The founder of Comtek on why he decided not to listen when he was told his business idea would never work
I came to the UK in 1972, I couldn’t speak a word of English and knew
no one. My origin is Azerbaijani Iranian. But I loved being
adventurous. I was a risk taker, so I wasn’t frightened to go from one
part of the world to another. I had a creative mind, a competitive
streak and loved facing tough challenges. When people say I can’t do
something, that’s a challenge for me.
I focused on my education,
qualifying as an electronics engineer at Liverpool Polytechnic.
Although very poor, I managed to get a job, but realised I couldn’t
reach my true potential in the electronics industry. There was a lot of
discrimination back then. In many organisations there are politics that
stifle you rather than motivate you. I realised the only route for me
was starting my own business.
I’d identified a niche area and
wanted advice. I realised that many large organisations were sending
their hardware products all over the world to the manufacturers for
repairs. There wasn’t anywhere in the UK which was able to repair many
different products in the same place. By repairing products locally,
you could reduce costs and turnaround time, not to mention lowering
carbon footprints in the process.
I went to the Department of
Trade and Industry (DTI), and showed my plan to a senior business
consultant. “It won’t work,” he said. “British businesses prefer to
send products to the manufacturers. That’s how it is. You’re a very
good engineer. My advice would be don’t leave your job, don’t take the
I approached my bank for funding. Again, they hadn’t seen
anything like it before so they thought it was too risky and not
viable. But I knew it could work, so I bought myself a second-hand shed
for £50. I put it in the back garden, wired it up and set up a small
Many of my friends thought I was crazy to leave my
job, especially as I had a young family. People said that if you start
taking away business from the big manufacturers, they’ll destroy you.
But I’ve always believed in our ability to achieve a lot more than we
are led to believe we can. I learned how to do sales, bookkeeping and
logistics, as well as doing all the engineering work.
years later, the secretary of state for the DTI invited me to sit on
the Ministerial Advisory Board. There I was, ironically, advising the
same department that didn’t even want me to begin with.
advice to anyone who wants to start a business is, no matter how many
barriers there are, how many people try to de-motivate 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.
Comtek is now a £10m-turnover, highly profitable business, with bases in England, Wales, Holland and Germany. It has completed more than two million repairs for customers, such as BT, Orange, Siemens and IBM, preventing 85 tonnes of toxic materials from going to landfill. Comtek is shortlisted in the Green Business of the Year category at this year’s Fast Growth Business Awards.