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Issue no: 1200/205

• NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019


In this week’s issue...


In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW, Ivanishvili talks about the opportunities his projects offer Georgian businesses


Weekly Entrepreneurial News @entrepreneur.ge NEWS PAGE 2

Georgia Wins Emerging Destination Award as Top 30 Place to Travel in 2020

PAGE 6-8


Georgian Trade Unions Request Defining GEL 320 as Minimum Salary BUSINESS PAGE 3

ADB’s Werner E. Liepach on Georgia’s Improving Investment Climate BUSINESS PAGE 5

Bocuse d’Or: First National Contest

American within Georgian Startup Ecosystem Evangelists INTERVIEW WITH COLIN DONOHUE

people who know the place and issues most deeply. If I do anything well, it’s finding good people and learning from them.”

BUSINESS PAGE 15 Prepared for Georgia Today Business by

Markets Asof01ͲNovͲ2019


hen Colin Donohue moved to Georgia, he had never been before. His wife had told him stories of the 1990s and he was ready for anything. What he found delighted him. “I’ve never been to a country with a GDP that’s this safe,” he tells us. “As a foreigner working with US clients, there’s an amazing amount of freedom. Things are way less expensive than in the US but it’s more interesting and cooler. You see new projects happening all the time. Just in my few years here new things have popped up, like Fabrika and Tech Park, 8000 Vintages and Wine Factory. In the US my city looks the same from year to year. Tbilisi is bursting with life and new things. And it’s so much more affordable that I have freedom to volunteer a lot and try and create my own things to add to this.” When Donohue was first here, he planned to spend two years as a requirement of his wife’s Muskie fellowship, then return to the US. As someone who believes in being a positive force in the world, he wanted to leave a gift to Georgia, so that when he left something would be improved by his contribution. “I began a Startup Grind chapter, as I saw governmental projects but to me the center of the startup ecosystem is startup founders,” Donohue says. “It’s not government or donors that should drive the ecosystem, it’s the people who are doing the hard work of growing companies from zero.” He talked to as many people as he could involve with startups and gained their insights about Georgia and the limitations and potential. “I’m a reasonably clever person, but I know that to create real impact you need to listen and learn. Ideas and strategies should come from

INITIATING THE FIRST EVER GEORGIAN STARTUP ECOSYSTEM GATHERING The turning point Donohue felt was the Startup Ecosystem Retreat, a two-day retreat with 30 of the top people in the startup ecosystem. He organized the event as a volunteer and Crystal Fund covered expenses for participants. The majority of the people were top startup founders, with a number of other ecosystem players. Continued on page 12

STOCKS BankofGeorgia(BGEOLN) GeorgiaCapital(CGEOLN) GHG(GHGLN) TBCBankGroup(TBCGLN)

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@entrepreneur.ge Gamarjoba! I’m the Editor-in-Chief of the Georgian edition of Entrepreneur magazine and I’m here to share the top weekly Entrepreneurial news with you: Georgian dried fruit producer Chikori can now be found on the shelves of more than 40 Lidl hypermarkets across Lietua. The Ukrainian market is already being considered as the next direction. And Vato Deurishvili, company head, says Chikori's export map is not limited to this, and negotiations are underway with Poland and Germany to further expand the foreign market. The company started operating in 2016, and the product soon gained popularity among local consumers before gaining positions on foreign markets as well. The Georgian Olive brand, with the help of collaboration with Kakhetian Traditional Winery, is to expand production. New plantations will be planted on 1000 hectares of land in the Sighnaghi area, Kakheti. The main goal of the initiative is to further develop olive culture in Georgia and gradually introduce Georgian products to foreign markets. "Georgian Olive" has been engaged in the cultivation of olive plantations in Georgia for several years. The brand's olive oil and marinade are already gaining popularity among consumers. Gepherrini is now producing for the Kuwaiti market. An agreement has already been signed with Kuwaiti company A&M, one of the largest companies there, which sells imported leather products countrywide. With the support of the Enterprise Georgia Agency, Gepherrini established business ties with A&M at the annual Hong Kong Exhibition - APLF. This is already the second successful contract for the Georgian brand, the first coming last year in a partnership with InterBlock Hong Kong Limited, thanks to which Gepherrini opened an island-type store in one of Hong Kong's most famous shopping centers. Follow the Entrepreneur Georgia Instagram page to get the latest updates from Georgian Entrepreneurs. For doing business with Georgian Entrepreneurs, write us on business@entrepreneur.ge


NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019

Georgia Wins Emerging Destination Award as Top 30 Place to Travel in 2020


eorgia has been voted one of the top 30 emerging travel destinations on the planet for 2020. The annual awards honoring trending destinations were published Tuesday morning on the site TravelLemming. com, which promotes emerging destinations around the world as a solution to over-tourism. Georgia was nominated for the award by the Georgian National Tourism Administration. Winners were selected after voting by 30 of the most popular travel bloggers in the industry, who collectively sport more than 12 million followers on social media. In describing why Georgia was selected, the article reads: "Possibly the world's greatest hidden travel gem, Georgia packs a shocking amount to do inside a compact country. The stunning Caucasus mountains give the Alps a run for their money, Tbilisi's bohemian Old Town makes Prague's seem positively pedestrian, and Georgia's wine scene is having a moment of global recognition (about time too, as wine was invented here). Plus, Georgia is an extraordinarily affordable destination - where else can you enjoy a European-style vacation on a South East Asian vacation budget?" "Georgia has SO much to offer - one of the funkiest capital cities around, gorgeous mountain scenery, and truly outstanding food and wine. All that and it's fantastic value for money. I fully expect Georgia to be one of the world's hottest destinations within a few years," said Kate McCulley, one of the judges and

Image source: Travel Lemming

the travel blogger behind Adventurous Kate. "The most stunning landscape I've ever seen (think Switzerland but more rugged), combined with incredible people, a super low cost of travel and ubiquitous khachapuri make Georgia my favorite country in the world," added judge Travis Sherry, host of the travel podcast Extra Pack of Peanuts.

The site also invites readers to cast votes for their favorite destination, with winners on each continent being crowned with the annual "Readers' Choice" Award. Travel Lemming is a travel blog founded by Nate Hake, an American who has been traveling the world full-time since 2016. The site's mission is to help highlight emerging and underappreciated destinations as a way to fight over-tourism.




Georgia Becomes Governing Council Member of Community of Democracies BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


eorgia has become the 30th member of the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies (CoD) which is an intergovernmental coalition of states established in 2000. The aim of the coalition is to bring together governments, civil society and the private sector in the pursuit of the common goal of supporting democratic rule, expanding political participation, advancing and protecting democratic freedoms, and strengthening democratic norms and institutions around the world. The CoD reports that they welcome Georgia as a new member of its Governing Council, explaining that the accession comes as an acknowledgment of the tangible progress made by Georgia in democratic development and is based on the review of quantitative indices ranking Georgia’s progress on its democratic journey, including the state of fundamental rights, political rights and civil liberties. CoD Secretary General Thomas Garrett stated that as a leader in democratic transformation in the region, strengthened by the commitment of the Georgian people to the values and standards of democracy, Georgia will add a valuable voice to the Community’s Governing Council. “I am very pleased to welcome Georgia

as a new Member State and look forward to working closely together within the CoD to promote, protect, and advance democracy worldwide,” he said. Georgia’s engagement with the Community of Democracies began with the adoption of the Warsaw Declaration by Georgia at the Community’s founding meeting in 2000 and has continued over the years with Georgia’s participation as an Observer at the Community’s 2002 Ministerial Conference and as Participant in all other Ministerial Conferences. Speaking at the Extraordinary Meeting of the CoD Governing Council held in September on the margins of the 74th UN General Assembly, Lasha Darsalia, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, underlined that Georgia, as a signatory of the Warsaw Declaration, is a strong supporter of the principles that underpin the Community of Democracies and is committed to upholding core democratic values enshrined in the Warsaw Declaration. The objectives of the 16th Sustainable Development Goal of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, which is actively supported and promoted by Georgia in the international arena, responds directly to the values of the Community of Democracies and occupies a central place in its work. The CoD was inaugurated at its first biennial ministerial conference hosted by the Government of Poland in Warsaw in June 2000. It provides a unique venue

Photo source: shuterlock.com

for countries that share democratic values to support each other and advocate globally on issues of mutual concern. The CoD Governing Council comprises member states that commit to abide by the common democratic values and standards outlined in the Warsaw Declaration and make tangible contributions to strengthening the Community of Democracies. The Governing Council cooperates with civil society and other

affiliated bodies of the CoD. The chairmanship of the CoD has been rotating since its establishment. Currently, the Governing Council of the Community of Democracies has 30 member states: Argentina, USA, Guatemala, United Kingdom, El Salvador, Estonia, India, Italy, Japan, Cape Verde, Canada, Republic of Korea, Costa Rica, Lithuania, Mali, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Norway, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Romania,

Hungary, Uruguay, Philippines, Finland, Sweden, Chile and Georgia. “The membership of Georgia will add to the diversity of the Governing Council, which includes Member States from most regions of the world and at different stages of democracy, providing a potential to draw on a wide pool of experiences and information sources to spur action and facilitate democratic solidarity,” the organization stated.

Georgian Trade Unions Request Defining GEL 320 as Minimum Salary BY TEA MARIAMIDZE


he minimum salary in Georgia may become GEL 320 (around $108.29) per month due to a legislative initiative submitted to Parliament by the Trade Unions last week. As of today, the minimum salary in the private sector in Georgia is set at GEL 20, around $6.77, while it is GEL 135 in the public sector ($45.69). It is the lowest minimum wage among the former Soviet Union countries. According to the bill, the minimum salary needs to be at least GEL 320 per month, which is 30% of the average wage, as per internationally accepted practice. “Given the economic situation in the country, the minimum wage is revised every year. Adoption of the law will affect 130,000 employees, or 15% of hired workers, who earn less than 320 GEL per month. After the registration of the bill, it will be necessary to collect 30,000 signatures and submit it to Parliament,” the Trade Unions said. Trade Unions of Georgia drafted the bill themselves and also conducted the relevant research with the support of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. "Imposing a minimum wage in the country and periodically revising it will promote the principles of social justice and solidarity and prevent the exploitation of employees. As a result of the bill,

Image source: bpn.ge

particularly low-paid workers will see their income increased. This will enable them to earn more and help rid the country of poverty," the explanatory note reads. Raisa Liparteliani, the Deputy Chair of Trade Unions, told media that the minimum wage is calculated from the average salary set by the National Statistics Office (Geostat). However, she added that the method-

ology used by Geostat is controversial, but at the same time it is the only official data available in the country. “We all know that GEL 1068, which is the latest figure of the average salary in the country, is not the real average salary. There are whole sectors where monthly salaries do not exceed 300-400 GEL. On the other hand, this is the official average salary set by the state,”

Liparteliani says. Geostat uses arithmetic means to calculate average monthly salaries, but the median method is better used when the data significantly differs. The issue is that if only the salaries of the most highly paid people are raised, this does not affect the median salary, though it increases the mean salary. “We certainly have our concerns regard-

ing this methodology. Specifically, they do not calculate the median salary, and the average salary that Geostat has set starts with the top managers and ending with the lowest rank people,” Deputy Chair of the trade unions stressed. The bill also cites data from the Geostat data 2018 which shows that the country's poverty rate is 22.3%, which is 11.6% below the poverty line. As of August 2019, there were 23,526 people in the country who earned less than 100 GEL a month, 63,356 people had less than 200 GEL salaries, and 114,00 employees who had less than GEL 300. The National Statistics Office reports that in January-May 2019, Quarter 1, the average monthly earnings in Georgia increased by 33.5 GEL compared to the first quarter of the previous year and amounted to GEL 1092.7. However, the highest average monthly salary was observed in Quarter 3, 2018 and it was GEL 1202.2. Geostat says that in QI, 2019, the majority of sectors indicated an increase in the average monthly earnings compared to Quarter I of the previous year. As for the monthly earnings by gender, in the QI 2019 the average earnings equaled 876.1 GEL for women, while 1294.1 GEL for men and the annual growth of earnings amounted to 58.0 and 22.4 GEL, respectively. To note, the 2018 average monthly salary in Georgia, according to Geostat, was 1068.3 GEL ($359), which was a 6.9% increase compared to 2017.




NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019



The ISET Policy Institute (ISET-PI, www.iset-pi.ge) is an independent think-tank associated with the International School of Economics at TSU (ISET). Our blog carries economic analysis of current events and policies in Georgia and the South Caucasus region ranging from agriculture, to economic growth, energy, labor markets and the nexus of economics, culture and religion. Thought-provoking and fun to read, our blog posts are written by international faculty teaching at ISET and recent graduates representing the new generation of Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian economists.

Tackling Unstable Housing in Georgia: A New Step towards a More Inclusive, Prosperous & Sustainable Society BLOG BY NORBERTO PIGNATTI


he Constitution of Georgia states: “The State shall take care of human healthcare and social protection, ensuring the subsistence minimum and decent housing, and protecting the welfare of the family” (Constitution of Georgia, Article 5, 2017). However, at the moment, Georgian legislation is characterized by a lack of laws and regulations that clearly define the responsibilities of public institutions to solve housing-related issues in the country. To address this issue, the Govern-

ing conditions, such as being severely burdened by costs associated with housing or living in overcrowded or doubledup housing. According to the European Typology on Homelessness and Housing Exclusion (ETHOS) having a home is defined as a) having an adequate space over which a person and his/her family can exercise exclusive possession, b) being able to maintain privacy and enjoy relations, and c) having a legal title to occupation. Based on this definition, one can define four main categories of individuals/households facing the problem of unstable housing: roofless, homeless, people living insecurely, and people living in inadequate housing conditions.

Figure 1: Share of households exceeding the unaffordability threshold ((rent + expenditure)/income) in urban and rural areas

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), Integrated Household Survey (IHS)

ment of Georgia (GoG) has established a working group including key stakeholders operating on social housing issues, led by top representatives of the Ministry of Internally Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia. The working group, which started its activity in the spring of 2019, is in charge of drafting a strategy to tackle the issue of unstable housing in the most efficient and effective way possible. ISET-PI joined the working group when it was established, supporting its activities through our economic and analytical expertise.

WHAT IS UNSTABLE HOUSING? Unstable housing covers a wide range of circumstances, in which individuals or households cannot sufficiently control their residential environment. This lack of control is often represented by situations in which households experience involuntary residential moves and continue to be exposed to precarious hous-

As reported in the existing literature, unstable housing can have adverse implications for the well-being of the individuals and households involved. Housing instability can negatively influence employment and job performance , physical and mental health, social relationships, subjective well-being, and children’s educational environments. Moreover, housing affordability issues (one of the key factors leading to unstable housing, together with housing availability) can adversely affect the savings behavior of society, leading to lower local investments (even in strategically attractive and profitable economic sectors) and higher foreign debt. Considering that both health and education outcomes define the level of human capital in a society, which—together with physical capital—affects economic performance, unstable housing is also likely to lead—through these channels—to lower socio-economic development. Unstable housing also has other nega-

Figure 2: Self-assessment of fitness status (need for capital renovation and/or at risk of collapse) of housing for urban and rural areas

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), Integrated Household Survey (IHS)

Figure 3: Self-assessment of houses at risk of collapse for urban and rural areas

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), Integrated Household Survey (IHS)

tive (non-strictly economic) effects as it hits the poorest and the richest groups in society asymmetrically, thereby undermining social cohesion and community bonds, increasing levels of crime and anti-social behavior, and ultimately deepening the issues of socio-economic inequality in the country. Finally, unstable housing can also inhibit progress towards more environmentally sustainable dwellings, and a greener society, with substantial negative impacts on the environment. For example, if affordability declines over time, the building and development industries— as well as households owning their own housing space—might become reluctant

On the positive side, most indicators measuring unstable housing have been improving over time. For example, the share of households affected by housing unaffordability (classified as living in an unaffordable housing arrangement, the ratio [rent+utilities]/income must exceed 30%) has been clearly declining over time, from 14% to 6.7% in urban areas and from 8.1% to 3.6% in rural areas (Figure 1). This improvement has been possible thanks to the simultaneous increase in average wages and the relatively slow growth of housing-related costs. A declining trend can also be observed looking at the share of households claim-

Figure 4: Share of households exceeding the unaffordability threshold ((rent+ expenditure)/income) in urban and rural areas

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), Integrated Household Survey (IHS)

or unable to undertake the innovations needed for greater environmental sustainability, that might lead to an increase in prices and a reduction in demand (e.g. re-use of grey water, increased use of energy-rated building materials and appliances, more efficient use of insulation, better laid-out but more expensive estates that maximize orientation to the sun, greater use of quality multi-unit housing).

UNSTABLE HOUSING IN GEORGIA Quantifying unstable housing is challenging everywhere, as it is well-acknowledged by the relevant literature. Georgia is not an exception. The ISET-PI team has been working with the available data, to conduct a preliminary analysis of the phenomenon of unstable housing in Georgia. Our preliminary findings show that the evolution of unstable housing during the last years has been characterized by encouraging trends, but also by concerning ones.

ing to be living in unfit houses (Figure 2). In this case, however, the picture is already less rosy. Despite the positive trend, in fact, the level of households living in unfit houses remains substantially high (44.3% of the households in urban areas, and 51.7% in rural areas in 2018). An even more concerning picture emerges looking at the share of house-

holds claiming to live in a house at risk of collapse. As can be seen in Figure 3, in this case the positive trend is much weaker, with a non-negligible—and relatively stable—share of households exposed to substantial risks (2.2% in urban areas and 5.1% in rural areas). Another lesson learned from our preliminary study is that the incidence of housing instability can differ dramatically for different subgroups of the population. For example, while most Georgians seem to have experienced an improvement in affordability of housing, the issue is still very relevant for the poorer part of the population, with about one out of seven urban households (and one out of ten rural households) belonging to the poorer 25% of the population spending more than 30% of their income on housing (Figure 4). Looking at fitness of housing, Figure 5 shows that the vulnerability of poor households (and especially their exposure to the risk of their house collapsing) is consistently higher than that of other parts of the population and, in rural areas, shows a worrying rebound during the last two years. Summarizing, what this preliminary analysis shows is that—despite the improvements over the past years— unstable housing remains a serious issue for a substantial portion of the Georgian population, particularly for the poorest households. The roots of unstable housing are several, and many are associated with the existence of market failures (such as the presence of asymmetric information, external effects, or public good provision) and/or government failures (such as ineffective and inefficient regulatory framework) that will not be solved by themselves, unless proper action is taken. In this light, it is important for Georgia and its citizens that the challenge of unstable housing has now been recognized and accepted by the government, marking a new step towards the achievement of a more inclusive, prosperous, and sustainable society. As the quantity and quality of available data increases, the analysis will become sharper and more useful to policy-makers, helping to define the extent of the problem of unstable housing in the country, understand its roots, and devise the best strategy to tackle it.

Figure 5. Self-assessment of houses at risk of collapse for urban and rural areas – by income quartile

Source: National Statistics Office of Georgia (Geostat), Integrated Household Survey (IHS)



ADB’s Werner E. Liepach on Georgia’s Improving Investment Climate



erner E. Liepach Director General Central and West Asia Department at the Asian Development Bank (ADB), was one of the 2000 investors who visited Georgia last month to attend the 2019 Tbilisi Silk Road Forum. GEORGIA TODAY caught up with him there to quiz him about Georgia’s investment climate and ADB’s vision of the country’s future.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR INCREASING THE FOREIGN DIRECT INVESTMENT COMING INTO GEORGIA? For investments, you can be very attractive but if investors have problems at home then it's difficult and I think this is the hindering factor right now. If you look at the immediate neighborhood as well as the larger neighborhood, the global investment environment is actually not that positive and if you listen to the IMF’s recent prognostics, they are cautious of global expansion overall. So, in that rather difficult context, Georgia is not doing so badly. I think what needs to be improved is domestic investment and not just foreign investment. We at the ADB are quite confident that things are going well; we're seeing four and a half to five percent growth, and though some say this is very low, most of the developed world would be very happy with even that.

IF WE WERE TO DISREGARD EXTERNAL FACTORS AND INFLUENCES FOR A MOMENT- WHAT’S OUR HOMEWORK? WHAT CAN BE IMPROVED OR CHANGED TO MAKE GEORGIA MORE ATTRACTIVE? Doing business in a regulatory environment overall is quite good. Access to credit is something entrepreneurs may be struggling with a little bit; so efficiency in the banking system and credit access could be improved. Education is very important, that you have the skills of the people in the market, and also infrastructure, and that's an area the government is actively working on right now and I can see much improvement in the last five years and we will see more improvement in the next five.

YOUR ORGANIZATION HAS VERY STRICT PRE-CONDITIONS WHEN GIVING OUT LOANS AND CONSIDERING INVESTMENT SCENARIOS; GEORGIA LESS SO. IS THERE A RISK OF A DANGEROUS OFFER THAT MIGHT LOOK TOO GOOD TO REFUSE? There is the challenge of temptation and I think it’s up to the government to have prudent fiscal requirements and internally the right criteria. One of the good things of their working with ADB is that they are basically shown how it can be done and are able to use our processes, procedures and standards as a benchmark.

The long-term vision for Georgia is prosperity FROM AN ADB PERSPECTIVE, WHAT IS THE LONG-TERM VISION FOR GEORGIA? The long-term vision for Georgia is prosperity. I do think you have the luxury of long-term vision and despite this being a difficult neighborhood, Georgia has a lot going for it; it is blessed with many things that other countries do not have: incredible geographic variety in a very small territory; you have literally all the climatic zones, you have all solid soil conditions; you have natural beauty, you have a stable workforce, I mean not too much population growth; a good strategic location, a climatically temperate environment. So, it's actually a pretty good location and it's not overpopulated and investment sentiment is positive. The government has created a lot of good groundwork; so I definitely believe that Georgia is in a much better position than many other countries in the world today.

HOW DOES THE RUSSIA FACTOR AFFECT INVESTMENTS? As Russia is a neighboring country, and it's always good to have good relations with the neighbors, I think this is also in Georgia's interests. Russia is economically more powerful so I see Russia more as an opportunity than as a threat.

YOU DON'T THINK IT SCARES OFF POTENTIAL INVESTORS? The decisions of potential investors will be assessed differently depending where the investor comes from. We may have investors from Russia and they won’t be scared off as compared to an American investor; so I think investors will draw their own conclusions: some may see it black, others may see it white. It can't be answered unilaterally. The situation is certainly not ideal but it’s a challenge that has to be overcome.

THERE ARE SOME WESTERN SCHOLARS WHO OPENLY DEBATE THE FACT THAT INVESTMENTS FROM RUSSIA MIGHT BE USED AS POLITICAL AND DIPLOMATIC LEVERAGE. I understand that there are political considerations that go beyond economic considerations and the political considerations can't really disconnect from what the economic realities are, but I'm probably not qualified enough to make a good statement on this on behalf of ADB.





NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019

The Social Entrepreneur Phenomenon: The Social Impact of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Projects on the Economy, Business Environment, and Future Development of Georgia – New Opportunities for Georgian Business



he concept of the social entrepreneur is becoming more and more established in the modern world. Who are social entrepreneurs? A social entrepreneur is a person whose efforts are directed at the implementation of business model-based projects of a scale that is designed to change the social environment. Projects implemented by social entrepreneurs are charitable in nature because of the resolution of important problems, the implementation of positive changes, personal risk, and innovative initiatives. They measure their success not according to their profits but according to the extent to which they were able to solve the existing problem and change the country for the better! The extent to which they were able to reduce poverty through the best possible use of their main asset – their financial resources! Social entrepreneurs are able to link and integrate social and commercial issues and to solve the problems facing the public by using the best practices of business. Entrepreneur Georgia took an interest in the business and charitable activity of the main entrepreneur of the country, Mr Bidzina Ivanishvili, and tried to determine the purpose and motivation behind his implementation of multi-million GEL projects. Does he expect profits? Could he have invested the same funds in other, significantly more profitable businesses? Where is the line that divides business and charity? Bidzina Ivanishvili’s initiative regarding the revival of the Tskaltubo resort is of a particularly grand scale and may well be the best example of social entrepreneurship and a true change for the better in many directions. However, before we asked him about it, we asked

him where he saw that line between charity and business. “As concerns charity, my vision in this regard is based on the brilliant Rustaveli’s philosophy of ‘what you give is yours, what you do not is lost,’” he told me. “I developed this vision dozens of years ago and about 15 years ago, it was published in the Georgian press as well. I was a firm believer (and I believe this to this day) that charity only has value when it is done without advertising, nearly anonymously. I was faithful to precisely these principles for years while engaging in this activity, until politics entered my life which, it can be said, turned everything upside down. All that was done over the years in this direction became public knowledge through the efforts of the opposition at the time. However, I will say without any false modesty and coquetry that in my opinion, my participation in politics is the most valuable thing that I have done in terms of charity, since in addition to selflessness, which is the essential postulate of true charity, participation in politics in that situation, under that government, amounted to risking my life and the lives of my family members, let alone property. Even if we were to assess this in terms of results, since my participation in politics made possible and facilitated the peaceful removal from power of the regime that was based on the oppression of the people, entering politics probably really is the most valuable thing that I have done in my life. As regards the charitable projects implemented from then on, since the situation changed in 2011 and everything became clear, restricting the flow of information about them became pointless and took the shape that has been tried and tested across the world; the public now receives information regarding these projects with a certain periodicity. By the way, since the Tskaltubo rehabilitation project was the reason for this interview, this is a good coincidence and I will tell you that Otia Ioseliani, who is a resident of Tskaltubo – the most famous native of Tskaltubo and a poet beloved by all – responded

to my publication in the Georgian press and had a very interesting reaction.” Tskaltubo was once a unique resort that was devastated and could not be rehabilitated even though the authorities repeatedly tried to attract investors. Incidentally, I too attended the investment forum in Dubai several years ago, where the Government of Georgia attempted to spark Arab investors’ interest toward Tskaltubo, and there were innumerable other attempts as well, though the fact remains that this did not work. The idea, whereby Mr Ivanishvili is initiating the project and is prepared to complete it unilaterally, was voiced once again in his statement; and if Georgian businesses are to respond to his initiative and decide to take part in the project, he says he is prepared to transfer the ownership of any facility at a significant discount. Incidentally, he expressed a similar approach earlier as well, regarding the tourism-related facilities that are being developed under the aegis of the Tourism Development Fund (TDF), be it the Paragraph Hotel, the Panorama complex, or the planned construction of a hotel in Ganmukhuri, regarding which he stated that he was prepared to donate the land that he had purchased to any investor that would agree to build the hotel complex. We asked him to explain in more detail what business model is under discussion here and what the ultimate goal is of the investment that he has made in this segment of the Georgian economy. “It is a basic truth that profit is the ultimate goal of entrepreneurial activity,” he answered. “From a business perspective, an investment is deemed effective if it is distinguished by a high degree of cost-effectiveness and if said cost-effectiveness is achieved in a short period of time, the effectiveness of the investment increases significantly. These are the criteria for the assessment of business and you, who write about business, know this well. As regards our tourism-related projects, both of these components – profitability and a high degree of costeffectiveness – have been completely omitted or deemed to be of secondary

importance. After all, the time it takes to turn a profit is one of the components of cost-effectiveness. This is precisely why the Tourism Development Fund (which, in contrast to other projects by the Co-Investment Fund, is directly coordinated by our family) was established as a separate structure. As you know, the Co-Investment Fund, which receives all of its funding from our family, is run by effective management and this fund, in turn, is engaged in very useful activities supporting Georgian business, which I will not discuss in detail here. It is largely focused on different issues of a specific character – it assists the projects that are backed by the universal criteria of business. The Tourism Development Fund’s projects, on the other hand, are socially oriented and characterized by a low degree of cost-effectiveness, which was a source of discomfort, to a certain extent, for the management of the Co-Investment Fund. This is why we made it a separate entity. Incidentally, the idea of detaching tourism as a separate direction belongs to my spouse, Eka, and time has shown that this was the optimal decision.”

COULD YOU TALK ABOUT THE TOURISM DEVELOPMENT FUND (TDF)’S SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES IN MORE DETAIL, PERHAPS USING ONE PROJECT AS AN EXAMPLE? Very well. Take, for example, the Paragraph Hotel, which is located in Shekvetili. If we were to consider it as an isolated, separate business project and assess it according to the aforementioned universal criteria, the project is a priori unprofitable. Experts in the field will agree that in the hotel business, the amount of investment is calculated based on the funds spent per room. That is, the entire investment is divided by the number of rooms. In the case of highest-class, five-star hotels, expenditure should not exceed 200-250 thousand dollars per room – otherwise, it is possible that the facility in question will never turn a profit. The Paragraph has 240 rooms, while total investment has already exceeded 120 million dollars

and is continuing to increase. Basic arithmetic shows that the funds invested per room exceed the established criteria twofold, surpassing 500,000 dollars. Correspondingly, the market value of the Paragraph Hotel equals half of the funds invested, that is, 60 million dollars, and it might not sell even at this price. We even joked in our family that we would have been in a great deal of trouble were we not spending our own funds, rather than taking someone else’s money. The project was rendered more expensive by the extraordinary exclusive features that the Paragraph offers its guests, and will continue to offer in the future. An ordinary investor would not have invested in these features. So, why are we doing this? To answer this question in a meaningful way, we must begin from afar. Two objectives of utmost importance must be achieved in order to make our seaside competitive – the tourist season must not be limited to the summer months (it would be desirable for the duration to reach 5-6 months) and it must become attractive to tourists with high spending power. These two goals can be achieved only if we offer potential tourists high-class, exclusive services within the hotel and diverse, well-developed entertainment and excursion infrastructure outside the hotel – services and infrastructure of a type and quality that is not offered by our regional competitors. This is why the investment made in the Paragraph Hotel exceeds the established criteria twofold. The winter garden, the grand aquarium, the large pool of artificially heated seawater, the solarium, which is under construction, and other exclusive features that the Paragraph already possesses, or will definitely possess in the future, are being created precisely for this reason – to prolong the duration of the tourist season and to prevent tourists from going elsewhere. Within this framework, we are also considering the construction of a high-quality sports complex on the territory between the Paragraph Hotel and the Black Sea Arena. This would enable us to host the “gatherings” of the national teams and clubs from foreign countries. In general, tourists with high spending power (who can spend up to two or three times as much money in the country and not just the hotel, which will stimulate the entire economy) are mainly attracted by quality and reputation, and the Paragraph Hotel was successful in this regard. As you know, this year, the Paragraph Hotel was named the best hotel in Europe among the Marriott chain of hotels, which is the biggest brand in the world. This further increased the competitiveness and attractiveness of our seaside. Therefore, to sum up, the goal of our investment was the development of quality tourist infrastructure and the development of the region in general, rather than the usual aim of businesses, that is, the rapid achievement of highest possible profits, which would have been business as usual for any other investor. However, since our family has the means to view certain problems from a broader perspective, as well as the desire to help the country to overcome them, we took the liberty to view these goals from this perspective and to plan accordingly. Similar models are in place in the cases of the Abastumani and Tskaltubo development projects. As regards Ganmukhuri, it is good that you recalled this. I think that any sensible person understands the state significance of the project, which is planned on a location adjacent to the so-called administrative boundary line, as well as the fact that this project might not have anything to do with business at all.




HOWEVER, THE QUESTION REGARDING CARTU BANK STILL REMAINS. IF THE PROJECTS IMPLEMENTED BY THE TDF ARE CHARITABLE IN NATURE AND AIM TO RESOLVE PUBLIC PROBLEMS, CREATE NEW OPPORTUNITIES, AND ENSURE THE INCLUSIVE DEVELOPMENT OF THE COUNTRY’S ECONOMY, RATHER THAN TO TURN A QUICK PROFIT, WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT YOUR COMMERCIAL BANKING ACTIVITIES? I have said on numerous occasions that I have never done business in Georgia in the classic sense – that is, business for profit. Cartu Bank is the sole commercial organization and it too, had a different function since the day it was created. It was the first investment bank and I had the same attitude toward it as well – I founded it in order to help the country as the banking system was very weak in Georgia at the time; the system needed help. Similar to my activities in other fields, Cartu Bank has not conducted aggressive business, which is generally typical for the banking sector, particularly when it comes to new players entering the market. Cartu has hindered no one. On the contrary, when Absolut Bank went bankrupt and there was a risk that this would have negative impact on the entire banking system, I purchased this bank without a commotion and Cartu assumed responsibility for its hopeless obligations. In contrast to other Georgian banks, Cartu has never turned excessive profits. I have also been trying to sell Cartu for three years and I only have one condition – the bank must not be closed, the two existing powerful players on the market must not absorb it, and a third strong bank must exist. This is precisely why I refused to sell Cartu at a profit and I am prepared to sell the bank for a nominal price, that is, for the price that I initially put into the capital. Liberty Bank expressed interest in buying Cartu while observing the proposed condition, which is to be welcomed. This will be good for the banking system as the country needs a strong third bank.

YOUR TSKALTUBO INITIATIVE HAS LED TO MANY QUESTIONS: HOW AND UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS ARE YOU PLANNING TO PURCHASE THE HOTELS THAT EXIST IN TSKALTUBO? IT EMERGED THAT ONLY 15 OUT OF THE 22 HOTELS THAT YOU LISTED ARE OWNED BY THE STATE. HOW DO YOU PLAN TO BUY OUT THE REMAINING SEVEN HOTELS FROM PRIVATE OWNERS? IN GENERAL, WHAT MODEL OF COOPERATION DO YOU OFFER BUSINESSES? “The initiation of the Tskaltubo project was largely determined by the positive experience in Abastumani. It can be said that the Abastumani example emboldened me and allowed me to decide to implement a project that is of the same type but on a larger scale. “As I have already stated, I am building only one hotel in Abastumani – the Paragraph Hotel. Naturally, at the same time I am also assisting the state in the implementation of the infrastructural projects that are already underway. The problem of the tuberculosis hospital was the most difficult one there. The building’s state of utter disrepair and the fact that it was a source of extreme contamination, a place where apertures in the walls were barricaded with mattresses, precluded the involvement of any private investors. This is why I dealt with this problem in the first place. We built a new hospital very quickly, in one year. And in its place, I am planning to restore the monument that used to be located there many years ago, according to the locals.” Of note, this interviewer remembers that the State tried to deal with this problem. The situation was so severe

that if someone were to appear and undertake the construction of a hospital to replace the old one, the State would have been prepared to transfer the ownership of the territory where the old hospital was located free of charge. However, no investor appeared since even these conditions were deemed to have been risky. I noted that Mr Ivanishvili did not take advantage of this concession; however, he built the replacement hospital and paid the market value of 3,485,000 GEL for the land. “Our family approach remains unchanged – when you have the resources, you must help the state rather than make use of concessions,” he said. “What would have been normal for another businessman, we considered to have been inadmissible in our case. The money has gone into the budget and will be spent on public affairs.”

