This year the first International Business Forum was held in Georgia’s western city of Kutaisi, organized by the GCCI.
President of the GCCI, Nino Chikovani, said that working with business representatives in the regions is one of the main priorities of the Chamber.
“It is very important that businesses in the regions receive all of the services that the Chamber offers them. With the support of our German partners, the Academy of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK), we have renewed the regional office in Kutaisi. We have renovated the building and equipped it with all the necessary equipment,” said Chikovani.
The regional office also houses the local DCFTA (Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement between Georgia and the European Union) information centre. It features a conference hall where western business operators are able to arrange and hold business meetings, discussions and forums.
Besides Kutaisi, the GCCI has regional offices in Poti, Zugdidi, Rustavi, Gori, Telavi, Stepantsminda, Ambrolauri and Lanchkuti.
GCCI has organized various international and local events, forums and B2B meetings to further strengthen established partnerships and offer local businesses an international perspective and acquired experience. Furthermore, for years the Chamber has been the main partner of the most prestigious business awards ceremony – Golden Brand.
Please tell us more about the first International Business Forum that was held in Kutaisi. How has the Forum benefited local businesses?
This was a very interesting event. It was the first time that Kutaisi hosted such a large-scale forum. Representatives of more than 200 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) operating in Western Georgia attended the Forum. The goal of the Forum was to represent the region’s investment potential and to position it on the international arena.
It is our desire to see this office become a place where entrepreneurs from Western Georgia meet. All means are in place for the SMEs to receive the most needed consultation services, attend trainings and be provided with a space for business meetings. These renovated premises will play a great role in terms of providing a venue for raising awareness in the regions about the government services and the services provided in the area of on-the-job training.
The participants of the Business Forum were able to attend plenary sessions in accordance with their areas of interest.
As part of the Kutaisi International Business Forum, an exhibition of products successfully produced in the Imereti region was held. Over 100 companies displayed their produce there.
It is very important to fully utilize the potential of the Imereti region, which is essential for the economic development of the entire country. And business forums are a good opportunity for potential investors to discover interesting economic segments and establish business contacts.
What are the needs of businesses in the regions, how does the situation differ from the capital and what does the Chamber do to support business in the regions?
Taking into consideration that we have quite frequent contact with regional businesses, we are well aware of the challenges that regional businesses face. Access to finance, lack of information, lack of qualified personnel, etc – these are the topics that businesses most often speak of at regional meetings. As a result, we try to plan our activities in accordance with these challenges.
The GCCI plays the role of mediator between business and the state. Therefore, we have created a public-private dialogue platform, within which a number of meetings have been held in the regions between the representatives of the Government and entrepreneurs. This format enables the entrepreneurs to have direct contact with the state institutions and the top officials from the Government. The entrepreneurs have the chance to talk about their problems, ask questions, and get the information about the projects and programmes that the state implements to support them.
It is important for us that Georgia uses all of the opportunities that are given thanks to the free trade deal with the EU. To do so, entrepreneurs, especially in the regions, should be well informed about what opportunities this agreement gives them and what requirements they should meet in order to export their produce to the EU market. For this reason, thanks to the DCFTA information centre, intensive trainings are being held in the regions for the representatives of SMEs. Dozens of such trainings have been organized already in which hundreds of entrepreneurs participated.
As I have already mentioned, one of the challenges in the regions is the lack of qualified staff. So the development of vocational education is very important. The priority of the GCCI is to promote a dual (work-based) professional education. We coordinate communication between business and vocational education institutions.
How does the Chamber support local business to develop and establish business contacts abroad? Please tell us about the ‘Find a Partner’ service.
‘Find a Partner’ is a new service of the GCCI. Its goal is to help Georgian companies find partners abroad, and the reverse as well – to help foreign companies who want to do business in Georgia find a partner here.
At this stage the service is in test mode but once it fully launches we hope to have a number of examples of successful business partnerships.