In this ever-evolving cultural landscape, businesses no longer stand aside from social issues. Economic empowerment proves to be an effective tool in elevating underprivileged groups out of historically vulnerable circumstances. So what do we all need to do to yield lasting and tangible changes?
At Richie we set the mission to serve marginalized people and assist them in opening the doors for those who've been in their shoes. These values are at the core of the company's ethos. The operations team is mostly comprised of international staff members hailing from various backgrounds. This helps us understand the complexities of different experiences from a global point of view.
Richie's very own Rasul Kadraliev joined the company as the head of operations after immigrating from the Kyrgyz Republic to Canada in pursuit of a more authentic life. As a gay man he knew what it was to conceal his own identity for safety reasons. "I lived openly in my bubble of people. I was comfortable in my social circle, but outside of that I'd be remiss to be fully out with my sexuality."
Rasul's journey to North America was accompanied by his husband. They first met and developed their relationship in Bishkek where being a part of a queer couple, let along a family, is a challenge not everyone agrees to take on. These social and political circumstances affected almost every aspect of Rasul's lifestyle and day-to-day activities. "Life in a heteronormative society teaches you to disguise in whatever works best for the prevailing culture. It in my opinion influences the quality of life significantly. In my instance it did."
Moving to Canada was more of a necessity for Rasul and his husband rather than wishful thinking. "We decided to start the immigration process so that our surroundings match what we see for ourselves as a couple and as individuals," shares Rasul. "I wanted to be 100% myself. If I stayed in Kyrgyzstan, I'd run a risk of trying to fit into a mold for the rest of my life."
After they moved across the Atlantic in the second half of 2020 began the hard part of settling in a completely new environment. Before Richie AI Rasul led the operations and financial department at Hyatt Hotel in Bishkek. "2020 obviously was really hard for the hospitality industry so I had to look outside of what I was used to." His first instinct was to reach back to his previous experience in software development. That is how he found Richie AI.
"When I spoke to Ermek I intended to get a full-time job as a software developer," says Rasul of his first virtual meeting with Richie AI's founder and CEO Ermek Rysbek uulu. As they got to know each other it became evident that Rasul's past work experience and understanding of tech was what the company was looking for. "The company didn't need a new developer at the time, but Ermek sought someone to be in charge of the operations." It was a natural fit so Rasul joined the team.
For a lot of LGBTQ+ people being in a new environment feels like coming out all over again, but for Rasul it was far more relaxed than he'd have expected. "I was getting to know other team members and the topic of my personal life unravelled gradually with no tension whatsoever."
Rasul's experience underscores the importance of having healthy and supportive corporate culture in any company. "When there is no cultural or social resistance, there is way for something special to be created," says Kadraliev. For people like Rasul whose entire existence is often debated based on political or religious beliefs it is important to be empowered to beat the odds and create generational wealth.
LGBTQ+ community spans all races, ages, ethnicities, religions and other classifying types. While their presence is often felt in popular culture, tech and financial sectors could benefit a lot by just supporting queer-owned businesses. After all, innovation can come from most unexpected people and places.