LET US GO BACK TO THE TSKALTUBO AND ABASTUMANI ANALOGY. As you can see, Georgian business responded positively to my activity and today, five new high-class hotels are being built there: Rooms, Radisson, Crown Plaza, and two hotels belonging to Redix Group. Furthermore, eight medium and small hotels, as well as residential apart-

ments, are also being built. The restoration of unique baths has also begun and cafes, restaurants, and retail facilities are being constructed. Total investment in Abastumani has reached 1.5 billion GEL. The construction boom will likely last one year. In the meantime, the improvement of infrastructure will also be completed. I promised the local population that I will purchase and hand out electric vehicles. We will use electric vehicles even for municipal services. This process will conclude in 2021. This is the model that proved to have been very successful in Abastumani. The process, which was properly planned and initiated, gave a strong impetus to new private investment and as a result, all parties involved – the local population in particular – will benefit from this. Precisely this is the positive experience that emboldened me in connection with the Tskaltubo project and I am sure that a very significant process of revival will begin here as well. As for your question regarding purchasing the facilities that exist in Tskaltubo – naturally, the hotels will be sold on an open auction, on strict terms of investment. I will have only two main conditions and requests – this concerns the deadlines, whereby the facility in

question must be completed within three years, and the rehabilitation [of the buildings], which must entail the preservation of the existing cultural and historical appearance. The investment package should be announced soon. It would be right, and we must try to ensure that the facilities are presented separately, so that anyone can buy whichever one they want. The state will determine whether a tender or an auction will take place, as envisaged by law and naturally, I, as well as all interested parties, will abide by this decision. I say this in advance, and I say this to the businesses as well – this will be an activity that will be very interesting and profitable for everyone as these hotels will be busy all year round. I think that during this process, all the hotels might possibly be sold to other private investors and I might not need to purchase any of them. As for the ones that will not be sold, I will be the one who buys them and renovates them within three years! To summarize my role in this project – I act as the guarantor as well as the insurer, making certain that the Tskaltubo revival project will definitely be implemented. This is the model – I will buy whatever fails to be sold. I think that


businesses will become interested during the construction process as well. As I stated in the letter, I am prepared to transfer the ownership of these facilities to any investor, at any stage – whether it be during planning, design, construction, or after completion, once the facilities are operational. The maximum price will equal the funds that were spent on the project. Within the same process, I will also help the businesses that already own hotels there and are unwilling to sell. Maintaining high quality is the main issue here, and this will require additional investment. I might assist some of them with the help of the Co-Investment Fund, and I might assist others by providing access to cheap resources, or in any other way, depending on what the business might require. If this does not happen and businesses decide to refrain at this stage, I will purchase all the facilities and complete them. Most importantly, I will help the state improve the general infrastructure and I will pay for whatever it cannot afford, using my own resources. The entire infrastructure needs to be improved there through the correct use of water resources and the creation of a unified spa system. Creating one or two hotels is pointless – everything needs to be done simultaneously and within the framework of a unified plan. When businesses see that infrastructure has been fully improved and serious revenue can be generated in three years, there are very many talented businessmen in Georgia and I am certain that they will express a great deal of interest. Just like in Abastumani. As concerns the opponents’ favorite phrase, whereby “Ivanishvili bought everything,” I would like to disappoint them – everyone will see that I will not own a single hotel in three years and thousands of people will benefit from this project. The main issue is to ensure the constant monitoring of this process. The investment commitments, the conditions for the preservation of the architectural and cultural value of the buildings, and the completion dates for the facilities, as stated in the unified concept for the project, must be strictly observed.

YOU HAVE IMPLEMENTED SIGNIFICANT CHARITABLE PROJECTS IN TOURISM – THE BLACK SEA ARENA, THE AMUSEMENT PARK, THE MINIATURE PARK, THE PARK OF MUSICIANS, OVER $2MLN SPENT, AND WHICH YOU DONATED, FREE, TO THE STATE. COULD YOU NOT HAVE IMPLEMENTED THE PARAGRAPH HOTEL AND OTHER TOURISMRELATED PROJECTS USING THE CHARITABLE MODEL AS WELL? No, and I will tell you why. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, the hotel, which will be sold sooner or later even if it sells for less than half the price (and I am prepared for this eventuality as well), must continue to function under the new owner using a normal business model. Otherwise, it will simply be impossible for it either to maintain its quality, or to develop. I was prepared in advance to “lose money,” in the ordinary, everyday sense of the expression. I will explain the reason for this in more detail in the second part of my answer to your question. The Paragraph Hotel already fulfilled its function; it created quality together with the Black Sea Arena and the other projects that you listed. Our seaside became competitive and gave a strong impetus to the development of other, neighboring businesses in the region. All other projects that our family is implementing within the framework of the Tourism Development Fund serve the same function and their design, operation, and the transfer of their ownership will be implemented using the same algorithm: The investment made will be sufficient to achieve the aforementioned economic and state objectives, and ownership will be transferred at the price offered by the market and the economy. In some cases, the price might be relevant to the investment, while it might be much lower in others. Continued on page 8




NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019

The Social Entrepreneur Phenomenon: The Social Impact of Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Projects on the Economy, Business Environment, and Future Development of Georgia – New Opportunities for Georgian Business Continued from page 7 Panorama Tbilisi, which is one of the most important projects for me, is being built using the same model. This project precipitated a most unhealthy and absurd commotion. In truth, Panorama will become the calling card of Tbilisi, similar to how the Paragraph Hotel and the infrastructure surrounding it became the calling card of our seaside. I am certain that Panorama will attain a special place worldwide with its exclusivity, just like the Paragraph, which was named the first hotel in Europe among Marriott hotels, which is the biggest chain of hotels in the world. Panorama unites three unique hotels with different advantages: The first one, which is located in the city center, on Freedom Square, is designed with high-ranking, high-income guests in mind. You may recall that the building of the Central Union of Consumer Cooperatives of Georgia, which had been empty and abandoned for years, caused the greatest commotion. I will not go into detail; I will only say that we built a modern and distinguished hotel in a very short amount of time. The second hotel will be completely focused on business tourism. Modern conference rooms of a grand scale will be located there, the likes of which do not even exist in our country today. I would like to recall that several years ago, up to 3,000 high-profile guests visited Tbilisi for the annual EBRD conference. Conference halls did not exist and so-called single-use spaces were set up for this event to avoid the disruption of an event of such significance. This second Panorama Hotel will rid the country of this problem for good. It will also create new opportunities – this hotel will allow us to host any high-profile and large-scale conference or meeting. In general, the construction of conference spaces is the least cost-effective activity as the profits are low and for this reason, under normal circumstances, businesses do not focus on this and do not construct such spaces at this scale. But we know that the country needs this, do we not?! Today, we claim to be a country of tourism and we must develop even further. How should we move forward? Precisely like this – we must offer high quality and valuable infrastructure to attract tourists with high spending power in order to become a center of business tourism, so that high-level conferences and large events can take place here. This is in our interest and the Panorama project serves precisely this purpose. I will tell you exclusively that this hotel will also feature a unique aquarium, which will provide it with additional appeal. And the third Panorama hotel – the one that is located on the Tabori Mountain, which also caused a commotion. Its exclusivity will take the shape of unique golf courses that will also aim at high-income guests. As concerns the commotion, I would like to say that the location will feature ten times as many trees as there were prior to the implementation of the project. Furthermore, a large part of the vegetation that existed there prior to the project was already diseased, and this also required rectification. As I have already mentioned, these three Panorama hotels, which feature different levels of exclusiveness, will be linked via cableway. This too, will serve as an additional source of appeal for the project. It is clear from the outset that this project cannot be cost-effective compared to its prime cost. That is why I have the

same approach here: If they build it using the existing concept and plan, I am prepared to transfer the project to an interested businessman at any stage. In case of sale, I will probably have to offer a 10-30 percent discount. The same principle that applied to Tskaltubo also applies to Panorama. Our interest in the matter is for Tbilisi to have a new calling card, a project that is exclusive and unprecedented on a global scale, which will provide it with an additional, long-term function – it will develop business tourism in our capital and this will affect the entire city.

I STILL CANNOT SEE THE PURPOSE OF TRANSFERRING OWNERSHIP. WHAT IS STOPPING YOU FROM MANAGING THESE TOURISMRELATED FACILITIES IN THE LONG RUN, IN ORDER TO AVOID GUARANTEED LOSSES? THE MARKET CONJUNCTURE MIGHT CHANGE AND THE MARKET MIGHT OFFER YOU AN ADEQUATE PRICE, OR IT MIGHT EVEN BECOME POSSIBLE TO RECOUP YOUR INVESTMENT IN THE VERY LONG RUN. In general, you are right, of course. But now, we have come to the second part of the answer to your previous question. The point is that I am planning to devote no less than 90 percent of my property to public affairs, that is, to charity, which I have stated on numerous occasions and I reaffirm this once again. By the way, our opponents, who are focused on lies and slander, seemed to have disliked this statement and have tried their best to cover it up. Given precisely this decision, I would prefer to recoup, albeit with significant losses, a part of the investment that has already fulfilled its role as catalyst, and to direct these funds in a timely manner to broader objectives of public importance, than to leave these resources in one project for a long period of time. However, I do not have the illusion that many people will have the desire to purchase such expensive projects that are associated with such large volumes of investment. I might have to manage them for a long time to come but the principle remains unchanged – any revenue generated by these facilities, including revenues generated from their operation, will be spent using the same ratio that was in place in case of sale – 90/10. By the way, the opponents can impose effective monitoring on the ful-

fillment of this condition; it is clear, however, that they will not do this. They cannot handle facts and the truth. For this reason, I am assuming that they will once again choose lies and slander as their method of opposition.

BERA’S DONATION TO THE AMAZON RAINFOREST CAUSED A STIR IN CERTAIN CIRCLES. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS ISSUE? I think that everything that took place after Bera’s absolutely sincere step does not even deserve a comment. All of this is beyond good and evil and paying special attention to their unhealthy reaction constitutes stooping to their level. However, they were so engrossed in the negativity that they even got to the issue of the relief works after the natural disaster in Tbilisi, and they embarrassed themselves in this, as well as in everything else. Our people know what took place and how it happened. But this was not enough for them and they raised the issue of the BorjomiKharagauli National Park and forest, as if I neglected to pay sufficient attention to this problem. In reality, in the very first days, I expressed readiness to personally undertake, in full, the restoration of the forest that was damaged as a result of the fire, let alone to participate in this process. However, I have not advertised this as this is not my style and my signature. There is a great man by the name of Temur Tkemaladze, a true caretaker of our nature, a specialist of the highest level, and an old friend of mine. For three years, Temur and I observed together how the processes developed, whether or not nature would be able to deal with the results of the fire on its own. Temur conducted regularly control fly-bys using my helicopter. After the latest fly-by, he announced that no intervention was necessary and that nature had begun to restore itself. It should be said in favor of Temur that he designed and proposed a unique project to plant vegetation on the slope of Mtatsminda, which I would like to discuss in some detail. In the period between 1940 and 1960, tremendous work was done to plant vegetation on the slopes of Tbilisi, from Mtatsminda to Kus Tba [Turtle Lake]. However, many imported, alien plant species such as the thuja, the cypress, and the black pine were planted there. These species had decreased lifespans and often succumbed to diseases due to unaccustomed

climate conditions and rocky soil. For this reason, the Mtatsminda slope looks faded and burnt. We will replace all the withered and diseased plants on the entire slope with species that are native to the Caucasus – field and mountain maples, the Caucasian pine, the Persian turpentine tree, the oak, the nettle tree, and the ash. Additionally, trails and rest areas will be created on the mountain ridge. Lebanon cedars, Atlas cedars, and Himalayan cedars, which are distinguished by their long lifespans, will be planted alongside the trail. Thousands of flowering lilacs, almonds, and red cherry plums will be planted and this will significantly revitalize the view from Tbilisi as well as its ecology. I think the project is of a historic magnitude and will elicit positive feedback from the residents of Tbilisi. And Temur planned this project in a way that will make it possible to our Sacred Mountain to bloom in different colors during any season.

noting that the audience is sure to be very interested and will benefit greatly from his sharing his business and life experience. Georgia is rich in creative, progressive people who are focused on creating something new, who are eager to learn and develop at any age, and who do not shy away from new challenges and discoveries. I feel he might also find it interesting to discover what the new generation of business breathes, what it aspires to. This meeting could take the shape of a field trip, and the discussions between Mr Ivanishvili and young Georgian entrepreneurs might take place on location – in Tskaltubo, Abastumani, or Shekvetili. I put the idea to him. “With great pleasure!” he enthused. “I confirm that I am ready for the meeting. I would be delighted to meet with the business leaders of the young generation who will build the strong and competitive economy of future Georgia. I am ready to share my experience and support their development.”


