EP041: Aya Abd El Salam, Business Mentor, Business Enthusiast and Entrepreneur from Egypt

Sanja Milosavljevic: Good people of the world, you are listening to and watching Mondopreneur podcast. It’s a podcast that’s dedicated to present entrepreneurs, future entrepreneurs, people that work in Institutes or in NGO sectors or in universities as university teachers, and the main goal is to share stories from people from all over the world. Just to see how this pandemic is affecting everyone’s life. Because it’s something that happened to all of us simultaneously. This whole project is supported by the US embassy in Serbia and I would really like to thank them, because thanks to them we can share actually these stories from people all over the world. I have a great pleasure today, my today’s guest is Aya Abd El Salam and she comes from Egypt, from Cairo. We met on IWLP program in 2019. And she is- when you look at her, she looks so fragile, but once you start speaking to her and once you learn what she does and what she has done in her life and her career, you see she’s one amazing lady. So, I’m going to enjoy our conversation and I hope that you’re going to enjoy it too. Hi, Aya, how are you?

Aya Abd El Salam: Hello, Sanja, how are you? I’m good. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: I’m fine, thank you. It’s- the weather is finally nicer in Belgrade, so when the weather is nice, everything is fine. Thank you- thank you for accepting my invitation to participate in this project. I had some guests also from IWLP program- exchange program and they also- they came from Morocco, Gaza, or some other countries that are- let’s say we have some prejudice here in Europe when we think and we speak about those countries because we don’t know that there are many ladies that run their own businesses and that are very successful. So thank you for this opportunity to share your story.

Aya Abd El Salam: I really appreciate it, thank you for the invitation.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Any time. Can you- I usually ask my guests to share something about themselves like what is their educational background and how it affects what they are doing today. So can you tell us something about yourself?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yeah, sure. I graduated from Business Administration I started work in administration and I worked for multinationals for several years and then I decided to start my own business. I co-founded my first business in the furniture industry and it achieved a great success and the success motivated me to launch my fashion brand. And I did it. My second business, I launched my fashion brand and now it’s doing very good. After that I joined a Goldman Sachs program, it’s a program for women who had to know more about their business environment and how to operate their business in the perfect way. And this program helped me a lot to expand my business and to go more for international markets and doing better for most business. And then I found that I needed to have like social responsibility for my two businesses and started to help others – unskilled workers and undergraduates – to get them more training, training programs to improve their skills and try to reflect that on the community and the other country to have better economy. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: So, that’s amazing. Can you tell us something about entrepreneurship in Egypt? Because for people in Serbia, or from this region, when we think about Egypt, we think about the Pyramids and we think about those resorts at the Red Sea. But what does life in Cairo, or life in Egypt actually look like? And what is the state of entrepreneurship in Egypt?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Actually during this year entrepreneurship has been receiving support from government and private institutions. I think that they are trying to help them to reach their maximum potential and I believe this- those entrepreneurs are the only way to improve the economy in Egypt because they give more- or they create more offers and create more growth opportunities. For services and products, and that will reflect for more work opportunities and the commercial scene in Egypt is improving and I think the women entrepreneurship in Egypt actually is doing very well since 2016. So, it’s not only the Pyramids, the ecosystem of entrepreneurship is doing very well. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: So, can you tell us- you said that women entrepreneurship is also rising and it’s also blooming. What do they choose to operate, in what sectors? Is it tourism, is it some service sector, or food industry – what do they choose to run their businesses in?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Actually female entrepreneurs in Egypt now are taking entrepreneurship to new  levels and they are operating in all sectors. Manufacturing- yeah, yeah. In every sector you will find great, successful women in the industry. And we face challenges as usual, but now there is awareness- the people have more awareness than before. To help women to improve their businesses and to get more funds and get more training courses, mentoring as well. I used to mentor some women entrepreneurs. A lot of institutions are now helping women to improve their business through networking, mentoring, funding solutions, so banking organizations, institutions. So really, I found a great development. In women entrepreneurship in Egypt.

Sanja Milosavljevic: That’s nice, because as I said previously, I myself had some prejudice regarding female entrepreneurs in Arabic countries. I don’t know why, because for me it’s still a strong, male environment. So men are the ones that start and run their businesses, or they just continue running family businesses. But I’m so pleased to hear that things are changing and that female entrepreneurs are in every sector. 

Aya Abd El Salam:: I believe as well that it was one of our challenges – the male dominant society – but I believe that women entrepreneurship can lead to a huge social change. And if the women feel that she is empowered and she has the rights and the capability to do everything, it will reflect on her self-esteem, her way of parenting to her things, so it’s very effective to have a good environment for women and to be a good woman entrepreneur in Egypt or in any other Arab country. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: I’m so pleased and I’m so happy to hear that. Can you tell us something about your furniture business? I know that some great pieces of furniture in my friend’s house come from Egypt, but can you tell us something- it’s usually Bhali or Egypt. Those are two countries that- or Morocco – from where some beautiful pieces of furniture come to- I don’t know, Yugoslavia or Serbia. But can you tell us something about your business regarding furniture? And are you still running that company?  

