How to build a successful translation business in Kazakhstan (responsibility, vehement love to your business and the spirit of innovation)
FIFTEEN YEARS OF DISCOVERIES
By Anna Loyenko and Kulshan Aliyeva-Tyufek, co-founders of Gala Global Group translation company, Kazakhstan Translation Academy and the Association of Professional Translators, Interpreters and Translation Companies of Kazakhstan.
If you are interested in how to grow from a small translation bureau in a furniture shop to a Language Service Provider with a wide network of branches and customers all over the world, we hope to answer this question in our article.
Gala Global Group - is a Language Service Provider located in Kazakhstan with headquarters in Nur-Sultan and branches in the west of Kazakhstan - in two petroleum capitals of the country - Aktau and Atyrau, and the biggest city of the country - Almaty.
In 2021, we celebrate the 15th anniversary of Gala Global Group and sum up the results achieved so far. It should be mentioned that in the far 2006 our company had a different name - Gala Translations - a translation bureau founded by two young linguists. At that time, we had some experience, just a couple of clients and a tremendous wish to create, develop the company which would be very different from other players in the market, set ambitious goals and achieve them, be innovative.
Initially there were two of us. Our first customers were foreign ITC companies and international organizations. Literally speaking we barely had time for sleep doing translation at night and interpreting during the day.
"START CHANGES WHEN YOUR BUSINESS IS GROWING RATHER THAN IN TIMES OF A CRISIS OR WHEN YOUR BUSINESS COLLAPSES"
At that time our objective was to gain reputation. The point of growth was to make those customers we already had gained loyal. We managed to do that due to high level of responsibility, attention to details and double-checking the quality of translation done. In addition, a combination of two skills - interpretation and translation within the framework of the same projects was useful. We began to provide customers with a full set of services applying the principle of one-stop shop, not refusing from strict deadlines or tough assignments. Having understood the style and level of verbal and written communication, and ethics of foreign customers, we started to apply these soft skills in our practice. More and more requests came, and then two of us could not cope with such a workload.
We decided to invite language professionals to the team. That is what we did. The company had operated this way for several years building our database of customers, increasing turnover in the period of construction boom in Kazakhstan, and contracting interpreters and translators, editors, lay-out designers and other professionals required in the language market. We invested a lot of time and money in professional development of our team. At that time, our colleagues did not fully understand the importance of professional development and training, but now, after many years we still hear the words of gratitude from them.
At some point of time we understood, that there was an urgent need to grow further. Those years were not hard times. In 2008, construction sector was blooming, oil price was high, and a lot of foreign oil producing and service companies were operating in the West of Kazakhstan. And then we recalled a wonderful phrase: "Start changes when your business is growing rather than in times of a crisis or when your business collapses". We followed that principle and never regretted that later. The first branch was opened in the port city of Aktau, and the second one in Atyrau. In Astana (at that time our capital was called so) we mainly did social and political translation, cooperated with international organizations and development banks, non-governmental organizations, UN structures, but in the West of Kazakhstan customers requested to translate tender documentation and contracts, technical specifications (from operating manuals to drawings).
IT IS ALL ABOUT LOVING YOUR PROFESSION AND WISHING TO GROW FURTHER, RATHER THAN STAND STILL
We had to expand competences not only in translation and interpretation but to learn all the nitty-gritty of legal, financial, and managerial issues to do a successful business. We had to choose office locations in new cities, establish the business processes over there, hire and train personnel, and oversee the branches from Astana. Everything happened as we planned. It should be noted that our tandem of equal partners played its important role. They say that two heads are better than one. Different tempers, opinions, approaches but equal commitment, responsibility, decency, confidence to each other and love to the business bore fruits.
In the following years, we began thinking about expansion of the range of services. Translation or interpretation services were insufficient for most of our customers. We received requests for localization, expert review of translation, project support, teaching languages, advanced training for translators and interpreters. Taking into account our approach to business - never say "no", we provided services in response to every demand of our customers. It is them who make us grow, refine our skills, expand a range of services not because we simply want it but because they are really required. Thus, we grew up to become a supplier with 17 language services. In order to be a competitive player in the market, it is not sufficient to render unlimited number of services. You need to ensure business continuity. Therefore, we automated all business processes, introduced CRM, translation company management system, CAT system, were certified to the quality management system standards. At the same time, we opened another office, in the Southern capital of Kazakhstan - Almaty. It was convenient for many of our customers as their representative offices or branches were located exactly in the same cities where Gala Translations was operating - Astana, Aktau, Atyrau and Almaty.
