and take their country to the top.

After the fall of the Taliban rule in the year 2001, Afghanistan rapidly moved into the category of developing countries. It was the time when Zabihullah realized there was an opportunity for the young generation of Afghanistan to acquire success and establish a favorable reputation of the country on an international level.

Landing on the Perfect Opportunity

Zabihullah Ziarmal was born on February 14, 1982, in Kabul, Afghanistan. He belonged to a middle-class family that prioritized education over all other things in life. Even though his father and grandfather were both businessmen, they persuaded the young Zabihullah to pursue his education. Although he missed some significant opportunities at that time, his parents did not let him quit education.

The young Zabihullah was passionate about starting his business all on his own. He enrolled in an English course when he was just 10 years old, the youngest student in his class. After acquiring English speaking and writing skills, he tried to become an English teacher. However, he did not get a chance as he was too young to be a teacher. Things changed when he finally got an opportunity to teach English when he was in the 12th grade. Teaching was something he was passionate about.

Zabihullah entered Kabul Polytechnic University to get a BSc in Civil Engineering. During this time, he was also teaching the English language. Things began to change for the country in the year 2001, and several reporters started to visit. He landed on a short term opportunity to serve as a translator for a reporter from BBC who offered to pay USD300 for his services for one day. It was a considerable amount in comparison to his monthly salary of only USD 100, which he received from the English Language Center, where he was teaching. It was the first time he came across the concept that there were multiple opportunities available at that time for his country that one could make money easily and faster. Those opportunities were brought on the ground by the International Community led by the United States of America.

One friend approached Zabihullah and offered him to join the coalition services in Afghanistan as they were paying around USD3000 per month for the interpreters. He was interviewed for the position and was asked to join the team on the same day. He worked with the team for almost four months while still completing his degree. The job was tough, and Zabihullah decided to put his education on hold and continue it later. His father did not agree to it and asked him to prioritize his education over other things in life. He finally graduated as an engineer in the year 2006.

Laying the Grounds for the Business

Another opportunity that landed in his life was in 2004. Zabihullah got a call from GIZ office and was asked to provide his services as a translator and interpreter, where he met two Sri Lankan Trainers. These trainers were implementing a CEFE business planning training program. It became an inspiration for him, and a business idea hit his mind. While assisting the trainers in translation and interpretation, he developed an interest in the program and requested the team if he could be part of the training as well. Afterward, Zabihullah attended a series of CEFE business development training and finally became one of the certified CEFE trainers, authorized to expand the training courses to other young Afghans aspiring to start or expand their businesses. He then established the first-ever Entrepreneurs Center in Afghanistan called, CEFE Entrepreneurship Skills Development Center, followed by the establishment of the AJEER Institute of Business and Management in 2007.    

His first proper business opportunity appeared in the year 2006 when he was asked to offer his services as a trainer for Afghanistan Small and Medium Enterprise Development Project (ASMED). He was in need of a laptop and projector to start his first ever project opportunity, but he had only $300 cash at that time, which was not sufficient even to purchase a used laptop and/or a projector singly. Zabihullah requested the seller if he could provide a laptop and projector to him on rent based on certain guarantees, and then finally, the seller was convinced to do so. After renting a projector and a laptop, he initiated his first-ever business contract.

While he was running his own small business, he was also working for the Afghanistan government. He got an opportunity to study at the University of Washington, Seattle. It was a joint program of Kabul University and the Washington University, Seattle, and was only offered to civil servants.

After setting up his business, he went to the United States to acquire a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Washington, Seattle. It helped him improve his business and to help further other young countrymen and women to learn the necessary skills needed to start a business. Today, he serves as the CEO of CEFE Group International, a trading and investment conglomerate with a presence in major global markets across 4 continents and 6 Countries. The CEFE Group, as an international trading and Investment company, has a diverse portfolio that has its roots spread to multiple sectors including but not limited to Investments, Logistics, Real Estate Development, and Retail. Moreover, the company has brought the first International Franchise of a Turkish retail brand, DeFacto, to operate on the lands of Afghanistan, and recently the company has been licensed to operate the World Trade Center (WTC) in the capital Kabul.

Zabihullah Ziarmal is a firm believer that the bigger one’s vision is; the greater are the chances of success. He was able to earn the first million dollars when he aimed to make 100 million dollars. The key to success, according to the young self-made entrepreneur, is to set bigger goals in life that require significant effort and time and could bring in better results. Not only that, the 38-year-old Zabihullah is a successful entrepreneur, but also he is an Elected Executive Board Member of the International Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business organization. Moreover, he is the President and Co-founder of the World Trade Centre in Afghanistan (WTC-K) and the founder of the Help and Support Program (HSP). This global platform has been established to reduce poverty through community engagement of the wealthy and middle-class citizens in the societies. It is to help & support the poor population of those least developed and developing countries that are struggling to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda.

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