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yeah, sure. I’ve been managing the company and- this is my first business and it’s near to my heart because- yeah, it’s created for passion. I need that when I have a passion for art, for choosing colors, for mixing colors and for interior designing. I didn’t study interior design at university, but I love interior design. So, the furniture- especially when we launch a big business and it achieves within a few years a great success, regarding the fierce market competition, so now we are expanding and exporting to other countries. We have our Egyptian furniture now in Dubai, and we are trying to penetrate the German market and- yeah, it was, yeah – it is a good success.

Sanja Milosavljevic: But what happened during this year of pandemic. It’s almost a year and a half now. What happened to the furniture industry. Because I know from my own experience, when you spend so much time at home and you start to see some flaws in your apartment or house and you want to decorate it, or you want to change some old pieces of furniture. So what happened to your furniture business during the pandemic year?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Actually it was a surprise for me that people usually come to the showroom and they are insisting to choose every detail with themselves and trying to see the product and try it. And the Covid-19 changed everything, created an expansion of commerce and for the customers, they gained access to the products and for us we tried to- we help them to get to our appointment and showroom to see everything but they were afraid, but we got a lot of orders online, which is very weird. We don’t see anywhere-

Sanja Milosavljevic: Why? 

Aya Abd El Salam:: Any of the products and they are afraid to come because of the Covid-19 situation and they accepted the reality that they can order the furniture at home. And it’s not easy for the Egyptian clients to get the furniture at his home. So we did well, unexpectedly they- yeah. The e-commerce had developed, helped the business and in spite of the restrictions and the Covid measures it helped the client as well. To get all that they need at home.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Well, that’s nice. That’s- something similar happened in Serbia. E-commerce just bloomed. It’s just because there was no other way of purchasing goods other than from going to some websites and buying them online. But what happened to your fashion industry? What happened to your fashion industry- what happened to your fashion business?

Aya Abd El Salam:: During the- the voice is not-

Sanja Milosavljevic: Aha, I will repeat the question. What happened with your fashion business? Did you have any-

Aya Abd El Salam:: Oh my- yeah. For about 3 months after announcing the pandemic, yeah the people were at home all the time and they didn’t buy any items for going out or dressing up. So I sort of- started designing pajamas for home and to be creative through the crises. But actually I found it’s like- you need to plan for the future more than to- because Covid-19 surprised all of us that we have to think in a different way. So it’s better to learn every lesson from the crisis and the pandemic and try to make a plan for the future to know more, to know how the business could survive after the Covid-19. So, it- I think about three months didn’t work well for the fashion brand, and then after that everything became fine. Because in Egypt, we are doing everything- it’s not like strict lockdown. Yeah, I- it’s only curfew at 9PM but you can go to the university, go to work and life is going well. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: So was it like that during the whole last year, or is it something of a newer date? The lockdown and- well you said the restrictions are from 9PM to the morning. But how was it last year in May or June? Can you remember? Do you remember?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yeah, yeah, sure. It’s a remarkable situation, I remember. Some people were afraid, really, were very afraid and the others were not at all. And life is going as every day and- some people are not wearing the masks, they are not giving any concern to the situation. And for this reason we have a high number of cases at Egypt. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: So, has something changed? Do you get the chance to get the vaccine now, or are you still waiting for vaccine? 

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yeah, now a lot of people is taking the vaccine. At first, when the vaccine came to Egypt, people were afraid to take the vaccine and they were very suspicious to how we will take the new vaccine. But now vaccine is daily in large numbers the people are taking the vaccine and the numbers are better now. Thanks to the vaccine, it helped a lot to lessen the numbers in Egypt. Of cases, yeah.

Sanja Milosavljevic: So, what happened to the travel industry or to the tourism? Because as I said people from Serbia and the Balkan region traditionally go to Egypt for vacation, especially during the winter months. Like they go in November, December, January. But do you have any information what happened to the tourism and travel industry during the past year?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yeah, the international travel was empty. Got at all. But in some Egypt a lot of people are Egyptian because I think international travel as well is restricted from any people in Egypt. So, Egyptian were travelling inside Egypt together and they were having a lot of offers as well. It helped a lot with the tourism and the Tourism Ministry make like a campaign. You campaign for tourists who have a certain budget, very low budget, and you can go to other government as well, together, and have like a food package that was a very low price and it worked very well. All the Egyptians went and some of them are taking care of the distance and trying to make it more safe. But it was very- it was much fun. It was very fun. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: I know that some people- some of my friends are at this moment in Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh. They are visiting and having a great time there. They’re sendign there-

Aya Abd El Salam:: Oh yeah. Do you think to come to Egypt? 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Well, I’ve been to Egypt and I would like to- but I was like- just a tourist in a resort, I was like maybe 10 years ago in Egypt. I would like to come to Cairo, I would like to come to some other cities, actually – not just for swimming and sunbathing but to see something of the cultural beauties and historical beauties of Egypt. 

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yeah, I hope you can come here. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: I definitely- I’m going to come to Cairo or Egypt at some point of time, definitely. So, how was this pandemic here for you personally. So you said you had some luck with your businesses, you didn’t have to shut down, you didn’t have that much turmoil and you didn’t have that much problem. But how did it affect you personally? Where were you when they announced the pandemic, what was your first reaction? Did you not panic? I mean, you are a mom, you also have kids, so you’re not just taking care of yourself, you’re taking care- you have to protect somebody else. So, how was it for you?

