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Tamara Machavariani - from the successes achieved in Dubai to the vanguard of women's empowerment

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In the modern business world, especially at the highest levels in the managerial hierarchy, the problem of gender inequality is still acute, and the number of men there significantly predominates. According to the data of a number of authoritative statistical agencies, the share of women among the CEOs in the world's largest organizations ranges from 5-6%. While this is due to many objective and subjective factors, the fact remains: The business hierarchy is strictly patriarchal on a global scale.

The situation is even more dramatic in eastern countries, where it is not about achieving any career or professional success, but where it is customary to limit women's opportunities to receive education due to the cultural characteristics of the societies, in many cases resulting in their complete isolation from social life.

Yet, in one of these markets, where there are significantly more men in the private sector than women, in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, the global giant fruit and vegetable company Rush Global is headed by a Georgian woman - Tamara Machavariani, who became a 100% owner of the shares of the organization in 2020.

Despite a challenging past and many difficulties, Tamara managed to establish herself in Dubai within just a few years, tried her hand in many directions, and currently holds the position of CEO of Rush Global, one of the leading companies in the global fruit and vegetable market. Rush Global is a company founded in the United Kingdom, which has a 40-year history and is represented in seven regions of the world, in dozens of countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

Besides her successful career, Tamara is founder of the travel company Holiday Connect Tours & Travels, and is working on opening a Georgian food service in Dubai. In addition to this impressive professional portfolio, most of her life is devoted to the direction of women's empowerment, because she knows better than anyone the difficulties that women have to overcome in order to establish themselves and succeed in the corporate hierarchy.

'Entrepreneur' would like to better introduce to you Tamara Machavariani, entrepreneur, manager of a global fruit and vegetable empire; a professional recognized by Gulf News as one of the top 20 business leaders. Here, she'll tell us both about her personal history and the details of the struggle for women's empowerment on the world stage.

Tamara says that her grandmother, Head of a Trade Department, was her role model from early childhood, and Tamara always wanted to be as successful and smart as she was; to have her own office, and have the same leadership skills as her grandmother. Tamara tells us she had an amazing childhood, and, while she was not particularly hard-working, was "crazy" about freedom (being independent and having many friends), she always managed to read books, a useful habit that has survived to this day.

After graduating from the ninth grade, Tamara continued her studies at college, although she did not show any diligence at vocational school. In 2009, she decided to study in Germany, tried twice to pass the baccalaureate exams, but failed both times, after which she returned to Georgia and began active preparation for the university entrance exams. It was during this period, before her exams, that she went to Dubai on vacation with friends. It was a turning point in her life.

"We went to Dubai on vacation, but I decided to stay and never come back. And my friends there helped me, for which I will be forever grateful to them. I think the biggest school was my lifestyle. In Dubai, I found a life full of adventures. I'm proud to say I spent 12 years in the Emirates. In my opinion, when a human develops slowly, step by step, he becomes a person, while quickly achieved goals increase our egos and can make us self-centered," Tamara says. "The biggest difficulty I had to deal with in Dubai was ignorance of the English language. In the three months I spent looking for a job and going to interviews, my friend used to prepare questions and answers for me, and I learned them by heart; sometimes, I even wrote words on my hand so as not to confuse something."

Tamara's first job was at Mediclin, a successful medical center that currently has a dominant position on the market, where she sold cosmetics, and where she was soon promoted to Pharmacist's Assistant. She says the four years she spent at Mediclin was a great experience for her, and the fact that she is named one of the best female leaders today is thanks to her direct manager there, from whom she learned a lot, including how to love, respect and be an equal with her team members.

In 2015, Tamara took a job in a Dubai bank in her search for opportunities for career growth, and she passed the interview stage again with the help of a friend. However, just over a year later, the bank department where Tamara worked was closed, and she became unemployed.

"It took a long time to find a new job, but finally, I started working at Farzana, one of the largest fruit and vegetable companies in Dubai, where I acquired all the necessary skills and experience to be a success in this field. Then the company Rush Group appeared in my life, offering me cooperation in 2018, and inviting me to London for an interview. I felt a lot of pressure, but despite this, the interview was a success, and I started working for them," she recalls. "For two years, my car was my office: I went from port to port, slept in my car, took containers full of fruit and vegetables from the port and sold them on the market, in 50-degrees heat, after which I sent the receipts to Britain. It was an incredibly difficult period, but it helped me to gain valuable experience, which was subsequently useful for my personal business."

The second turning point in Tamara's life came in 2020, at the dawn of the pandemic, when Rush Group decided to leave the United Arab Emirates market. She decided to snap up 100% of the company's shares, so as not to lose the organization that had stood on her shoulders all this time.

