Armen Avak Avakian
Don’t judge if you don’t have a solution

On May 6th, 2017 at a board meeting chaired by Armenia’s Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, the Development Foundation of Armenia’s Board of Trustees unanimously voted for and appointed Armen Avak Avakian as the Chief Executive Officer of the foundation. 

Established in 2015, the foundation (DFA), alongside its main mission of promoting the country’s economic growth, carries out its activities with the aim of enhancing Armenia’s international ranking, recognition and competitiveness.

Repat Armenia Foundation talked with Armen Avak Avakian about his repatriation experience, the challenges to overcome and the vision to achieve. 

Armen, thank you for having me, despite your busy schedule. You were born in Iran, moved to the US and in 1996 your parents decided to move to Armenia. However, you continued the “classic non-stop movement’’ circle. Can you tell us the story of your repatriation?

-My pleasure! Yes, I was born in Iran, but my family moved to the US when I was two years old, so I don’t really remember much from Iran. In 1996 my parents decided to move to Armenia. I finished high school and got my first degree here in Armenia, then moved to Budapest in 2007, got my second degree (MBA) and lived there for four years, came back to Armenia in 2014, then moved to Spain and as of November of 2016 I’m back to Armenia again. My background, which is business consulting by trades, always makes me flexible and move around from place to place for new partnerships and opportunities. 

Was it easy for you to integrate in the society and build your own network here. Any tips for newcomers?
-It’s not hard to build your network in Armenia. Actually, it’s quite easy. People tend to be very hospitable, very open and if you have minimum communication skills, you’ll definitely be able to get by. I moved here when I was ten years old, which made my integration process go smoother and easier. 

When it comes to tips, my best tip for repatriates/expatriates will be not to stick only within their community, as the local culture is why we are here. In reality, the whole point of being in Armenia is to become the part of the local community, as it gives you such a great perspective of the country itself. Just try not to live in a quasar bubble.

Almost a year ago, you were appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of Development Foundation of Armenia (DFA). What’s your vision of successful Armenia? What type of a country do you want to leave for your children?
-Such a great question! There is a lot of philosophy involved in what I want to leave for my son.

First of all, the best time to live in Armenia is now! We took the first step towards massive growth. The numbers are clearly showing. All of our economic indicators are up. We hit record breaking numbers in exports, in tourism, etc. If you come to Armenia five years from now, the market will be much more competitive and difficult for you to put a business or create a revenue. 

Ideally, by 2030 we would hit something like 10 thousand GDP per capita. If we hit that number, we’ll see drastic changes. I hope, that people will stop thinking short-term and will be more open for long-term investments. 

And what I would like to leave my son is the country, where he can still be called an Armenian in terms of his identity, but, at the same time, a country that is a part of the global economy and has its say in it. 

Talking about long-term and short-term business mindset, work ethic, etc., what are the challenges that we should overcome in order to move forward?

-Every challenge is an opportunity, in my opinion at least. That’s what my business consulting background has taught me. They say crisis is a terrible thing to waste. And if  during the crisis is where billion dollar companies are made, we’ll make it happen in Armenia, as well. What was in the past, stays there too. It’s time to think about the future. 

Challenges are on logistical and emotional levels. Yes, we have closed borders and yes, that’s something we have no control over. If people sit and complain about it, I’m not sure that will change the situation. They’ll just identify the problem that everybody knows and as for now, unfortunately, we don’t have the solution for it. So, thinking about it is a waste of time. 

The second challenge is emotional. There are many instances in the Diaspora communities where Armenians speak very negatively about Armenia and the business sector, specifically. The majority of these people are the ones who left Armenia during and after the 1990s. It’s my fair belief, that there aren't unpatriotic Armenians around the world. You may ask, why I’m stating this, right? Here is why: when you leave your homeland, there is a part of you that feels guilty for, let’s say, “leaving your country in a tough time’’. Because of it you have to justify your decision by bad mouthing the country. And it makes sense, otherwise, you’ll be depressed. 

So from that perspective I understand the need to emotionally justify your decision but I would recommend to do it within the confines of Armenians. 

Armen, is there a ‘’Repat To Do List’’ you would like to share with others?
-My ‘’Repat To Do List’’ will have three points: Don’t compare, engage with locals and don’t judge if you don’t have a solution. 

When you compare two different countries in terms of how you live there, it’s like comparing apples and oranges. So when you do come here and you do decide to stay, the first thing is not to compare. It’s a new page in your life, accept everything as it is in this country and then make a decision whether you are happy living here or not. The whole point of repatriating is to figure out new things, understand new challenges, meet new people and be, in some, ways, out of your comfort zone. 

As I mentioned above, don’t stick to the repat/expat community. It’ll get boring very quickly, as you are surrounded with the same people all the time. Instead, being active and engaging with locals will give you a different experience, sometimes you won’t understand each other, but that’s the part of the adventure. 

Please, don’t judge if you don’t have a solution. That’s my most important one. If you are judging somebody you better have a solution. Because just judging is easy, but that’s cheap. Coming up with solutions is harder. 

 
Posted byRima Yeghiazarian
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