Aya Abd El Salam:: It was- at first I was uncertain and I felt that I was in a risky situation. And it was really not fun to accept that like the world is shutting down everything that evening. And I have- I tried to have some control of myself, I tried talking to others, like others doing, it was really- and I tend to go to shopping and retail therapy as women do. I try everything to calm myself down. But actually the most hectic thing is the homeschooling issue. It was my first time to start sitting with my son all the day. Because he’s always in the school, in the- before the school he was in the nursery and all the time he’s doing activities and doing a lot of things and once the lockdown started I really got panicked how I can handle this and what about his pandemic situation and how I will spend the time with him. This was the most hectic thing I think during the pandemic.

Sanja Milosavljevic: I know, many parents- sorry, many parents had same or similar problems like you did. But how was your reaction to- to- I don’t know, you were not able to go out, you were not able to do some regular stuff. How did it affect you?

Aya Abd El Salam:: As a psychological side I think it affects us all very negatively. Because I love to contact with people and the lack of socialization is not easy at all. And really and to be like if you can go out, you can’t see people, you can’t take any conversation live, it’s not easy. And- yeah. And first when I know the pandemic, when they announce the pandemic situation and I tried to think about it and know more about the Covid. I didn’t know any info about it. So I started to google and I started to know and the pandemic info in context of other disciplines. So I compared- I googled it and compared that the Covid-19 has the 2-3% of this rate in comparison of Sars 2007, that announcement in 2007. This information I cannot forget it because it makes me feel somehow safe or I have a control of myself. And I started as every home to make a lot of things, a lot of food all the time. Yeah. But on the positive side, I stayed more with my son and we did a lot of activities and yeah, it has some positive effects. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: I know some- one lady, one friend of mine also told me the same thing. She said, well it was hard and it was harsh and we had problems and I spend more time with my kids, and that’s something that’s actually a good thing. Despite the bad things that are happening, it’s a good thing that we were family again. It wasn’t just the school and business, we were family again, so that is the best thing about the pandemic, that is what she’s going to remember. So were you- in Serbia I think that the role of media was kind of- I don’t know. I don’t think that they did a good job. I think that they were basically trying to scare us, so that we were constantly in a state of fear. How was the situation in Egypt?

Aya Abd El Salam:: I think our media did their best to inform the people with the right information, but as you said sometimes it’s misleading information. It depends on the country. In some countries, they’re trying to help the government  to combat the Covid-19 and its effects. And in other countries they’re going to give people misleading information to reassure them. Egypt was like that, the second type of country, and I think like Serbia as you mentioned and yeah. The numbers are- you hear that all your relatives and all your friends have Covid, and the numbers are very few in the TV and the report, so it was really confusing.     

Sanja Milosavljevic: It was the same here in Serbia, especially during this time of year last year. I know many people that had Covid, but when you listen to the news, you hear that there are only a few cases of newly infected patients. That’s why I went to Google and tried to find some other sources of information. So, would you like to return to the state before the pandemic? Before Corona? I mean, would you like to December 2019?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yes, I think we have like a more positive mind before the Covid and pandemic, we could plan in different way, we have info, we plan according to info. But now it’s so confusing, there’s uncertainty to every aspect of life and you can’t plan even next week what you should do and what the measurements would be and what the country will announce and it’s very confusing and very challenging time for planning. For business and on the personal level as well.

Sanja Milosavljevic: But do you have any plans for the future? Like, what would you like to do in 2022. Let’s say that 2021 and maybe part of 2022 is still going to be this kind of a closed situation with the pandemic. But let’s say from 2022, do you make plans? Are you ready to make plans?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Actually I’m trying to take the lessons learned from the Covid-19 and plan according to these lessons. And develop my business model according to the effect happened and the lessons learned. And I think this is a time for forward thinking. If we couldn’t plan, now the confidence to fully plan for the future- the confidence for planning the future has more chance of surviving. And the planning- the learning process, I believe in that, I believe it’s a learning process. And continuous loop of exploring, designing, then learning and correcting. And you get a plan after that. A plan depending or in terms of the actions happened before. And I think now the digitalization of business, in terms of services and customer relations is the most important thing, so this is what I’m trying to do now to plan for the future in terms of digitalization and trying to be- trying to cope the new situation of working from home, building the services and products we are providing. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: But, what do you think- like he past year and a half regarding our businesses, it can- we can say that we didn’t earn that much money. Let’s say for example that we didn’t have that much profit. And it’s very important to invest in sales, in marketing and in new product development. But how can we do that, if we didn’t make any profit? Do you have any idea how to overcome that obstacle? Like you don’t have a certain amount of money to invest in those things that are basically the most important things for a business. Do you have any advice?

Aya Abd El Salam:: I believe that creativity and creative ideas and new ideas that you can use to- it can be used in the new ways and the new normal. The new life of Covid. I think these are the things that work now that get to be more creative  to gain profits and taking risks by being more creative. And trying to find solutions for some problems we face now or if you have- if you see that there is a problem blocked up, you can now find a solution for it. I think this is the creative way we can do to find or to gain profit here. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Nice, nice, that’s nice. So, can you send us a message? Can you send us- or can you give us advice what book to read, or I don’t know – what movie to watch. Do you have any advice for our listeners?