"Sometimes it was simply unbearable to work during the pandemic. I rented an office, bought refrigerators and managed all operational processes completely independently. Over the last two years, the whole team has faced many obstacles, but it is impossible not to thank Dubai and its leaders for allowing us to keep going and keep fighting for our goals. I have felt amazing support from the men in our field, since I am the only female leader in this industry, and the great respect, as well as the sincere joy for my success, only strengthens me and motivates me to move forward," she says.

Tamara, tell us how difficult it is to establish yourself in a patriarchal, eastern society, and to succeed in business?

Today, I am the only Georgian woman running a business in Dubai, which is obviously difficult and involves breaking many stereotypes.

Men truly dominate in our field, which is not surprising, since this activity is associated with hard physical work, and, at first glance, there is no place for women here. However, in addition to physical work, the company needs lots of administrative resources, including marketing and human resource management: Managerial areas where women can freely operate.

There is a stereotype that if a woman is involved in business, she cannot take care of her appearance and at the same time be a professional in her field and run the business successfully. I think I'm breaking down these cliches and proving the opposite. This attracts interest in me both from the local and international media, and from women who are taking their first steps in the business world.

Arabs respect women very much, and I rarely have any problems in this regard. However, there is a category of men who simply do not want to enter into a business relationship with a woman. There is also a language barrier, as many do not speak English. Nevertheless, I always try to find a common language with people, existing or potential partners.

The main thing, I think, is to overcome the fear factor, which everyone deals with in their own way. It's important to be mobilized, strengthened spiritually, and understand that gender, skin color and nationality do not matter if you are pursuing a clear goal.

Based on your experience, what kinds of problems do women face today, especially in eastern society, and how should they overcome these obstacles?

As I've observed, cultural barriers in Eastern countries have a greater impact on society than religious dogmas. Over the years, I've met many local girls and women with tremendous inner strength, interesting visions, abilities and a desire to do any job and do it well.

Unfortunately, here, like in Georgia, there is still the wrong attitude towards women. Some men think that women should only be housewives, should get married, take care of the children, obey their father, brother, and husband. I think this is a rather old-fashioned and stereotypical approach, since women can do much more today, both for personal career goals and for overall economic wealth.

Based on this reality, I'm constantly trying to get my voice heard by women, to explain that 'you have to try; become stronger, develop, get out of your comfort zone and do something new, even if you don't succeed at first, because every failure makes us stronger and better.' Currently, the majority of employees in Dubai are men, although this balance is slowly changing. This is not the case in Western countries, partly because here women are comfortable in the role of housewife, until they face real difficulties.

The real inspiration for me is Emirati motivational speaker, Sara Al Madani, who often talks about the empowerment of women, showing their role and full integration into society. Women can knit, draw, work as a cleaners, but if they truly want to be the best in their fields, they will succeed.

Tell us about your activities to empower women. How do you try to get your voice heard and what are your plans in this direction?

Most recently, I was invited to the World Corporate Summit 2022, which was held in Dubai this year. My main topic was the issue of women's empowerment and their active participation in business.

In addition, I have applied for membership in the United Nations Women's Organization as an ambassador, which will give me more opportunities to actively participate in women's empowerment, participate in social responsibility projects and get my voice heard for women in Georgia or other countries of the world, regions where they most need our support. In such societies, women are often not even allowed to leave the house alone, and I think the more effectively we start communicating on this topic, the faster the reality in the world will change.

As for the role of women in my companies, I try to actively employ motivated girls in administrative positions, office jobs which require less physical work and are more related to intellectual activity.

My travel company, Holiday Connect Tours & Travels, which has its head office in Dubai, is staffed mainly by women. At this stage, our goal is to bring as many visitors as possible to Georgia from the countries of the Middle East, to raise awareness of Georgia in these markets, and to interest more people in our culture and tourist attractions.

What advice would you give women entrepreneurs who are just now taking their first steps in the business world and need inspiration?
First of all, set a goal and work out the ways to achieve it. At first, everyone worries about failure. In overcoming this fear, all the important stages begin; overcoming that fear will lead you to success.

It is impossible to achieve great victories without failures. Although you may fall many times, you will become stronger and grow by getting back up. For women, each of these failures can be emotional, and to them I would say: When you get down to business, turn off the emotional background in your brain, and never give up. I think this is a universal formula for the development of any venture: Strive, achieve your goals, and constantly aim to set new goals.