P.S. At Bidzina Ivanishvili’s request, we would like to publish his specific offer to businesses, which he did not discuss in detail during the interview: Mr Ivanishvili is prepared to transfer the ownership of the Paragraph Hotel, in which over $120 million have already been invested, for $60 million, even though he plans to invest several additional millions of dollars for the exclusive features that he discussed, in part, during our interview. At the same time, if a buyer were to discover, as a result of an audit, that any expenses out of the $120 million that were invested in the hotel are unjustified, purposeless, or artificially inflated, Bidzina Ivanishvili is prepared to subtract those funds from the nominal price of $60 million. As concerns the Panorama Tbilisi project, it will be possible to purchase it at a 10-30% discount and the aforementioned condition that applied to the Paragraph Hotel will also apply in this case – a strict audit of the expenses paid. In addition, Bidzina Ivanishvili is prepared to sell all eight hotels that are being constructed by the Tourism Development Fund at prime cost, or at a discount, with only one condition – their construction and opening for business must not be delayed (two years at the latest) and the approved projects must not be changed without prior agreement.

“The territory stretching from Sololaki to Kus Tba measures approximately 400 hectares and the estimated total value of the project will amount to 12-15 million laris. Additionally, I would like to remind the public that for three years, new trees were constantly being planted within the framework of the Tabori Mountain project. However, it would appear that the species were not chosen correctly and this process did not turn out to have been completely successful. I hope that together with Temur, we will successfully conclude this project and present the residents of Tbilisi with a great gift. “I really do not feel comfortable when I talk about future projects in advance. It has been said that actions speak louder than words and I have always followed this principle but life has made adjustments here as well. Our opponents have become so proficient at presenting white as black, good as evil, and development as devastation that I am forced to announce certain projects, including the Tskaltubo project, in advance, in order to ensure that the public receives correct and impartial information from the outset.” I invited Mr Ivanishvili to a live meeting with young and interesting Georgian entrepreneurs and startuppers under the aegis of the Entrepreneur magazine,

Originally published on entrepreneur.ge.



Y9 Prime – New Budget Smartphone of Huawei with Rear Triple-Lens Camera ADVERTORIAL


he new budget smartphone of Huawei is now in Georgia! The Y9 Prime with pop-up selfie and rear Triple-Lens Camera , costs 799 GEL and is available at the HUAWEI partner stores. The 2019 HUAWEI Y9 Prime, with FullView display, presents a high ratio of screen-to-body. To improve the look and feel of the screen, smartphones have gradually been divided into screen types including the "hole-punch" screen, the "notched" screen, and the "dewdrop" screen styles. In order not to sacrifice limited screen space, the industry has recognized the pop-up camera as an effective way to increase screen-to-body ratios. This not only creates a more visually integrated screen, but the pop-up camera also creates a strongly futuristic, high-tech user experience. However, at present, this solution is almost exclusively used in flagship models of the different major manufacturers, and users of budget mobile phones mostly have to settle for outdated designs. However, Huawei recently had its first release of the Y9 Prime, its new budget flagship model, which broke the industry status quo and brought FullView Display into the budget mobile phones. Huawei is once again leading the industry in this field. „Moving the camera into a non-edged design has become a kind of Achilles heel. However, we managed to deal with this issue. In previous models of HUAWEI, we tried to work around the lens by cutting a small hole. However, it is only now that a pop-up camera has emerged that has allowed us to create a smartphone with no real edges. The 2019 HUAWEI Y9 Prime is the first smartphone to feature a pop-up camera system. It has a 6.59-inch FullView screen, and the thickness is equivalent to a 5.5-inch cell phone. Using it will give you the feeling that the future is in your hands“, says HUAWEI's customer business team. The pop-up camera is obviously another key highlight. This camera is also the reason why the Y9 Prime has such a very high screen ratio. When the front camera is not in use, the lens is stored within the phone's frame; when you want to take a selfie or use the front camera, the lens will pop up automatically. The extension and retraction process only take about one second each. The mechanical sound of the lens expanding and retracting also provides a really cool high-tech feeling.

Of course, you don't have to worry about breaking the front lens, even though it looks very fragile. It has a load capacity of 15 kg, and will experience no problems during standard daily use. If you're really worried about slipping in the middle of taking a selfie, Huawei has taken an extra step to protect you and your phone. The phone comes with an intelligent fall protection system, so if it is dropped, the lens will automatically retract itself as quickly as possible. Huawei is the first smartphone maker to use artificial intelligence in mobile photography. The 2019 HUAWEI Y9 Prime comes with a triple camera system: 16 M, 8 MP and 2 MP lenses. Based on artificial intelligence, the HUAWEI Y9 Prime can detect different scenarios, adjust backlighting, and provide the best imaging with a natural beauty algorithm. The camera system with artificial intelligence is actually your photo studio. And the most important thing when evaluating smartphones - high power battery for long-term use. Although the pop-up camera has a large amount of internal storage, the HUAWEI Y9 Prime does not have reduced battery power: The high-capacity 4000 mAh battery allows users to use their smartphone for long periods of time. Based on official testing results, the HUAWEI Y9 Prime features up to 52 hours of talk time, 65 hours of audio listening, 14 hours of continuous internet use, and 9 hours of video watching or continuous play. The rear panel of this model is divided into three parts. The first 1/3 includes a camera and fingerprint scanner, with the remaining 2/3 of the same color. The rear body of the smartphone is made of 3D composite material (3D PC / PMMA) and is available in three colors: midnight black, sapphire blue and emerald green. Importantly, its material is more durable and sustainable than other glass models. HUAWEI products and services are available in more than 170 countries and are used by a third of the world's population. There are 16 research and development centers operating worldwide in the USA, Germany, Sweden, Russia, India and China. HUAWEI Consumer BG is one of three business units of HUAWEI, mainly focusing on the production of smartphones, personal computers, tablets and cloud services. The HUAWEI Global Network is based on 20 years of experience in the telecommunications business and serves to the production of innovative technologies to customers around the world.





NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019

Crystal Receives New Funding for SMEs from the European Investment Bank


nder the agreement between the European Investment Bank (EIB) and Crystal, the leading non-bank financial institution, the latter will be funded 4.1 million Euros. The purpose of the deal is to finance micro-enterprises with fewer than 10 employees. Loans of up to €25,000 will be allocated to serve the needs of women, youth and rural entrepreneurs. As a consequence of this move, longterm financing will become available to about 10,000 entrepreneurs. On October 30, the signing ceremony at the Crystal office was attended by Koba Gvenetadze, the President of the National Bank; Vasil Hudak, the Vice President of the EIB; and Carl Hartzell, the EU Ambassador to Georgia. “The purpose of the funding is to support micro business - the most vulnerable segment of the Georgian economy. This type of funding is widely in-demand throughout the region as a means of assisting the advancement of new enterprises. The ultimate aim is to boost the economy and the overall well-being of the country,” said Vasil Hudak, the Vice President of EIB. As emphasized by Carl Hartzel, the EU Ambassador to Georgia, “as of today, over 30,000 businesses have benefited from EU funding and technical assistance under the SME Development Program. The partnership with Crystal aims to support an additional 10,000 local entrepreneurs both in developing existing businesses and in launching new ones. As a result, more people will be employed and new sources of income will emerge. We wish Crystal good luck and are ready

to support the private sector in Georgia.” “We are pleased to have reached longterm partnership with the European Investment Bank. Crystal has signed a major agreement aimed at supporting local entrepreneurs and financing micro enterprises operating in Georgia. In collabora-

tion with the EIB, we will endeavor to advance the company’s mission to become a platform for the development of Georgia's micro-entrepreneurs and farmers,” notes Ilya Revia, the CEO of Crystal. The European Investment Bank (EIB) is an EU bank. It is the EU's long-term

lending institution and is the only bank that owns and represents the interests of EU member states. It also allocates long-term funding for sustainable investment and adheres to the EU goals. Although more than 90% of the EIB's activities are focused on Europe, the

bank also supports the implementation of EU foreign and development policy. The EIB Group has set as its aim to support the economic development in the countries that have signed the Association Agreement with the European Union - Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine in particular. EIB will provide financial and technical assistance to SMEs in developing countries. EU4Business is an EU initiative aimed at promoting the development of SMEs in all six Eastern Partnership countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) and ensuring their economic growth. Together with the European Investment Bank (EIB), involved in the implementation of the EU4Business initiative are outside organizations such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. All EU initiatives to support SMEs in Eastern Partnership countries are part of EU4Business. JSC MFO Crystal (“Crystal”) is the leading financial inclusion organisation and the largest (by assets) non-banking financial institution in Georgia. It manages a loan portfolio of GEL 270 million, employing more than 1,000 members of staff, operating through 51 branches and serving more than 100,000 unique customers across Georgia. Crystal acts as a platform for economic development, providing micro and small entrepreneurs and farmers with innovative financial products and services tailored to their needs. Crystal is the first Fitch-rated non-banking financial institution in the region with a rating of ‘B’ stable outlook. In December 2018, Crystal received the nation’s responsible business award, “Meliora 2018”.




Ren Zhengfei's Northern European Media Roundtable, Part 2


en Zhengfei, Huawei CEO, welcomed media from northern Europe to a roundtable and invited them to ask whatever they wished, however challenging the question. GEORGIA TODAY will be publishing those questions and answers in the present and following issues of GEORGIA TODAY newspaper.

THE US IS CONTEMPLATING FUNDING MONEY TO ISSUE CREDIT TO HUAWEI’S COMPETITORS, INCLUDING ERICSSON, TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR THEM TO COMPETE WITH YOU. WHAT'S YOUR VIEW ON THIS? First, it is understandable if the US government issues credit to Ericsson and Nokia, or customers that buy equipment from them. It is a positive measure that we understand and support. I think this is good for society, because new things cannot collect funds as soon as they start developing. So I understand and support what the US government is doing. Second, Huawei is unable to receive such financial support. Over the years, our business operations have provided 90% of the capital we need and are continuing to contribute cash flows to the company. So we have sufficient cash. Our rapid growth over the years is attributed to sufficient money and simple decision-making processes. In the capital market, many shareholders often spend so long arguing that an age has passed before they have finished. However, we have a unified will at Huawei when it comes to decision making, so that we can quickly decide and invest large amounts of money in certain areas. This is a characteristic of our management. Providing buyer's credit is a common practice internationally, so it is understandable for any country to help its export companies. For example, airplanes are bought through financing and leasing. Airlines have to pay off the money to banks in seven or eight years before they own the planes. Financing and leasing are common practices all over the world, so we support the US government's funding for Ericsson and Nokia. If their market shares increase while ours decrease, there would be no conflicts between us.

SOME PEOPLE SEE NOKIA'S REPUTATION AS MORE TRANSPARENT AND MORE RELIABLE COMPARED WITH HUAWEI'S. CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL VIEW ON THAT? Finland is a great country. I have two reasons for believing this. First, today's Android system originated from Linux, which was invented in 1991 by a Finnish person. Linux then went open source and evolved into today's Android. Finland has made significant contributions in this regard. Second, we worked with the University of Tampere and invented block-matching and 3D filtering (BM3D) technology for noise reduction. With this technology, people can use cellphone cameras to take clear photos in the dark. This technology was initially found in an academic paper from a Finnish university. Third, Nokia is a role model that we used to admire. Nokia started as a pulp mill and developed into a leading global cellphone maker. But Nokia later took a detour during the course of its development. The company stuck with the path of the Industrial Age, which placed quality as its top priority. Nokia phones were the only phones that could be sustained for almost 20 years. Someone once asked me to help repair his phone. When I found that it was a Nokia phone dating back over 20 years ago, I thought he should take it to Nokia's museum in

exchange for a new one. This example showed that Nokia was determined to follow the path of the Industrial Age. Technologies evolve very rapidly in the information society. The quality of mobile phones is now overshadowed by customer experience, but Nokia has failed to keep pace with this trend. However, Nokia is still a great company. Some people always think that Huawei is not transparent. But in fact, Huawei is highly transparent. Our financial reports have been audited by KPMG for over a decade, and our financial statements clearly explain where our money comes from. The US government should take a look at these statements. Some people think we are not transparent because we haven't gone public, but this doesn't make sense to me. Huawei adopts a new model under which its funds are collected from its employees. This may even become a model for most companies in the future. How is this model different from those of Northern Europe? There is no difference at all. In other words, we embrace employee capitalism, instead of the large-shareholder capitalism adopted by Wall Street, and there are no zillionaires at our company. Under employee capitalism, many employees are getting a certain amount of shares, providing assurances to them once they are retired or if they get sick. Isn't this modeled after those of Northern Europe? Don't you embrace people's capitalism? Northern Europe does not have zillionaires, but it is still one of the richest places in the world. Norway is very wealthy, but the people there still drive small cars and live in small houses. Every time I return from Norway, I ask our employees to learn from the country. In China, people tend to buy big cars and big houses. Since we are still a developing country, how can we live such luxurious lifestyles? We should be saving money for production and investments. Our company is transparent throughout and exposed under the sunshine. Over the past 30 years, people around the world have kept a close eye on Huawei, including the Central Intelligence Agency and other US government agencies. They've continued watching us but haven't found any problems. Isn't this a proof of our transparency? We are just as transparent as Nokia.