Aya Abd El Salam:: Yes, I think I believe in watching our souls. We have to watch our souls trying to see how our souls are running and if we find the pattern of soul is growing in a way that is not related to the way we want to live our life, we have to stop immediately and try to change the way we think or to keep trying our past. This is the most important thing I think – nowadays we have to do. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: That’s nice. That’s nice because sometimes we just keep on doing things the same way and we don’t see that they don’t give us any good results. Okay, thank you Aya. Thank you very much. Thank you once again for accepting my invitation to participate in this project. I really enjoyed our conversation. 

Aya Abd El Salam:: Me too, thank you Sanja for the invitation [interference] and I’m so happy to speak and to have this conversation with you. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Thank you. So, good people of the world, you were watching and listening to Mondopreneur podcast and you were watching and listening to wonderful Aya from Cairo, Egypt. You can always follow us on social media networks like Facebook and Instagram and you can subscribe to our YouTube channel, just type Mondopreneur. Stay good, stay in good health and see you in a week. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Dobri ljudi sveta, slušate i gledate podcast Mondoprener. To je podcast koji je posvećen sadašnjim preduzetnicima, budućim preduzetnicima, ljudima koji rade u institutima ili u nevladinom sektoru ili na univerzitetima kao univerzitetski profesori, a glavni cilj je razmena priča ljudi iz celog sveta. Da vidimo kako ova pandemija utiče na naše živote. Jer to je nešto što se dogodilo svima nama istovremeno. Ceo ovaj projekat podržava američka ambasada u Srbiji i zaista bih želela da im se zahvalim, jer zahvaljujući njima zapravo možemo da delimo priče ljudi iz celog sveta. Imam veliko zadovoljstvo danas, moja današnja gošća je Aya Abd El Salam i dolazi iz Egipta, iz Kaira. Upoznale smo se na programu IVLP 2019. godine. A ona je – kad je pogledate, izgleda tako krhko, ali kad jednom počnete da razgovarate sa njom i kada shvatite šta ona radi i šta je radila u svom životu i svojoj karijeri, vi vidite da je ona jedna neverovatna dama. Dakle, uživaću u našem razgovoru i nadam se da ćete i vi uživati. Zdravo, Aya, kako si?

Aya Abd El Salam: Zdravo, Sanja, kako si? Ja sam dobro. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Ja sam dobro, hvala na pitanju. Vreme je napokon lepo u Beogradu, pa kad je lepo vreme, sve je u redu. Hvala – hvala što si prihvatila moj poziv da učešstvuješ u ovom projektu. Imala sam goste iz programa IVLP – program razmene, iz Maroka, Gaze ili nekih drugih zemalja koje jesu – recimo da imamo neke predrasude ovde u Evropi kada razmišljamo i govorimo o tim zemljama. Ne znam da postoji mnogo dama koje vode svoj posao i koje su vrlo uspešne. Hvala ti što ćeš da podeliš svoju priču.

Aya Abd El Salam: Cenim to, hvala ti na pozivu.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Uvek. Možeš li – obično zamolim svoje goste da kažu nešto o sebi, na primer, šta su po obrazovanju i kako to utiče na ono što rade danas. Možeš li nam reći nešto o sebi?

Aya Abd El Salam: Da naravno. Diplomirala sam na poslovnim studijama, počela sam da radim u administraciji i nekoliko godina sam radila za multinacionalne kompanije, a onda sam odlučila da započnem svoj posao. Suosnivač sam svog prvog posla u industriji nameštaja koji je postigao veliki uspeh i uspeh me je motivisao da pokrenem svoj modni brend. I uspela sam. Moj drugi posao je podrazumevao lansiranje modnog brenda i u ovom trenutku mi ide jako dobro. Nakon toga, pridružila sam se programu Goldman Sachs, to je program za žene koje bi trebalo da znaju više o svom poslovnom okruženju i kako da dobro posluju. I ovaj program mi je puno pomogao da proširim svoje poslovanje i da izađem na međunarodna tržišta i da radim bolje od većine preduzeća. A onda sam otkrila da moram da imam i društvenu odgovornost u svoja dva preduzeća, pa sam počela da pomažem drugima – nekvalifikovanim radnicima i studentima – da im pružim obuku, programe obuke za poboljšanje njihovog poslovanja i pokušavam da to prenesem na zajednicu i druge zemlje, kako bi imali bolju ekonomiju.

Sanja Milosavljevic: To je sjajno. Možeš li nam reći nešto o preduzetništvu u Egiptu? Jer za ljude u Srbiji ili iz ovog regiona, kada razmišljamo o Egiptu, mislimo na piramide i razmišljamo o onim odmaralištima na Crvenom moru. Ali kako zapravo izgleda život u Kairu ili život u Egiptu? I kakvo je stanje preduzetništva u Egiptu?

