When Azerbaijani Iranian engineer and entrepreneur Askar Sheibani arrived in the UK in the early 1970s, he spoke no English and didn’t know anyone. Today, he is the founder and CEO of Comtek, the largest multi-vendor IT hardware repair firm in Europe. With service centers in England, Wales, Holland, and Germany, Comtek provides service and support to end users as well as the telecom, datacom, and network service industry.
When Sheibani decided to start his own business, he realized that several large companies were sending their hardware products to the manufacturers in other parts of the world for repairs. Repairing products locally would be faster, cheaper, and more environment-friendly; however, no one was offering such a service in the UK, and Sheibani saw a great business opportunity.
He approached the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and his bank for assistance, but both institutions turned down his idea. Sheibani refused to give up on his plan, though, and set up a small workshop in his back garden.
At present, Comtek is a multimillion pound business that has carried out millions of repairs for clients ranging from distributors to manufacturers to system integrators to government departments. Comtek’s services help extend a product’s life, thereby preventing tonnes of hazardous materials from ending up in landfills. Recently, Comtek was named a finalist in the Green Technology Initiative category at the World Vendor Awards 2012.
More than a decade after Sheibani was told by a senior business consultant at the DTI that his idea wouldn’t work, he was invited by the organization’s secretary of state to sit on the Ministerial Advisory Board. “There I was, ironically, advising the same department that didn’t even want me to begin with,” he says.
Sheibani’s advice to anyone who wants to start a business is to never give up. “No matter how many barriers there are, how many people try to demotivate you, how many people say it can’t be done, it can be done. If you’ve got the passion, go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do it.”