It may seem unbelievable, but a businessman and physicist Kirit Velani, who is British by nationality and Indian by origin, has an Armenian passport now. An Armenian flag hangs in the corner of his house, and a huge painting of Ararat hangs on his living room wall. Velani is the CEO of ClinChoice biotechnological center. His office network employs more than 342 people, 99.9% of whom are Armenians, only Kirit Velani’s assistant - Yuqi.Wei is not Armenian.
Banks.am has decided to find out what has been keeping Kirit Velani in Armenia for five years now.
Dogs from Yerevan streets
“They will become therapeutic dogs, helping kids and veterans with disabilities”
We are entering the home of Kirit Verani, soaked in rain and late for 40 minutes. In front of the house, we hear barking coming from inside. When the door opens, 3 big dogs start to look at, us discomposed.
“Don’t be afraid. They are not dangerous at all. I took them from the streets and adopted them. We have a plan - they are going to be therapy dogs for children and veterans with disabilities. I am sure that just a visit to these dogs will make them feel good,” says Kirit, petting the dogs and talking to them in Armenian.
How life brought me to Armenia
“Here you can have a large amount of medical, pharmaceutical, mathematical talents. But no one can utilize it”
“I was retired, I had a few medical issues in the past, and I decided: “Enough is enough, you should be satisfied with life.” It was in 2014. I focused on looking up to the kids.
They were teenagers going to university. Once, I went to a few quick cups of coffee sessions with my kids and found that I didn't have anything in common with them. I was a little older. I decided to change something in my life. I went to China with my wife, who was working for some company. I offered my services in China because my background is IT physics - but it was not much of a call in China, because it is the head of the game when it comes to that,” tells Velani.
Kirit says a lot of things changed in January 2015. He was sent to Armenia for an arrangement that one of their clients has made. He came from the UK, after Christmas, and discovered that the contest office, the government offices were shut. He started to study Armenia and the daily life of Armenians and discovered a new Cuba. A few months later Kirit opened his first office in Yerevan.
“At first we had 18 employees. Seeds were planted. Our business is a clinical research organization that supports the insurance sector, focused on the drug industry, providing mathematical professionals, so the drugs get to market. Good professions for us are very important. Now we have 350 employees. Our work is very productive.”
“In 2019, they took me to a lovely room where I got my Armenian passport. I was happy”
Kirit Velanii is proud and happy to have an Armenian passport and Armenian citizenship. When he talks about Armenia and Armenians, he uses the pronouns “we”, “us”.
When he talks about Ararat or something Armenian, his eyes start to shine and he speaks with a big smile on his face.
“I felt great. I felt over the moon. Then I bought a house and I felt so happy because I thought, “This is mine now, this is my retirement and my grandchildren will enjoy this, my family will enjoy it eventually.”
Office stays quiet
“We just work. It's fine to stay quiet when you just expand”
FMD K&L is a large international contractual research organization.
It provides services for pharmaceutical, biopharmaceutical, medical devices.
The company worked with the last two governments in Armenia and in the words of Kirit, it “did not meet any serious problem”.
He is sure that Armenia is a country of huge potential, where people don't realize it.
For him and his company, the environment where his employees work is very important. That's why Kirit decided to open up a kindergarten and a gym inside the office.
“Imagine 342 employees - 275 female and 67 male, in one place, earning good salaries above the average here.. Our philosophy has been very focused on what I can do and what the company can do for the employees. We've decided to take another big office and opened a kindergarten, and I'm very proud of that, because I and my wife were driving 1.5 hour every day to take kids to kindergarten and to take them from there. We opened up and I am glad for that design because parents are very close to their kids.
Can you imagine being able to just walk downstairs and go to kindergarten and hug your kid, then just walk 2 minutes back to your desk and carry on looking at peace of mind?
It all helps us to produce good quality work for clients and they can actually give us more work and that means we recruit more people. I am so proud of my people.”
Heart attack and Armenian doctors
“The fundamentals of medicine are extremely good in Armenia”
In Kirit’s opinion, Armenians may not have the huge amounts of money to put in health service, public health system like the western one, but the fundamental groups of doctors in Armenia are wonderful. He was convinced of this based on personal experience.
“A few years ago, I had a heart attack before going to the UK and went straight to the hospital. The doctor takes one look and says that I need to fix 3 stents. I objected. Then I got a clear message from him that if I didn't recover so well, I would come back to Armenia and I would have another heart attack. His words were prophetic and I realized that there are very strong professionals working here.”
Mission is investment
“It's not about money and fixing things. It's about people. If we cannot keep the people inside then we will fail”
One of the front pages of the official website of the company reads in huge letters: “There is no better place to come to work than Armenia.” Kirit not only sincerely believe in this but also tries to do everything to bring Armenian brains living abroad to Armenia.
One of Kirit Velanii’s missions was a demonstration to bring investments and Armenian brains.
“Can you imagine I've been able to persuade people to repatriate back in charming ways? One Canadian with 14 years of experience in Canada now decided that he wants to bring up his family here.
We have a consultant, who says that she's actually a U.S. national and had never been to Armenia but decided to give up everything and move to Armenia. She speaks Western Armenian, and not everyone understands her, but she enjoys her stay here and right now works with Veterans Affairs, and wounded soldiers.
We cannot afford to pay her the money she is earning in the USA, but we can make her part of our life.”
Kirit is sure that these are the seeds that make more money come into Armenia. He reminds me of Fredrik Idestam, Eduard Polon, Leo Mechelin - the 3 Finns who made Finland popular in the whole world.
“These guys created Nokia, and actually they could take the whole Finland and make it great. Each of us is able to do something like that here. It's hard work, it's hard to start, but it's possible.”
The mission during the war
“When the war began on Sunday, on Monday night we thought about how the company could contribute to the war effort”
“We converted our offices into 2 homes and started to create living conditions to host families.
Our first family came. Sunday to Wednesday.
And then it was clear that we were not prepared correctly, because we did not take into account that they would come only with their clothes and phone, and they lost their homes. We focused on finding and collecting more clothes, buying more food and more hygiene items.
We met them and after a few days, I ran to the friends and brought 50 more beds. Our staff worked so hard, so diligently. They went to the buildings prepared, moving desks, putting folding beds, getting all of this, and when the first families came, it wasn't just the one family that came at 3:00.
We started to think about accepting more and more people․ I decided to buy a big mansion in front of my house to accept all of them. After all, we have hosted in total 132 people from Artsakh from October 1, 2020 to February 28, 2021 and met all their household needs։ food, clothes, warm rooms, and classes for children.
Also, my sons raised USD 36,000 to donate to the Hayastan All Armenian Fund. Each of them contributed about USD 8,000. Also, my brothers raised money and sent it to fund.
I was very proud of them, they backed me fully and they understood the situation and the importance of their activity.
At the moment, we are thinking about opening a branch center in Artsakh. We want to do everything to help the people of Artsakh return to normal life, have jobs, and earn money. There are also a few programs that we are developing with a few NGOs and thinking to provide the Artsakh teenagers with the required professional education and quick jobs”.
Photos: Emin Aristakesyan
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