Aya Abd El Salam: Zapravo tokom proteklih godina, preduzetništvo dobija podršku državnih i privatnih institucija. Mislim da pokušavaju da im pomognu da ostvare svoj maksimalan potencijal i verujem u to – ti preduzetnici su jedini način da poboljšaju ekonomiju u Egiptu jer daju više – ili stvaraju više ponuda i stvaraju više mogućnosti za rast. Što se tiče usluga i proizvoda, a to će se odraziti na veće mogućnosti za rad, a okruženje za žene preduzetnice u Egiptu se poboljšava i mislim da ženskom preduzetništvu u Egiptu zaista ide jako dobro od 2016. godine. Dakle, nisu samo piramide, preduzetništvo lepo napreduje.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Dakle, možeš li nam reći – rekla si da i žensko preduzetništvo jača i da cveta. Za šta se žene odlučuju, u kojim sektorima biraju da rade? Da li je to turizam, je li to neki uslužni sektor ili prehrambena industrija – za koji sektor se odlučuju?

Aya Abd El Salam: Zapravo preduzetnice u Egiptu sada podižu preduzetništvo na nov nivo i posluju u svim sektorima. Proizvodnja – da, da. U svakom sektoru naći ćete sjajne, uspešne žene. I mi se suočavamo sa izazovima kao i druge države, ali sada postoji svest – ljudi imaju više svesti nego ranije. Da pomognu ženama da poboljšaju svoje poslovanje i da dođu do više sredstava i da dobiju više kurseva, obuke, kao i mentorstvo. Bila sam mentorka nekim preduzetnicama. Mnoge institucije sada pomažu ženama da poboljšaju svoje poslovanje umrežavanjem, mentorstvom, rešenjima za finansiranje, pa tako i bankarskim organizacijama, institucijama. Tako da, stvarno se stvari sjajno razvijaju u domenu ženskog preduzetništva u Egiptu.

Sanja Milosavljevic: To je lepo, jer kao što sam ranija rekla, i sama sam imala neke predrasude u vezi sa preduzetnicama u arapskim zemljama. Ne znam zašto, jer je za mene to i dalje snažno muško okruženje. Dakle, muškarci su ti koji pokreću i vode svoj posao, ili samo nastavljaju da vode porodični posao. Ali drago mi je kad čujem da se stvari menjaju i da možemo da nađemo žene preduzetnice u svakom sektoru.

Aya Abd El Salam: Takođe verujem da je to bio jedan od naših izazova – za muško dominantno društvo – ali verujem da žensko preduzetništvo može dovesti do velikih društvenih promena. A ako žena oseća da je osnažena i ima prava i sposobnost da radi sve, to će se odraziti na njeno samopoštovanje, način roditeljstva, pa je vrlo efikasno imati dobro okruženje za žene i da se žene odlučuju da budu preduzetnice u Egiptu, ili u bilo kojoj drugoj arapskoj zemlji.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Baš sam zadovoljna i srećna da to čujem. Možeš li nam reći nešto o svom poslu sa nameštajem i znam da neki sjajni komad nameštaja u kući mog prijatelja dolaze iz Egipta, ali možetš li nam reći nešto – to su obično komadi sa Balija ili iz Egipta. To su dve zemlje koje – ili Maroko – odakle dolaze neki prelepi komadi nameštaja – ne znam, u Jugoslaviju t.j. Srbiju. Možeš li nam reći nešto o svom poslu u vezi sa nameštajem? I da li i dalje vodiš tu kompaniju?

Aya Abd El Salam: Da naravno. Vodim kompaniju i – ovo je moje prva firma i prirasla mi je srcu jer – da, stvorena je iz strasti. To je ono što mi je potrebno. Imam strast prema umetnosti, odabiru boja, mešanju boja i dizajniranju enterijera. Nisam studirala na Fakultetu za dizajn enterijera, ali volim dizajn enterijera. Dakle, nameštaj – posebno kada smo pokreneli veliki posao i u roku od nekoliko godina postigli veliki uspeh, u odnosu na jaku konkurenciju na tržištu, a sada se širimo i izvozimo u druge zemlje. Egipatski nameštaj imamo sada u Dubaiju a pokušavamo da prodremo i na nemačko tržište i – da, bilo je to, da – bilo je to jako uspešno.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Ali šta se dogodilo tokom ove godine pandemije. Zapravo, sada je skoro godinu i po dana od početka. Šta se dogodilo sa industrijom nameštaja? Jer iz svog iskustva znam kada toliko vremena provedete kod kuće i počnete da uviđate neke nedostatke u svom stanu ili kući i želite da ih ukrasite ili želite da promenite neki stari komad nameštaja. Dakle, šta se dogodilo sa tvojom firmom koja se bavi proizvodnjom nameštaja tokom godine pandemije?

Aya Abd El Salam: Zapravo sam se iznenadila, jer ljudi obično dolaze u izložbeni salon i insistiraju da sami odaberu svaki detalj i pokušavaju da vide proizvod i isprobaju ga. A Covid-19 je sve promenio, omogućio proširenje trgovine – kupci su dobili pristup proizvodima, a mi smo pokušali da im pomognemo da dođu, da organizujemo sastanak, da dođu do izložbenog salona da vide sve, ali su se plašili. Imali smo mnogo narudžbina putem interneta, što je vrlo čudno. Nigde ne vidimo-

Sanja Milosavljevic: Zašto? 