YOU ARE A REALLY POWERFUL MAN IN CHINA AND A MEMBER OF THE PARTY. WHAT IS YOUR PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT XI JINPING AND THE LAST TIME YOU MET? I only met President Xi once at Huawei's UK office in 2015. It would be nice to see him again, but I haven't got any invitation yet.

YOU MAY HAVE BEEN PERSONALLY AFFECTED BY THE RIFT BETWEEN THE US AND CHINA SINCE YOUR DAUGHTER WAS ARRESTED IN CANADA. IS THAT DESIGNED TO PUT PRESSURE ON YOU AND YOUR COMPANY OR DESIGNED TO PUT PRESSURE ON CHINA? As for the case regarding my daughter's detainment in Canada, this will be decided by the law. Right now we can't know for sure if there is a connection. My daughter is a grown woman, and she can handle challenges herself. I have three kids, and they are all independent and strongwilled. I have been married twice. Right now, I am married to Yao Ling. She is a kind and responsible mother. For 20 years, she chose to stay home to take care of our daughter, teach her to be diligent in her studies, and help her form good habits. My youngest's achievements are the result of her own strength and the education she received from her mother. I have always been busy with

and cooperative. Both competition and cooperation are important to drive us forward.

WHY DID THE US TELECOM COMPANIES FAIL TO COMPETE WITH YOU AND THE NORDICS? The US companies chose the wrong path. In terms of technology, the US is the most powerful country in the world. With its strong influence, the US strong armed the world into accepting CDMA and WiMAX. However, European standards – WCDMA – still eventually became mainstream. US companies failed to follow through the 3GPP approach in their research. As a result, their tech didn't sell well abroad, which hurt their financial performance. Huawei's rise can't be blamed for US companies' decline. They vanished because they chose the wrong path.

YOU HAVE PRAISED THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT, SAYING IT'S GOOD HE LOWERED TAXES IN THE US. AT THE SAME TIME, A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD PROBABLY SAY THAT HE'S ALSO THE ARCHITECT OF A LOT OF YOUR TROUBLES. WHAT DO YOU ACTUALLY THINK OF THE AMERICAN PRESIDENT? my work and didn't spend much time with my kids during their childhoods. I think letting kids face some challenges isn't necessarily bad for them. As for the challenge now facing Wanzhou, I hope it won't get tangled up with state affairs. I don't think the country should make concessions for us, because they may have to sacrifice the interests of the less privileged. We think we should solve the issue by relying on the law and the courts.

IN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE, WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE BIG CARRIERS THAT WILL NOW DECIDE ON 5G? AND YOUR ADVICE TO EUROPEAN COUNTRIES' GOVERNMENTS IN THE CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION? I fully support the digital sovereignty proposed by the EU. Digital sovereignty is as important to a state as their geographical sovereignty. Geographical sovereignty relates to geopolitics. This is not the case with digital sovereignty because information flows globally, so digital sovereignty is necessary. I agree with the idea that every country should establish their own digital sovereignty, and I fully support the strategies and requirements of digital sovereignty. We will try our best to contribute to the infrastructure they need in the EU. We are committed to going open source with our key technologies such as compilers and MindSpore framework for AI and Kunpeng products for European and global developers. European companies can innovate based on these open platforms, and their innovations will impact the world and extend to China. This will help improve their market and revenue structures. We aspire to support the development of at-scale digital ecosystems in Europe.

GIVEN THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE, HOW IMPORTANT IS TECHNOLOGY, SPEED, AND QUALITY IN PRODUCTS? HOW IMPORTANT SHOULD EACH OF THESE THINGS BE IN DECISION MAKING? It's very hard to say. Different people like to buy different things. There is no standard way to decide what to buy. It wouldn't be practical for shops to only sell Hermès bags and not sell any other brands. Shops will sell different commodities for different uses. I don't think it's appropriate to buy things based on political factors. Products related to infrastructure have long lifecycles, and

if you lag behind at the beginning, it becomes hard to catch up. For example, Europe lagged behind China more than a thousand years ago. China's prosperity in its Tang and Song Dynasties is reflected in classical Chinese paintings like Along the River During the Qingming Festival (Qingming Shanghe Tu). Why did Europe develop faster while China fell into poverty over the last few hundred years? Because Europe invented the train and steamship, while China was still using horse-drawn carriages. Carriages move much slower than trains and carry less cargo than ships. Therefore, Europe developed, and China lagged behind in terms of industrialization. Speed determines achievement. As for 5G, I think people should choose products that are able to deliver fast speeds, large bandwidths, and low latency for the development of an information society. 5G has presented new development opportunities, and we should choose the best equipment. I think products made by Ericsson, Nokia, Huawei, and Samsung are good choices, and are able to support decent networks. Carriers make their own choices based on their own decision-making mechanisms. They need to take speed into consideration, because speed is critical to social advancement. Trains and ships were faster than Chinese carriages, so Europe developed faster than China.

HOW DID HUAWEI MANAGE TO OVERTAKE NOKIA AND ERICSSON AND WHY IS THERE NO MOBILE NETWORK COMPANY IN THE US? WHAT IS THE CHINESE IDEA? WHY HAS IT WORKED SO WELL? First, Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia are on good terms. We worked together to create industry organizations like the 5G Automotive Association (5GAA) and the 5G Alliance for Connected Industries and Automation (5G-ACIA), which are set to contribute significantly to Europe's industrial development. Europe is known as a talent hub with a small population. With AI, Europe will be able to produce a massive quantity of goods with a relatively small workforce. There's a lot to look forward to in terms of what AI can bring to Europe. 5G is just a supporting pillar of AI. We are working with Ericsson and Nokia in good faith to advance the development of 5G. As we move forward, conflicts between us will inevitably arise. But I would characterize our relationships as competitive

I think the world should learn from the US President and lower the taxes so that businesses can earn more and develop more rapidly. Tax cuts aside, Mr. Trump is also wielding the stick against many countries, which is deterring foreign investment. Tax cuts were meant to attract foreign investment. If everyone is afraid to invest in the US, who will fill the revenue gap caused by the tax cuts? With less tax revenue, the US will find itself in a difficult financial situation. If the US were nicer to other countries while lowering taxes, it would be a great boost to the US economy. However, the US is lowering taxes on one hand, and getting into trouble on the other hand. The Chinese government is also cutting taxes, bit by bit, to reduce pressures on businesses and inject vitality into business. We believe all countries will eventually go down this path, because no country will be able to afford an excessively expensive welfare system.

YOU NEVER DREAM OF DONALD TRUMP LOSING THE NEXT ELECTION? First of all, Trump has never appeared in my dreams. I don't miss him that much. Second, whether or not he is re-elected will not affect us all that much. Whoever the next president is, we don't expect Huawei will be removed from the Entity List. No one in the US will speak for Huawei. Therefore, we are mentally prepared to remain on the Entity List for a long time. We must get used to living with it. At Huawei University, classes often begin with a warm-up video of students from China's Hengshui High School doing morning exercises. It is a high school in an underdeveloped county. We all know that it's very difficult to change China's education system and the general teaching methods, and the school knows this too. But they changed their methods to adapt to the external environment and achieve success. What have we learned from this high school? We can't change the world and we can't change our external environment, but we can change our own methods so that we can achieve success within the existing environment. The US may or may not elect a new president, but this will not change their policy towards us. We must be mentally prepared for this for a long time to come. If we rely too much on luck, we may one day fail. Read the next part of this fascinating interview in the next issue of GT.




NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019

Sustainable Mountain Development Supported by the Swiss & Austrians at the Caucasus Mountain Forum BY BEKA ALEXISHVILI


he Caucasus Mountain Forum (CMF) is one of Scientific Network for the Caucasus Mountain Region (SNC-mt)'s star enterprises. The appropriate regional setting of the Caucasus offers a key incentive for organizing biannual regional forums for different stakeholders working in the Caucasus mountain region. The forums serve as an important occasion for scientists and academics, government experts, and specialists to meet, exchange views on opportunities and challenges, and thus seek to improve regional dialogue and contribute to better coordinated and sustainable improvement in the Caucasus region. “More than ever before we see [here] significant scientific expertise and knowledge related to climate change issues, with deputies with a background in environmental sciences, engineering, physics, climatology and more,” said the Deputy Regional Director of the South Caucasus, Werner Thut, commenting on the opening ceremony of the CMF in Ankara. Sustainable Mountain Development (SMD) implies a wide range of sectoral topics. It requires the organization and conjoining of diverse scientific disciplines and actors from the public, private and non-governmental domains. It also has implications for intergenerational parity and justice, and additionally stands to crucially benefit the practitioners and decision makers from local to international levels. “If we go for rational, evidence-based decisions, science and scientists should be heard on a regular basis and without prejudice. This brings me to back to the conference, its purpose and ambitions, notably, the approval of the Caucasus Regional Research Agenda,” Werner

Thut said. One of the main goals of the Caucasus Mountain Forum 2019, organized under the title ‘The Caucasus Regional Research Agenda: Key to Sustainable Regional Development, held on 30 October to 1 November in Ankara, Turkey, is to formally approve the Caucasus Regional Research Agenda (C-RRA). Accordingly, this year’s CMF theme encompassed the subject areas covered in the C-RRA, with a focus on identifying the current state of knowledge in the Caucasus region, key challenges and opportunities, and priority gaps for scientific research and development. As stated in the catalogue of the forum, the objectives of the Caucasus Mountain Forums are to: • share the latest scientific findings on SMD in the Caucasus;

• link research, policy-making and practice in the field of SMD; • showcase scientifically informed, practical actions leading towards sustainability in the Caucasus mountain region; • provide a forum for promoting a joint regional mountain agenda; • increase the visibility of the Caucasus region. Assembling on the achievements of the First Caucasus Mountain Forum (CMF 2016), the members of the SNCmt Scientific Steering Group agreed that the Mountain Forum should be held repeatedly and systematically to ensure the sustainability of scientific cooperation and exchange of information. In the new Swiss parliament, politics will meet science on a daily basis. “I would not conclude that this necessarily

guarantees fast progress and quick solutions,” Thut said, but noted that Switzerland is committed to promoting sustainable mountain development at the international level. He further conditions that from the Swiss experience, they “have learned that agriculture is often the backbone of sustainable mountain development” and that the Swiss “have an intrinsic interest and a proven trackrecord in the sustainable development of mountain regions.” Mr. Thut went on to highlight the questions that enable us to translate scientific results into action and policies: • How to ensure the transfer of knowledge to government bodies and parliament? • How to conduct dialogue, inform and collaborate with non-state actors such as NGOs or professional organizations?