As for the role of education in achieving success, in my opinion, life itself gives us the greatest education. Mistakes at every stage of life are treasures that must be used properly. If you have an academic degree, great! But, based on my personal experience, I can say that it's not an obligation. The main thing is to do what you want with all your heart. If you believe that learning is the way to achieve your goals, then by all means study. But if you don't have the means, time or willpower, just do the work you enjoy and give it your best shot.

In their education and career choices, people give great importance to society, which, in my opinion, is not as decisive a factor as our inner attitude and determination. Often in our society, too much attention is paid to fulfilling the wishes of parents, relatives; passing exams for their chosen faculties; entrusting them with the choice of profession. It's wrong. There's no shame at all in being a waitress or cleaner. Everyone can change, adapt, and use each job as inspiration to start their own business.

I definitely want to touch on how necessary it is to ask for help. Many people are ashamed to do so, but there is nothing shameful about it, and I myself repeatedly turn to friends and partners for help.

As for direct business advice, I would advise female entrepreneurs to do the work they can handle. Even the most elementary tasks can be solved independently. Some businessmen hire a lot of employees from the get-go, entrusting them with the running of everything, and in doing so, the charm of doing business and the experience or knowledge you can gain from independent work are lost. Every successful entrepreneur needs to know both the sweet and the bitter in order to run a business properly, and to hire people who share their values and visions and who want to move in the same direction.

What do you do besides business? What tools do you use to increase your productivity and maintain efficiency?
In my free time, I always try to meditate, and I read a lot of books on the topic. All successful people agree that meditation and visualization techniques are the keys to great success. I always thought I would have my own company, that I would be a successful female entrepreneur, and I would visualize all this during meditation. The human brain is designed in such a way that what it clearly imagines and draws a clear picture of, it us certain to achieve. In meditating, the body loses perception of reality and imagination and "leads" you to success. I have read about 40 books on visualization and meditation, and I have a life coach with whom I work seriously on this topic, and I truly believe it is helping me to achieve my goals.

In addition to meditation, I am passionate about tennis! I play quite often and sometimes I even joke - if I wasn't in business, I would almost certainly become a tennis champion!

What are your plans for the future?

Today, Rush Global is growing and expanding throughout the region. We are opening an office in Saudi Arabia, which is a much bigger market. We're also working on opening a representative office in the USA, in Atlanta, which will be a separate export-oriented business, both from the USA to our region and vice versa.

By this time next year, we'll have our own Sakchapure in Dubai, a project which is almost at the final stage. Khachapuri is very popular in Dubai, the demand is quite high, and we want to respond to it with high-quality delivery. We're thinking of presenting our products at the Global Village exhibition next year and allowing customers to try a wide range of Khachapuri in different sizes and of different varieties.

In addition, as I mentioned earlier, I have applied for the position of 'UN Women Ambassador,' so I will continue to fight even more for the empowerment of women both in the region and worldwide.

Tamara's Team

Salome - For me, personally, Tamara is the best leader; a person who is constantly focused on the search for innovation. She stands beside us, motivates the team. She has all the necessary qualities characteristic of a good leader. I would even say she is a transformational leader.

Jonah - I joined Tamara's team in February 2022, and from the first minute of the interview, I felt some spiritual connection with her, as if we'd known each other for a long time. From that first meeting, I knew I'd be staying in her company for the long term. She treats us not like employees, but like family members. The team draws inspiration from Tamara's style of corporate management and personal balance. Employees don't stay in companies just for good pay: They need respect, recognition, involvement, and a sense that they are important to the company, which is what each of us feels when working with Tamara.

Tanveer - With an extraordinary boss like Tamara, I'm sure I'll never be happy working anywhere else. In a good way, she limited my choice of career path, since I can't imagine any other option for professional development than working with her.

Hamed - Tamara is more than a leader: She is a source of inspiration for each of us. Her diligence and determination inspired me from the moment I joined her team.

Siddique - Her innate leadership skills, along with her vast professional experience, make Tamara the best person to lead the team. She handles it all so easily, as if management is no challenge at all. I'm proud to have learned at least some of her skills.

Bashir - I'm happy I had the opportunity to work with Tamara and gain professional experience under her guidance. I learned the most important lessons from her, skills that will be useful to me for the rest of my life.

Hannah - Tamara is a leader who can give the right instructions and support us, her team members. The opportunities she sees beyond the challenges are a source of great inspiration for each of us on our career paths. She allows everyone to participate equally in projects and make decisions independently. Tamara is well respected in our team, as she takes into account our ideas and values and helps create a sense of real teamwork within the company.

არჩილ გელაშვილი

Entrepreneur Staff

ჟურნალისტი, Entrepreneur Georgia

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