GEORGIA TODAY APRIL 30 - MAY 2, 2019
Startup Grind Presents Valeri Chekheria, CEO of Adjara Group BY AMY JONES
n a packed auditorium at Tbilisi Conservatoire, 500 young entrepreneurs gathered at Startup Grind Tbilisi to listen to an interview with Valeri Chekheria, CEO of one of the most world-famous Georgian companies, Adjara Group. Adjara Group is the mastermind behind some of Georgia’s best-known hospitality brands: Stamba, Fabrika, Lolita, Rooms Kazbegi, and Rooms Tbilisi all belong to the brand. Startup Grind organizer Colin Donoghue sat down with Valeri Chekheria to talk about his past, vision, and advice for budding entrepreneurs. Chekheria grew up in a Tbilisi emerging from the Soviet Union. “I grew up in the 90s when we had this big trouble living,” he tells Colin. “We didn’t have basic needs: no electricity, no gas, no water… it was a very difficult time.” He went on to study law before work-
Over 80% of the food served in Adjara Group restaurants is Georgian
ing in the Ministry of Finance after the Rose Revolution. Despite being only 24, these were formative years of his life as he worked his way from the position of intern to working alongside the Minister of Economy. “We were a generation who never knew the taste of money from corruption,” says Chekheria. “We might make many mistakes, but we would be the generation who didn’t allow corruption to happen.” Chekheria was then lucky to be based to New York for six years where he studied a Masters at Colombia University. It was here that he met his future investor and learned the working habits of the wider world. After securing a job as General Manager of Holiday Inn in Tbilisi, he aimed to implement these work ethics in Georgia: “I remember the first day,” says Chekheria. “I said, daily meeting from 8am from tomorrow. That didn’t last long.” Instead, he turned to focusing on the basics, working alongside housekeepers to ensure that quality was maintained throughout the hotel. Chekheria began to change the hospitality industry in Georgia by offering a quality service and local experience. This is how the Rooms brand idea was born. The first Rooms hotel opened in Kazbegi, but it wasn’t without its difficulties. “It wasn’t very popular to go into hospitality, especially for the younger generation.” To interest the local younger generation in hospitality, staff members of the hotel would play sports with the local kids, encouraging them that it was, in fact, cool to become a waitor. Chekheria stressed the importance of involving the local community in
his hotels and being a “good neighbor.” “We buy lots of local products, we contracted local farmers,” says Chekheria. “We benefit from each other: we buy fresh products from the locals and they get new jobs.” Three years ago, Adjara Group took this one step further by collaborating on projects with Georgian farmers. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, farming became unpopular and many agriculturers left the profession. Chekheria, realizing the need for local-grown fresh produce in his hotels, contacted the Head of the Farmers Association. Together, they convinced Georgian farmers to begin farming again. Many chefs now work together with the farmers to ensure that the produce is the best quality it can be. In addition, the group has invested in more than 3000 hectares of land in Khaketi where they are growing almonds. Today, over 80% of the food served in Adjara Group restaurants is Georgian. Other restaurants have begun following their example and are now buying fresh products from farmers, says Chekheria. After all, not only does the food taste better, but it’s a good story to tell to tourists. The Adjara Group now employs 3000 staff across Georgia and has transformed the Georgian hospitality industry. When asked how he maintains such a strong team, his answer is simple: new ideas and a friendly working environment. “Any employee who comes to work at my company should be happy,” he says. “If they’re not happy and proud to work there, then they will not provide a good service.”
Image source: Entrepreneur Georgia
Fuel Prices Go Up in Georgia BY THEA MORRISON
ver the last few days, fuel prices have significantly increased in Georgia. The changes refer to the cost of all types of petrol and diesel which, according to petrol importers, is connected to increased prices on the global market. According to the Georgian Union of Importers of Oil Products, from the beginning of the current year, oil prices have risen on the London InterContinental Exchange Futures Europe oil stock on average by $17.18 per barrel, which is a 29.9% increase in price, which today stands at $74.51 per barrel. The fuel prices on the world market increased after the United States imposed sanctions on Iranian oil. Importers do not make any positive predictions, while experts advise the Georgian government to reduce the
Experts advise the Georgian government to reduce the excise tax
Image source: The Independent
excise tax, which was increased from GEL 0.25 to 50 per liter in 2017. Specialists claim that if the taxes and tough regulations are removed, the fuel price will be reduced. Experts also believe that the increased fuel price will bump up the price of other products too.
Vano Mtvralashvili, Chairman of the Union of Importers of Petroleum Products, says that the devaluation of the national currency GEL against of the US Dollar is not the main factor and does not affect the prices of oil products in Georgia. “At the beginning of the year, the offi-
cial exchange rate of the GEL against the Dollar was 2,6727 and now one dollar is 2,6981 GEL. It is quite stable at present,” he stressed. Mtvralashvili also said that during the last two weeks the price of fuel has increased on branded petrol stations on average by 7-10 Tetri per liter.
The Union of Oil Products Importers informs that the average retail price of fuel at the branded petrol stations in Georgia is as follows: Regular – 2.30-2.39 GEL / liter; Premium – 2.41-2.49 GEL / liter; Super – 2.49-2.59 GEL / liter; Euro diesel – 2.53-2.64 GEL/ liter
April 30 - May 2, 2019