IN 2018, WE BECAME THE ONLY TRANSLATION COMPANY IN THE KAZAKH MARKET WITH A DEPARTMENT OF AUDIO AND VISUAL TRANSLATION AND AUDIO DESCRIPTION
In 2018, we re-branded Gala Translations and became Gala Global Group with Kazakhstan Translation Academy under its umbrella. We can now say with confidence that KTA is the only company in Kazakhstan and Central Asia with a wide range of services in training, retraining and advanced training of translators, interpreters, translation teachers. Why is it a success?
Training in KTA is offered in the form of in-person and online modular and flexible courses in the following areas:
OUR CUSTOMERS MAKE US GROW, REFINE OUR SKILLS, EXPAND A RANGE OF SERVICES
Why are KTA courses so sought-after?
We are not going to rest on our laurels. KTA plans to develop online courses which any person may attend at any point of time convenient for them, and to extend the list of language pairs we train in.
WE HAVE A LOT OF PLANS AHEAD AND AMONG OUR PRIORITIES IS HOLDING QAZAQSTAN TRANSLATION FORUM - THE FIRST IN THE KAZAKH HISTORY
Speaking about diversification of Gala Global Group business, it should be mentioned that in 2018 we became the only translation company in the Kazakh market with a Department of Audiovisual Translation and Audio Description. This department does not only subtitling, voice-over translation and dubbing of movies, but localization of computer games, audiovisual news and commercials, promotion and social videos, audiovisual education programs, audio description as well. We are proud of our audio description projects in particular. Why? Because it is an intersemiotic translation which contributes to promoting inclusion and ensuring accessibility. It gives blind and visually impaired people an opportunity to perceive culture, arts, sports through listening to the description, which has a double function of maintaining a contact (a phatic function which makes a visually-impaired person sure that they have not missed anything important) and expressing beauty of an image or event in words (poetic function allowing to compensate for esthetic pleasure of seeing the image with the one of listening to the words).
Within a few years in this area, we have not only learnt how to create audio description and implemented a number of projects on making museums and galleries in Kazakhstan accessible for blind and visually impaired persons, but in general have raised this topic to the political level hoping that the Kazakh legislation would be amended to provide blind and visually impaired persons with the right "to watch" movies with audio description, and visit any public cultural place or a sport event the same way as others do enjoying a complete accessibility.
In 2018, in addition to opening the Audiovisual Department in Gala Global Group and founding Kazakhstan Translation Academy, we established Association of Professional Translators, Interpreters, and Translation Companies of Kazakhstan (APTITC) and registered it in the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Kazakhstan. What did we do it for? First of all, for consolidation of the language professionals, creation of a dialogue platform for the Kazakh translators and interpreters, exchange of and sharing professional experience, ensuring transparency in the translation business, development of professional standards, cooperation with the international translation community, and for improvement of translators’ and interpreters’ life in general. Starting from 2018, APTITC has held a number of offline and online events dedicated to the language service business, advanced training of translators and interpreters, competitions in interpreting for students and young interpreters. This February, we organized a two-day Winter Translation School with the best professional translators, interpreters and trainers sharing their experience and giving lectures to the APTITC members.
IN ORDER TO BE A COMPETITIVE PLAYER IN THE MARKET, YOU NEED TO ENSURE BUSINESS CONTINUITY
Over a hundred of participants attended the lectures of our honored speakers - the elite of Russian translation school. It was a success! It should be mentioned that all the APPTITC events are free for its members. Being a union of not only professional, but also socially responsible people, we have launched Hope Charity Project on translating medical documents for oncology patients free of charge. In general, there are many other projects we implement jointly with the Association of Translation Teachers of Russia, the Union of Translators of Russia, including other public associations of the CIS region and Europe.
This year we are proud of another accomplishment. The Ministry of Culture and Sports of Kazakhstan and the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs approved the "Translator" Professional Standard developed by the experts and members of APTITC. We have a lot of plans to accomplish. One of them is to hold Qazaqstan Translation Forum, the first long-awaited and large-scale event in the history of Kazakhstan and Central Asia in general. We planned to hold QTF in summer 2020, however COVID-19 pandemic made it impossible for this plan to come true, and we had to postpone the offline event indefinitely. We hope soon we will have an opportunity to hold QTF, gather friends, partners, and colleagues from all over the world together, as no online event will ever substitute live communication.
Some may ask: where do you find so much energy, ideas and opportunities both in your business and social work? We may answer that the most important is to love your profession and have continuous wish to grow, rather than stand still. This recipe will help you to achieve any objective.
Published - September 2021.
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