Aya Abd El Salam: Da bi kupili proizvod, a plašili su se da dođu zbog situacije sa Covid-19. Prihvatili su realnost da nameštaj mogu da naruče od kuće. A egipatskim klijentima nije lako da kupe nameštaj za njihove kuće, od kuće. Pa smo dobro prošli, neočekivano oni- da. Elektronska trgovina se razvila, pomogla je poslu, uprkos ograničenjima i merama za suzbijanje Covid-19, a pomogla je i klijentima. Da im do kuće stigne sve što im treba.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Pa, to je lepo. To je- nešto slično se dogodilo u Srbiji. E-trgovina je upravo procvetala. Samo zato što nije bilo drugog načina kupovine robe osim odlaska na neke veb-sajtove i kupovine na internetu. Ali šta se dogodilo sa vašom modnom industrijom? Šta se desilo sa vašom modnom industrijom – šta se dogodilo sa vašim modnim biznisom?

Aya Abd El Salam: Tokom – izvini, zvuk je loš…

Sanja Milosavljevic: U redu, ponoviću pitanje. Šta se desilo sa tvojom firmom koja se bavi modom? Da li si imala-

Aya Abd El Salam: Oh, da. Otprilike 3 meseca nakon proglašenja pandemije, da, ljudi su bili sve vreme kod kuće i nisu kupovali garderobu za izlazak ili odevne predmete. Tako sam nekako počela da dizajniram pidžame, za dom, i da budem kreativna tokom trajanja krize. Ali zapravo sam otkrila da je potrebno – da treba da planiramo budućnost, jer je Covid-19 iznenadio sve nas. Sada moramo da razmišljamo na drugačiji način. Zato je dobro naučiti svaku lekciju iz krize i pandemije i pokušati da napravimo plan za budućnost kako bismo naučili što više, kako biste shvatili kako posao može da opstane i nakon Covid-19. Dakle, mislim da, otprilike tri meseca, posao nije dobro funkcionisao za moj modni brend, a onda je nakon toga sve postalo u redu. Jer u Egiptu smo slobodni da radimo sve – ne postoji stroga zabrana kretanja. Da, ja … policijski čas počinje u 21:00, ali možete da idete na univerzitet, na posao i život se lepo odvija.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Da li je tako bilo tokom cele prošle godine ili je to nešto novijeg datuma? Zaključavanje i – rekla sie da su ograničenje kretanja kreće od 21:00 do jutra. Ali kako je bilo prošle godine u maju ili junu? Možeš li da se setiš? Da li se sećaš?

Aya Abd El Salam: Da, da, naravno. To je bila neverovatna situacija, sećam se. Neki ljudi su se plašili, zaista, jako su se plašili, a drugi se uopšte nisu plašili. A život teče kao i svakog dana i- neki ljudi ne nose maske, ne zabrinjava ih situacija. Zato i imamo veliki broj slučajeva u Egiptu.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Da li se nešto promenilo? Da li imate mogućnost da primite vakcine, ili i dalje čekate na vakcinu? 

Aya Abd El Salam: Da, sada mnogi ljudi primaju vakcinu. U početku, kada je vakcina došla u Egipat, ljudi su se plašili da je vakcinišu i bili su vrlo sumnjičavi prema tome kako ćemo reagovati na novu vakcinu. Ali sada se vakcina daje svakodnevno velikom broju ljudi i brojevi su sada bolji. Zahvaljujući vakcini, mnogo je pomoglo smanjenju broja obolelih u Egiptu. Slučajeva obolelih, da.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Pa, šta se dogodilo sa industrijom turizma ili sa turizmom? Jer, kao što rekoh, ljudi iz Srbije i regiona Balkana tradicionalno odlaze u Egipat na odmor, posebno tokom zimskih meseci. Na primer, idu u novembru, decembru, januaru. Ali da li imaš bilo kakve informacije šta se dogodilo sa turizmom i industrijom turizma tokom protekle godine?

Aya Abd El Salam: Da, međunarodna putovanja su ukinuta. U potpunosti. Ali u Egiptu, mnogi Egipćani su ptovali po Egiptu, jer mislim da su i međunarodna putovanja bila ograničena za ljude u Egiptu. Dakle, Egipćani su zajedno putovali po Egiptu, a bilo je i dosta ponuda. Puno je pomoglo turizmu i Ministarstvo turizma koje je sprovodilo kampanju. Vodili su kampanju za turiste koji imaju određeni budžet, vrlo nizak budžet, a možete i zajedno da odete u drugi grad i dobijali biste nešto poput paketa hrane koji je bio jako povoljan i to je vrlo dobro funkcionisao. Mnogi Egipćani su tako putovali, neki od njih su vodili računa o fitičkoj distanci i trudili su se da stvari učine što jednostavnijim. Ali bilo je vrlo … bilo je zabavno. Bilo je jako zabavno.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Znam da su neki ljudi – neki od mojih prijatelja trenutno u Hurgadi i Šarm El Šeiku. Tamo su na odmoru i lepo se zabavljaju. Šalju nam-

Aya Abd El Salam: Da. Da li razmišljaš o tome da dođeš u Egipat? 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Pa, bila sam u Egiptu i volela bih ponovo – ali bila sam kao – samo turista u odmaralištu, bila sam kao pre možda 10 godina u Egiptu. Volela bih da dođem u Kairo, želela bih da odem u neke druge gradove, zapravo – ne samo da dođem na kupanje i sunčanje, već da vidim nešto od kulturnih lepota i istorijskih lepota Egipta.

