Yerkin Tatishev has leveraged his unique position as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the globally diverse company Kusto Group to support his ever-growing charitable interests.
Yerkin Tatishev’s philanthropic initiatives are all focused on promoting and encouraging talented and ambitious youth. The Kusto Group businessman believes that the key to progress and innovation is quality education and proper training.
The foundations of success
Through personal experience, Tatishev has come to believe that success is equal parts education, an openness to innovation and a desire to thrive. In the mid-nineties, the future head of Kusto Group returned to Kazakhstan after studying in Moscow. He began operating as a crisis manager in his native country where he observed abundant opportunities to implement reform. The post-Soviet nation found its once successful industries in a state of distress, suffering from a lack of reinvestment as standard practice, a disregard for modernization and unresponsiveness to a changing market. Those that were the hardest hit by the deterioration of industry standards in Kazakhstan were communities and towns dependent on the operation of a single company.
Tatishev assembled a group of like-minded individuals to come together to effect positive change and institute modernization reforms. For Tatishev, the obvious key to prosperity for Kazakhstan’s industries using antiquated practices was the introduction of innovative policies responsive to a rapidly changing world.
Tatishev and his associates’ desire for change combined with a strong team spirit formed the foundation of Kusto Group, transforming it into a global force uniting 30 companies, employing 8000 workers in 10 countries around the world.
Reforming the traditional education model
As an advocate of education, Tatishev has pursued educational opportunities throughout his adult life. In 1999, he graduated with a degree in finance and credit from the Moscow State University of Economics, Statistics and Informatics. In 2002, he attended the Kazakh State Academy of Law. From 2009 to 2010, the businessman was an associate member of St. Anthony’s College at the University of Oxford.
Yerkin Tatishev, the father of four children, was inspired to open a new type of school after experiencing for himself the contradictions present within traditional school systems. In the fall of 2017, the High Tech Academy School (HTA) opened in Almaty, Kazakhstan. The school operates under a model inspired by the Finnish education system. The progressive country has created an education system that “prepares children for life, not for exams.” The school creates an individualized education plan for each child that encourages teamwork, self-discipline and critical thinking. The mission of HTA is to not only provide students with knowledge but also to ensure that they develop an understanding of its real-world application.
The HTA initiative goes far beyond a business investment, for Tatishev, it is an investment in the future. The school aspires to transcend the old model of education where information was ‘crammed’ into students to achieve understanding. With the proliferation of computers, information is now easily cataloged, instantly retrievable and data is less prone to distortion over time. Therefore, students need to be equipped with new skill sets that allow them to critically analyze and process this information, creating new meanings from existing data. In addition, humans have limitless abilities for artistic creation and imagination that computers can only poorly imitate.
The school does not follow traditional scales of measuring academic achievement, instead, it favors a system that assesses performance based on skills, mastery of the material and the ability to work in a team. The goal of this assessment system is to more accurately track the progress of students by designing individual performance criteria, challenging each student to reach their full potential.
Elevating culture through music
Another charitable project that Tatishev has taken up with enthusiasm is the restoration of the Prince Alexander Chavchavadze’s residence in Tsinandali, Georgia. It has taken time and dedication to rehabilitate and reconstruct the grounds, once nearly abandoned, into a museum and fully functioning boutique vineyard popular with locals and tourists.
In September of 2019, the residence will be host to the first ever Tsinandali Festival of Classical Music, the largest festival of its kind in the history of Georgia. A 900-seat auditorium, a luxury hotel, a library, and an open-air amphitheater were built at the venue especially for the festival. Throughout the festival, attendees will be treated to a total of 30 concerts of orchestral and chamber music, solo concerts and operas performed by world-class musicians. According to Tatishev, about $3 million will be spent on the festival, which is scheduled to become annual. The Georgian government has allocated $2 million and $1 million will be provided by private sponsors.
True to the core of Yerkin Tatishev’s charitable mission, the festival will feature the Pan-Caucasian Youth Symphony Orchestra, composed of talented young musicians from all across the Caucasus region. During the two-week festival, the ambitious, gifted artists selected to participate will have the opportunity to live, study and create with world-renowned masters of classical music.
At a press conference announcing auditions for the Tsinandali Festival youth orchestra, Tatishev expressed his motivations behind establishing the festival saying, “I noticed that the countries where classical music is popular are rich and wealthy. If you want to produce high-quality cars or technologies, but the country is poor in culture, it is very difficult to do. Everything goes in parallel: the wealth of the soul, the wealth of the mind, the wealth of society.”
Encouraging ambitious youth
One of Tatishev’s first charitable initiatives was the Yerzhan Tatishev Foundation, an organization founded in honor of his older brother. The foundation awards educational grants and scholarships annually through two programs: ‘BesTirek’ – a program that encourages entrepreneurship and awards students who have displayed exceptional leadership qualities – and ‘Get a Craft!’ – a program designed for youth with disabilities who maintain an active lifestyle and a desire for professional development.
The Yerzhan Tatishev Foundation has awarded 193 scholarships and grants since its inception. Foundation recipients have gone on to open their own businesses, receive guidance from mentors and successful entrepreneurs, and have the opportunity to complete an internship at Babson College in the United States.
While Yerkin Tatishev has become increasingly devoted to philanthropy, he remains humble about his charitable activities, choosing not to broadcast his efforts on his company’s official website. Through his initiates to support talented young men and women, Tatishev hopes to advance Kazakhstan’s economy, promote its culture and effect innovative reforms across society.