In the summer of 2002, I had the opportunity to meet and work with some dynamic, young Georgian entrepreneurs in the frozen produce business. The owners, in their late 20's and part of the growing young Georgian business elite, had decided to try to capitalize on the abundant potential of agribusiness. Without a frozen fruits and vegetable company anywhere in the entire country of Georgia, they invested first in machinery and equipment, then in the training and seed production necessary to work with local farmers. In addition, they were desperately trying to understand international markets for frozen produce and the logistics of getting product to their potential markets.
It's not easy developing the necessary infrastructures when all around you the entire nation lacks infrastructure from production, to warehousing, transportation and documentation. This additional work is required in a country such as Georgia if one is to be successful. With civil war in the early 90's and the collapse of nearly all industry after the breakup of the Soviet Union, coupled with the loss of easy noncompetitive internal markets and decades of government corruption, doing business requires a true dedication and doggedness, which I found in all of the managers I met at GeoAgroExport.
Predominantly an agrarian society, Georgians tend to be healthy and happy in a sun-kissed natural environment. However, peasant farming remains just that, ancient and inefficient in todays' modern global agribusiness environment. While internal markets for frozen organic and regular produce may not exist, GeoAgroExport is positioning itself to compete in such markets as Russia and Europe. Ironically, with Russia as a neighbor, it is logistically easier to reach and target European markets.
Internet access for market research remains limited and extremely slow. A knowledge of English is almost mandatory as little is found in Russian and even less in Georgian. As these research tools develop, the ability to manage information will grow as well. At the moment, it is sporadic, hit or miss and random encounters. Yet Georgia remains a small country where everyone tends to know everyone else, especially in the capital of Tbilisi where it's who you know rather than what you know that tends to be valuable.
Because of the lack of resources, farming tends to be organic by default, which makes Georgia an exciting prospect for future organic produce markets, hopefully steering clear of massive chemically farmed businesses that dominate most markets today. I'm excited for this and only hope that the certification process for organic will be imminent.
In addition to working with GeoAgroExport, I spent several days conducting grant proposal writing workshops to a few local NGOs in southern Georgia. Predominantly funded by international NGOs, these small town business centers are trying to assist their local clients, predominantly in the agricultural industry, come up with viable business plans and projects that could receive either local Georgian funding, or perhaps tap into the additional international resources available for the Georgian market.
If you would like to know more, please contact me.
Marketing, Market Research and Proposal Writing