Aya Abd El Salam: Da, nadam se da ćeš doći u Egipat. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Definitivno – doći ću u Kairo ili Egipat u određenom trenutku, definitivno. Pa, kako je na tebe lično uticala pandemija? Dakle, rekla si da si imali sreće sa svojim firmama, da nisi morala da ih gasiš, da nije bilo toliko previranja i da nisi imali mnogo problema. Ali kako je to uticalo na tebe lično? Gdi si bila kada su objavili pandemiju, koja je bila tvoja prva reakcija? Da li si paničila? Mislim, ti si mama, imaš i decu, ne brineš se samo o sebi, već se moraš da zaštitiš i nekog drugog. Pa, kako je tebi bilo?

Aya Abd El Salam: Bilo je – u početku sam bila nesigurna i osećala sam da se nalazimo u rizičnoj situaciji. I zaista, nije bilo zabavno prihvatiti da se sve gasi. I ja sam – pokušavala sam da održim neku kontrolu nad sobom, pokušavala sam da razgovaram sa drugima, da vidim šta drugi rade, bilo je zaista – i obično idem u kupovinu kao vid terapije, kao i sve žene. Trudim se da umirim sebe. Ali je zapravo najzahtevnija stvar bila organizovati kućno obrazovanje. Bio je to prvi put da sam po ceo dan provodila sa sinom. Budući da ide u školu, da je pre škole bio u vrtiću a sada je sve vreme imao nešto da radi i imali su mnogo aktivnosti. Kad je karantin počeo, stvarno sam se uspaničila – kako mogu to da rešim i kako će ta situacija sa pandemijom da utiče na njega i kako ću provesti vreme s njim. Mislim da je to bila najneugodnija stvar tokom pandemije.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Znam, mnogi roditelji – izvini, mnogi roditelji su imali slične probleme kao i ti. Ali kako si ti reagovala na to – ne znam, nisi mogla da izađeš napolje, nisi mogla da radiš neke uobičajene stvari. Kako je to uticalo na tebe?

Aya Abd El Salam: Sa psihološke strane mislim da je uticalo na sve nas, vrlo negativno. Jer ja volim da sam u kontaktu sa ljudima a nedostatak socijalizacije nije nimalo lak. I zaista je bilo da iako možete da izađete napolje, vi ne možete da se viđate sa ljudima, ne možete da vodite razgovore uživo, nije bilo lako. I da. I isprva, kada sam saznala za pandemiju, kada su počele objave o situaciji sa pandemijom i pokušala sam da razmišljam o pandemiji i da znam što više o Covid-u. Nisam imala nikakve informacije o tome. Počela sam da guglam i počeo sam da otrivam informacije o pandemiji u kontekstu drugih pojava. Pa sam uporedila – proguglala sam i uporedila činjenice da Covid-19 ima 2-3% stopu smrtnosti u poređenju sa Sarsom iz 2007. godine. Ne mogu da zaboravim ove informacije jer čine da se osećam nekako sigurno ili da imam kontrolu nad sobom. I počeo sam, kao i u svakom domu da stalno pravim nešto, da pravim puno hrane. Da. Ali pozitivna strana je da sam bila više sa sinom i radili smo dosta stvari i da, to ima neke pozitivne efekte.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Poznajem jednu ženu, moju prijateljicu koja mi je rekala istu stvar. Rekla je, pa bilo je teško, bilo je naporno, imali smo problema  ali sam provodila više vremena sa svojom decom, a to je nešto što je zapravo dobro. Uprkos lošim stvarima koje se dešavaju, dobro je što smo ponovo bili porodica. Nisu bili samo škola i posao, opet smo bili porodica, pa je to najbolja stvar u vezi sa pandemijom, to je ono što će pamtiti. Kako je kod vas bilo – u Srbiji mislim da je uloga medija bila nekako – ne znam. Mislim da nisu dobro radili svoj posao. Mislim da su u osnovi pokušavali da nas uplaše, tako da smo stalno bili u strahu. Kakva je bila situacija u Egiptu?

Aya Abd El Salam: Mislim da su se naši mediji potrudili da informišu ljude sa pravim informacijama, ali kao što si rekla, ponekad su to bile obmanjujuće informacije. Zavisi od države. U nekim zemljama pokušavaju da pomognu vladi u borbi protiv Covid-19 i negativnih efekata pandemije. A u drugim zemljama će ljudima pružiti obmanjujuće informacije kako bi ih razuverili. U Egiptu je bio tako, bili smo taj drugi tip zemlje, i mislim i da je Srbija, kao što si spomenula. Brojevi su bili – vi čujete da svi vaši rođaci i svi prijatelji oboleli od Covid-19, a na TV-u i u izveštajima je to neki mali broj, pa je to bilo zbunjujuće.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Tako je bilo i u Srbiji, posebno u ovo doba godine prošle godine. Znam mnoge ljude koji su imali Covid-19, ali kada slušate vesti, čujete da postoji samo nekoliko slučajeva novoinficiranih pacijenata. Zbog toga sam odlazila na Google i pokušavala da pronađem neke druge izvore informacija. Pa, da li bi želela da se vratiš u stanje pre pandemije? Pre Korone? Mislim, da li želiš da se vratiš u decembar 2019. godine?