• How to structure and re-structure decision-making processes so that relevant knowledge is systematically considered? The Second Caucasus Mountain Forum trails in the footsteps of CMF 2016 in serving as a crucial prospect for productive communication between scientists, governmental experts and practitioners to discuss opportunities and challenges. Plus, most importantly, to make contributions to the enriched keenness of sustainable development in the Caucasus region. Its specific goals were to review and approve the Caucasus Regional Research Agenda (C-RRA); share scientific findings and practitioner experiences generated since CMF 2016; enhance the links between research, policymaking and practice in the field of sustainable mountain development; draw the attention of Caucasus-country practitioners to needs and priorities in research and development for a sustainable future in the Caucasus; showcase the latest scientifically informed activities fostering progress towards sustainability in the Caucasus mountain region; and promote subregional, regional, and international cooperation, exchange of knowledge and know-how among scientific groups working for sustainable mountain development. As hosts and organizers, the Turkish delegation said it wished to thank the many committed people, ‘scientists and academics, governmental experts and practitioners, donors, international experts, local communities, and interested members of the general public, in particular from countries of the wider Caucasus region, who helped to organize the event. Special gratitude was expressed to the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and the United Nations Environment Program and Austrian Development Agency (ADA) for their financial and organizational support.

American within Georgian Startup Ecosystem Evangelists Continued from page 1 “What came out of the retreat was a remarkable consensus about where the ecosystem was and where it needed to go. It inspired me to move more in the direction of helping promising startups move toward becoming success stories to inspire others,” Donohue tells us.

HELPING THE CREATION OF THE GEORGIAN UNICORN Perhaps the biggest success has been the case of Pulsar AI. “I was researching where Georgians had been successful in technology startups and found George Arison (Irakli Areshidze). I got one of his investors to introduce us and he agreed to come to a dinner we organized with startups we brought to Startup Grind Global.” Giorgi Tukhashvili recruited Pulsar AI to be part of the eight-person delegation from Georgia which went to Silicon Valley. Gio and Colin, the “dynamic duo” introduced Pulsar and Arison and this began a chain of events which may result in the first Georgian startup success story. “You have a dream team of Pulsar, who is super sharp and has a track record, and George who has raised over $300 Million, knows a ton of top VCs, and has deep connections in the automotive vertical,” Donohue says. “We are proud to have introduced them, and now Pulsar has raised a half million dollars and their CEO has moved to San Francisco to work directly on growing the company. Development jobs are staying in Georgia, and they are poised to grow something of great value.” He then comments on the power of being a volunteer. “It would have taken a bunch of money to pay for the time Gio and I put into that trip. But because

we didn’t depend on any donors or corporates we just went and did it. Literally nobody would contribute any funding, including companies using “startup” in their marketing campaigns. GITA pitched in for the startups to go but we had to fund our own time and travel of our pockets.” This summer, George Arison joined Pulsar’s board as Chairman and they raised initial seed funding from US and Georgian investors. Whether Pulsar grows to be a unicorn or not, it is a good example for the Georgian startup ecosystem.

FILLING GAPS IN THE GEORGIAN STARTUP ECOSYSTEM Donohue had been doing angel investor trainings to help investors in Georgia understand startup investing. The approach and thinking of angel investing is different than the typical construction projects so common for Georgian investors. “I was involved in a project with a very wealthy Group in Georgia. They said they wanted to do startup investing but were doing it all wrong. The

expectations were incorrect. They were asking if they invested, how many eggs they would get per month. I was trying to explain that it was a beef steer and it would not produce eggs, but in the end when it went to market everyone would eat well. It’s the difference between revenue (local model) and asset-growth velocity. If you’re getting revenue from a startup, it’s either not a startup or you’re doing it wrong. If it’s a true startup opportunity (highgrowth, scalable, etc.) you should be reinvesting everything in growth. SMEs are fine, but they are not startups”. “I was pleased to be involved in a demonstration project for angel investors,” Donohue says. “We had several people putting in modest amounts of money. Often Georgian investors want to be the sole investor, and take a large amount of shares. This often dooms startups to future failure. The goal of angel investors should be to find good companies and get a modest share of something that can grow very big.” “It’s best practice to put smaller investments in more companies rather than too much in one company. The math just doesn’t work if you bet too

heavily on just a couple companies” Donohue feels Georgia has come a long way on the startup side, and some progress has been made on the investor side. “During my first year or two, I was more about ‘Angle Investing Prevention.’ Angels invest in a manner that helps founders succeed. I coined the term “angle” investors to describe folks who are “working an angle,” trying to gain power and leverage over founders rather than supporting. When asked how long he expected to stay in Georgia, he said wasn’t sure. “At this point, Georgia feels like home to me. But I have elderly parents in the US and need to get back to take care of them at some point. When I do go, I’m sure I’ll be back, or keep helping folks when they come to the US maybe!” “It’s a super interesting time here, and I’ve made some really amazing people I want to help succeed. Having moved away from my US consulting business, I need to figure out how to make a living here, but I hope it will include supporting startups.”

HELPING TO POSITION GEORGIA ON THE GLOBAL MAP OF STARTUPS Donohue and his team have taken on an ambitious project which they feel will be a big benefit for Georgia, hosting an international Startup Grind conference in Tbilisi which will draw international startups, investors, and others from a region of over 20 countries from Eastern Europe through Central Asia. Startup Grind Europe-Asia Connect plans to be the biggest Startup Grind conference in the world after Silicon Valley and London. “Frankly I don’t like big events. I’d rather have 30 good folks in a room learning from each other than 3000

sitting in rows in a theater. But this event we’re doing to position Georgia globally ‘on the map’ of startup activity,” Donohue says. “I truly believe Georgia can become a destination for startups who want a cool inexpensive place to grow their company. Silicon Valley was amazing, but the tools the tech community created have allowed people to found companies anywhere in the world. Why would you live in San Francisco, where $200,000/year is not enough to support a family, when you can live a great life in Tbilisi for a small fraction of that.” Donohue is hoping Georgia will really rally around and seize the opportunity to use the conference as a vehicle for publicizing Georgia and helping attract talented people and investors from around the world. “The most important thing to see in my story is I’m just someone who wanted to make good things happen and I was willing to just do it, not wait for some donor or government or corporation. Startup Grind itself was a startup. We bootstrapped it with our own time and money. You can’t wait for someone else. Just start something, and see what happens.” “For me, my life has been enriched by the amazing people I’ve gotten to work with. I work with better people here than I could have imagined in the US. Gio Tukhasvhili, my co-director in Startup Grind and cofounder of Winefinder, and I have a running joke. We kept doing small things which turn into bigger and bigger opportunities and impact. We kept finding ourselves saying “well, that escalated quickly”. Not everything will work how you hope and there will be challenges. But I think our experience shows that if you start doing something important, you attract great people.”




Fit Club – A Modern Fitness Center in the Heart of Tbilisi improving the shape of muscles and helping us look healthier and better. Along with the latest equipment and reformers, we offer a dry sauna for our members’ maximum relaxation and comfort, a weight correction program and a personal coach service.

WHAT MAKES THE SWIMMING POOL SO SPECIAL COMPARED TO OTHER POOLS? I can confidently claim we have the cleanest “rooftop” pool in the center of Tbilisi, where the water is cleaned with the latest technologies daily. In our poolside café, we provide our users with a nutrition program, and they can buy healthy products and detox cocktails necessary for their diet on the spot.



hysical activity and exercise can have immediate and longterm benefits on our health and reduce our risk of developing numerous diseases. Moreover, regular activity can reduce stress and gift us a feeling of happiness through the endorphins our body releases during exercise. As such, a healthy lifestyle is becoming an increasingly important part of our daily life. This trend is also noticeable in Georgia, where more and more people, especially youth, start working out to improve their health and physical shape. Choosing the right fitness center, one which is able to fully meet our needs and demands, is crucial. There are many such facilities in Tbilisi, and a modern fitness center Fit Club is distinguished among them. The fitness center opened two years ago and was quick to gain popularity and trust among its customers due to its exclusive offers and services. Fit Club, in all appearances like a prestigious fitness center of New York or Europe, offers unique opportunities for a healthier and happier life in one space in the heart of the Georgian capital, with diverse service and high-qualified instructors.

Our club is designed for those who do not like crowded gyms or long queues at reformers in the hall. Upon arrival, you will pick up on the clean, wellarranged environment, smiling and friendly staff, qualified instructors and quality service. All our instructors are certified - both in the hall and in Pilates, which is yet another advantage of the Fit Club. The biggest advantage of the Fit Club is that absolutely every coach is highly qualified, and the club has an ideal, orderly situation and service. At first, we determine the goal of our members and then provide them with an individual workout and nutrition This is where you will find all the right conditions for active relaxation and the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. Fit Club’s convenient location in the city center is one of the main advantages of the club, as it is easily accessible for any visitor from any district of Tbilisi. Moreover, Fit Club offers its members a solution to one of the biggest problems nowadays: parking, with a well-arranged free parking system. Clients of Fit Club lose no time searching for a parking place while visiting the club. By becoming a member of Fit Club, one gets full access to the latest sports equipment, including gym, personal trainer service, pilates reformer machines, Finnish Sauna and rooftop pool. One of the most attractive and special features is an outdoor swimming pool located on the top floor of the building, filled with clean, turquoise water. The pool is available for Fit Club members year round. At Fit Club, one can experience the highest level of service and a team of highly qualified, professional instructors who care about creating healthy and beautiful body shapes. Apart from providing the best condi-

tions for working out, the fitness club offers its members a healthy menu for which there are several profile cafes and restaurants in the same building. The gym is located on the second floor of the building, while three different types of restaurants and two cafes on the lower floors, making it the perfect place not only for exercise, but for arranging meetings with friends and even business partners, or simply for a delicious and healthy lunch in calm and cozy environment. Once the workout is over and you want to rest, you don’t have to go anywhere – the restaurants and cafes are at your disposal in the same building! At the Fit Club café, one can taste healthy, fresh detox cocktails and diverse dishes full of vitamins. GEORGIA TODAY spoke to Sopho Meladze, Manager and Pilates, Swimming and Fitness Instructor of Fit Club, who elaborated on the benefits and advantages the newly opened fitness center offers its customers.

WE HAVE MANY FITNESS CLUBS HERE IN TBILISI. WHAT MAKES FIT CLUB STAND OUT? Unlike other fitness clubs, we have everything our members need in one space,

which is a great comfort for them. And our outdoor swimming pool operates year-round with the water cleaned daily. It is also comfortable for the customers that the hall is fitted with all kinds of equipment and that we also offer relaxation areas - a sauna and a café. Fit Club was the first to bring pilates reformers into the country and now has its own certified pilates instructors. This service is especially popular among customers, as pilates has a significant effect on our body – strengthening and

plan for the best results.

AT FIT CLUB, ONE CAN ENJOY A DRY SAUNA. HOW BENEFICIAL IS IT FOR HEALTH? The sauna is very relaxing and helps the muscles to relax after a workout. It also removes extra water, salts and toxins from the body. This, along with many other exclusive features offered by Fit Club, makes it a favorite place for those who care for their healthy and active life and seek maximum comfort.