Aya Abd El Salam: Da, mislim da smo pozitivnije razmišljali pre Covid-19 i pandemije. Mogli smo da planiramo na drugačiji način, imamo li smo pristup informacijama, planirali smo prema tim informacijama. Ali sada je toliko zbunjujuće, postoji neizvesnost u svakom aspektu života i možete da planirate šta treba da radite ni za sledeću nedelju, i koje bi bila nove mere koje će država najaviti. Vreme je vrlo zbunjujuće i izazovno za planiranje. I za posao ali i za privatni život.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Ali da li imaš neke planove za budućnost? Na primer, šta želiš da uradiš u 2022 godini? Recimo da će 2021. i možda i delom 2022. godine još uvek biti ovakva situacija sa pandemijom. Ali recimo od 2022. godine, da li praviš planove? Da li si spremni da praviš planove?

Aya Abd El Salam: Zapravo pokušavam da učim od Covid-19 i da planiram u odnosu na to što sam naučila. I da razvijam svoj poslovni model prema učinku i naučenim lekcijama. I mislim da je ovo vreme da razmišljamo unapred. Ako nismo bili u mogućnosti da planiramo, sada imamo samopouzdanja da u potpunosti planiramo budućnost – samopouzdanje da planiramo budućnost jer onda planovi imaju veću šansu da prežive. A planiranje – proces učenja, ja verujem u to, verujem da je to proces učenja. I kontinuirano istraživanje, dizajniranje, a zatim učenje i ispravljanje u odnosu na naučeno. I nakon toga, vi dobijate plan. Plan u odnosu na akcije koje su se dogodile ranije. Mislim da je sada najvažnija digitalizacija poslovanja, u smislu usluga i odnosa s kupcima, i sada pokušavam da planiram budućnost, u smislu digitalizacije i pokušavam da se izborim sa ovom novom situacijom rada od kuće, građenja usluga i proizvoda koje pružamo.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Ali, šta misliš – u  proteklih godinu i po dana, naše firme, može – možemo reći da nismo zaradili dovoljno novca. Recimo, na primer, nismo imali toliko profita. A veoma je važno ulagati u prodaju, marketing i razvoj novih proizvoda. Ali kako to možemo da uradimo ako nismo ostvarili nikakvu dobit? Imaš li ideju kako da prevaziđemo tu prepreku? Jer nemamo određenu sumu novca koju bismo uložili u one stvari koje su u osnovi najvažnije za posao. Imaš li kakav savet?

Aya Abd El Salam: Verujem da kreativnost i kreativne ideje i nove ideje možemo da koristimo – ideje se mogu koristiti na nove načine. U novom životu nakon Covid-19. Mislim da su to stvari koje sada uspevaju. Firme postaju kreativnije kako bi stekle profit i rizikuju zato što su kreativne. Pokušavam da nađem rešenje za neke probleme sa kojima se sada suočavamo ili ako ih imate – ako vidite da vas neki problem blokira, pronađite rešenje za njega. Mislim da je ovo kreativan način da tu pronađemo prihode ili profitiramo.

Sanja Milosavljevic: Lepo, lepo, to je lepo. Pa, možeš li da nam pošalješ poruku? Možeš li nam poslati – ili nam dati savet koju knjigu da čitamo ili ne znam – koji film da gledamo. Imaš li neki savet za naše slušaoce?

Aya Abd El Salam: Da, mislim, ja verujem u brigu o duši. Moramo da brinemo o našim dušama, da pokušamo da vidimo kako se naše duše kreću i ako utvrdimo da postoji obrazac i da duša raste na način koji nije u vezi sa načinom na koji želimo da živimo svoj život, moramo odmah da se zaustavimo i pokušamo da promenimo način na koji razmišljamo ili da nastavimo da pratimo svoju prošlost. Mislim da je ovo najvažnija stvar koju moramo da uradimo.

Sanja Milosavljevic: To je lepo. To je lepo jer ponekad jednostavno nastavimo da radimo stvari na isti način i ne vidimo da nam to ne daje dobre rezultate. Ok, hvala Aya. Mnogo ti hvala. Još jednom se zahvaljujem što si prihvatila moj poziv za učešće u ovom projektu. Zaista sam uživala u našem razgovoru.

Aya Abd El Salam: I ja isto. Hvala ti Sanja, hvala ti na pozivu da učestvujem u projektu i baš sam srećna što sam mogla da razgovaram sa tobom. 

Sanja Milosavljevic: Hvala ti. Dobri ljudi sveta, gledali ste i slušali Monodprener podkast i gledali ste predivnu Ayu iz Kaira, Egipat. Uvek možete da nas pratite na sruštvenim mrežama, kao što su Facebook ili Instagram i možete da se pretplatite na naš YouTube kanal, samo kucajte Mondopreneur. Budite dobro i dobroga zdravlja i vidimo se za nedelju dana.