NOVEMBER 5 - 7, 2019

Made in Georgia: with EU & FAO Support Local Farmer’s Sweetcorn Goes on Sale at Carrefour ers with fresh products directly from the farm, we are glad to be a part of a successful collaboration which not only helps the agricultural development of the country but creates more job opportunities for Georgian citizens.” “I would have never imagined that one day I could sell my yield in Carrefour. I am so happy that people are buying my sweet corn,” David Kapanadze said. “I am also grateful to the EU and FAO for this opportunity.” This is the first example of successful contract farming aimed at gaining higher income for the smallholder and promoting products produced in Georgia, and should lead to more collaborations between smallholder farmers and retailers in Georgia under the EU-supported FAO-ENPARD project. Ultimately, it should pave the way to larger collaborations between smallholder farmers and retailers to promote ‘Made in Georgia’ premium products to the end-consumers. The project, which supports the Ministry of Environmental Protection and


akheti sweetcorn on sale in the Majid Al Futtaim Carrefour is the first success of the large scale EU-FAO project aiming at increasing Georgian farmer productivity and income through modern methods and connecting producers with retailers. Mid-October, Carl Hartzell, Ambassador of the European Union to Georgia, and Raimund Jehle, FAO Representative, met with FAO-ENPARD project beneficiaries on their first day of supplying Majid Al Futtaim Carrefour Georgia with their yield. David and Valentina Kapanadze are smallholder farmers from Lagodekhi municipality who received assistance from FAO agronomists and experts under the EU-funded ENPARD program to establish a sweetcorn demo plot utilizing modern European standards and

practices. The project then helped David and Valentina establish links with large scale retailer Carrefour, which will regularly purchase the premium quality sweet corn from the Kapanadze family. “I would like to congratulate the Kapanadze family for this truly impressive result and also recognize Carrefour's initiative to support and promote local productions,” Ambassador Hartzell said. “This first example of successful contract farming paves the way to larger collaborations between smallholder farmers and retailers to promote ‘Made in Georgia’ premium products to the end-consumers. It also shows that there are viable economic opportunities for smallholder farmers in Georgia around highquality products, innovation, and sustainable agriculture. The EU remains committed to such endeavours in order to further support quality and inclusive

Agriculture of Georgia (MEPA) in the implementation of the National Strategy for Agricultural Extension 2018-2019, will deliver agricultural extension services, including consulting and supporting farmers with demo plot arrangements. It organizes farmer field schools, theoretical and practical training activities for lead farmers, Farmers’ InformationConsulting Centers of the Ministry and interns from the Agrarian University. Within the project, FAO experts arrange various types of demonstration plots of potatoes, wheat, maize, cucumber, eggplant and sweetcorn, focusing on the municipalities of Dedoplistskaro, Akhalkalaki, Khazbegi and Lagodekhi. The European Neighborhood Program for Agriculture and Rural Development (ENPARD) is recognized as one of the most successful agriculture and rural development initiatives funded by the European Union in Georgia. Implemented since 2013 with a total budget of EUR 179.5 million, the main goal of ENPARD is to reduce rural poverty in the country.

agricultural growth in the country.” “The FAO, together with the EU, carries out important activities for agricultural and rural development in Georgia and it’s impressive to see such achievements within this project,” Jehle said. “By supporting the government in delivering quality advising services to the farmers and assisting them to connect with the retailers, we can reach our bigger goals: to improve people’s lives and enhance the competitiveness of the agriculture sector in Georgia.” “We are delighted with the contribution of Majid Al Futtaim Carrefour in the success of this project,” Christophe Orcet, Carrefour Georgia Country Manager, said. “Supporting local farmers in promoting high quality ‘Made in Georgia’ products has always been one of the priorities of the company. Along with our main focus to provide our custom-

Multiple Sclerosis Patients Petition for Better Access to Treatment ADVERTORIAL


atients with multiple sclerosis have created an online petition to support access to treatment. Join us- the signature collection has begun. “Patients with multiple sclerosis await funding for treatment! Sign the online petition to help reach out to the Ministry of Health, Tbilisi City Hall and City Council- those who can significantly improve the quality of life of patients. The State should provide funding / cofinancing for the treatment and rehabilitation of patients,” reads the statement of patients with Multiple Sclerosis. The online petition to increase access to treatment has already been developed and the collection of signatures has begun. The purpose of the petition is to provide access to treatment for patients with multiple sclerosis in Georgia. The published results will be sent to the Ministry of Health, Tbilisi City Hall and City Council with a request to support treatment. https://manifest.ge/main/item/2753?fbclid=IwAR3KeG5ihpnfZUYE0yoMsIv sYzd7nmLxOQ0AKsNsRCh2Svc3ORGnrZlaX_8 There are several medicines for the treatment of multiple sclerosis in Georgia, but they are not funded under any of the ongoing healthcare programs in

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Bocuse d’Or: First National Contest REVIEW BY NINI DAKHUNDARIDZE


ecognition of Georgian cuisine is getting more global by the day, as is appreciation for its exquisite taste and preparation techniques. Yet Georgian gastronomy still has a way to go to reach world standards, and contests like the Bocuse d’Or National Competition, which took place this past weekend, are big steps toward Georgia marking its place on the world gastronomy map. Often called the ‘Olympics of Gastronomy’, Bocuse d’Or is the world’s most prestigious gastronomic championship with a 30-year history of bringing together talented and prominent chefs from the four continents. In 2019, Georgia officially became a part of the Bocuse d’Or family. That means that for the first time, Georgia will compete at the Continental Competition of Bocuse d’Or in 2020. Correspondingly, Georgia hosted the national contest for the first time, the main goal being to reveal the winner from eight teams who will best represent the coun-

try at the Bocuse d’Or Continental in Tallinn next year. ExpoGeorgia hosted the first-ever National Competition of Bocuse d’Or on November 2-3. There, world-renowned Georgian, Belgian and Estonian chefs chose one out of eight contestants to represent Georgia at the Bocuse d’Or European Contest 2020 that will happen in Tallinn on May 28-29. The jury consisted of Giorgi Iosava, Manuel Fundes Baranda, Guram Baghdoshvili, Levan Kobiashvili, Giorgi Sarajishvili, Meriko Gubeladze, Misha Avsajanishvili, Vladislav Jatsuki, Roland Debuyst, and Tekuna Gachechiladze. The Technical Jury, which judged the preparation process of the contestants, included Vakhtang Devdariani, Goga Maisuradze, Avtandil Tsetskhladze, Davidnar Narimanishvili, Luka Nachkebia, and Tamta Kikaleishvili. The National contest was open to the public; the fans, family members and friends of the contestants and anyone interested in cuisine or merely wanting to see how a variation of the popular cooking shows would be brought live, could attend. On the first day of the contest, four teams, comprising a chef, chef’s assistant

and their mentor, prepared meals for the jury to taste and the attendees to see. The chefs of the first four contestants were Gabriel Tsiklauri, Giorgi Kankava, Temo Kardenakhishvili, and Soso Jabanashvili. When ready, the meals were presented on the press table. While the photographers and the TV operators captured them, the dishes were showcased on the big screens for the guests of the contest to see. Each gastronomy masterpiece took over five hours to prepare and consisted of differently cooked pork, three garnishes and two sauces. The jury evaluated the dishes in total

silence, marking their points and comments on special papers, not even revealing to each other their personal favorites. The excited public was the witness of many wonderful things at the first National Contest of Bocuse d’Or Georgia. The organizational skills of Gastronaut enabled the guests to really feel like they were a part of each step of the contest – the chefs cooked in front of them, and the jury, technical or otherwise, evaluated the works of the teams before their eyes. During the breaks, the attendees could visit a second space for coffee, a bite to eat and the chance to buy Agro-

Hub products. There, the guests could also interact with the famous members of the jury – this, above all, made the first National Contest of Bocuse d’Or a true celebration of gastronomy. Levan Kobiashvili, renowned Georgian chef and the President of Bocuse d’Or Georgia, evaluated the first day of the contest as a success while talking with GEORGIA TODAY. “I want to thank the organizational team for their wonderful work and the public who came today to support this tremendous step forward for Georgian gastronomy. My expectations for the event were exceeded and I’d say I’m pretty satisfied with the work of contestants so far.” Vladislav Jatsuki, a respected Estonian chef, the winner of the 2008 Bocuse d’Or championship and the holder of 7th place in the European semi-finals, congratulated Georgia for the country’s success. “You’ve made the first wonderful steps. Judging the contestants here today, I feel exactly like I felt when I judged at Bocuse d’Or Europe in Turin in 2018.” His evaluation sums up perfectly the quality of the work performed by the contestants and the organizers of the National Contest of Bocuse d’Or.

Winners of the Prestigious Gastronomic Championship Bocuse d’Or Georgia Revealed


n November 3, the 11th pavilion of the Expo Georgia Convention Center hosted the final of the largest gastronomic championship Bocuse d’Or for the first time. The large-scale national gastronomic competition was aimed at revealing the winners among eight teams, who will travel to Estonia to participate in Bocuse d’Or Europe in 2020. If they are successful, Georgia will participate in the Bocuse d’Or Grand Finale in 2021, in France, where finalists from 24 countries will strive to win the highest award – the Bocuse d’Or. The winner of the Bocuse d’Or Georgia 2019 was Erik Sarkisyan, an emerging chef who prepared a dish titled “Tenderloin of 3 Techniques and a Seasonal Garnish.” He received the highest rankings from a jury consisting of eight renowned chefs. Sarkisyan will compete in the European Continental Tournament in Tallinn in 2020 on behalf of Georgia. “Honestly, I didn’t expect a victory in this competition,” Sarkisyan told GEORGIA TODAY. “The only goal I had was to prepare the perfect dish and I was totally focused on this task. In future, we will have to work even harder, as we will participate in the European Continental Championships in Tallinn in 2020. Well-known chefs do amazing things with food there, preparing inimitable dishes. We need to work harder and even more enthusiastically now. The dish that I prepared for the final of Bocuse d’Or Georgia wasn’t easy but there will be more challenges in future, we will have to compete with highly qualified professionals in 2020, and we need to get ready for it.” Chef Gabriel Tsiklauri came in second place at the Bocuse d’Or Georgia 2019 with his own exotic and exciting dish -

Chalaghaji marmalade with banana and chestnut aromas. Pullet liver put in chocolate ball and braised corn tower. “All of us, all the eight contestants, had equal chances to win the competition. And we showed high-class results today. However, we were focused on difficulties and challenges of preparing dishes with modern technologies, and that, added to the Georgian taste, got us second place. I’m too emotional and happy



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to talk about future plans yet, but I can say that my team and I do not intend to stop. We want to move forward and show the whole world in Tallinn what Georgian gastronomy can do!” he said. Giorgi Arabuli received the third place in the competition with the dish Chalaghagi with celery bulb puree. Citrus flavored Georgian cornbread crisps. Onion Pkhali with pomegranate and plum. Pumpkin with plum and cauli-

Journalists: Tony Hanmer, Zaza Jgarkava, Maka Bibilashvili, Vazha Tavberidze, Nugzar B. Ruhadze, Beka Alexishvili, Tea Mariamidze, Ana Dumbadze, Nini Dakhundaridze, Ketevan Kvaratskheliya Photographer: Irakli Dolidze

flower. Demi-glace with honey and raisin. “I didn’t expect that I would come in third today, as every participant is a great professional. I knew that everyone would prepare exotic and diverse dishes. I’m about 70% satisfied with myself. Sometimes I was in a hurry, sometimes I could not control the taste, etc… However, it was a great day and a great joy for me, I even can’t describe in words what I’m feeling now. It’s incredible,” he noted. “I am very glad and satisfied that the first national culinary competition Bocuse d’Or was held successfully,” main organizer of the contest, Levan Kokiashvili, told GEORGIA TODAY. “This is a new stage of the country’s gastronomic development. Now, the European championship awaits us. I call on everyone who is interested in Georgia’s gastronomic development to join us, the Gastronomic Association, and assist us to implement the mutual goal, this time in Europe, as we all see the talent and possibilities of Georgian chefs after the first competition, which is totally worth supporting.” Chef Roland Debuyst, the President of Bocuse d’Or Belgium, noted that the contestants managed to do some incredible work in only one month. “The quality of the competition was good. I would like to thank the organizers of Bocuse d’Or Georgia for their hard work and professionalism. Now we are getting ready for Tallinn. The winner should work hard to be more self-confident in the future. He should explore various tastes and flavors and think about the concept and the idea of the dish, which needs a lot of preparation and daily training. We should do our best to suitably present Georgia’s gastronomic

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possibilities in the international arena.” “We have one year ahead to prepare for Bocuse d’Or 2020,” added renowned chef Guram Baghdoshvili, one of the members of the jury. “My advice to my young colleagues would be to work on themselves during this year to achieve even better results. We don’t have much time to prepare for Tallinn and a big group will work to suitably present Georgia and its gastronomy at the largescale and prestigious competition. Despite the fact that we have very little time to show the best result, I have faith, and I believe that we will prove and show to the world that on this planet, there is a small country called Georgia.” Bocuse d’Or Georgia was organized by the Horeca business development and consulting agency Gastronaut. The project was presented by the Gastronomic Association of Georgia and supported by the Georgian Culinary Federation and the Ministry of Environment Protection and Agriculture of Georgia. Georgia’s participation in the Bocuse d’Or culinary competition represents a unique opportunity for the country to introduce and promote itself as well as its rich gastronomic culture.


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Profile for Georgia Today

Issue #1200 Business  

November 5 - 7, 2019

Issue #1200 Business  

November 5 - 7, 2019