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Ariel Gatushkin, Synevo Georgia General Manager: “Synevo Celebrates Decade of Outstanding Journey With Spectacular Performance in Georgia”

From one small hospital laboratory to a leading diagnostic service company, now with the most prestigious local business award, the Golden Brand — this is the story of Swedish laboratory network Synevo, which celebrated ten years of an “outstanding journey with spectacular performance”, according to Ariel Gatushkin, General Manager of Synevo Georgia.

"Our success was written with the dedicated and professional approach of our staff to provide the best diagnostic services and care for each patient. We are proud to have provided European standard services for over ten years in Georgia, bringing innovative and advanced diagnostic experience in the country. And we are grateful to receive appreciation from the local market as well and become the favorite laboratory network among Georgians.”

Gatushkin says that Synevo will continue to expand in order to be “even closer to our patients” and ensure access to “accurate and timely” medical diagnostic services.

“We plan to operate a chain of 100 laboratory centers across the country. Our aim is to open at least seven new laboratories in the country this year, to bring new advanced tests to the market and to increase our business into the double digits. We think that we need to be present in every town in Georgia that is above 10,000 people.”

Gatushkin recalled the time when Synevo first started operations in Georgia as a “ startup project” in 2012.

“Back then we operated one laboratory and employed less than 10 employees. Very few people believed in our idea and our business model. Nevertheless, today, 10 years later, we are a very successful company. Synevo Georgia is a national provider and a market leader of laboratory diagnostics in Georgia. We operate a chain of 45 laboratory centers across the country, three regional laboratories and one central laboratory in Tbilisi, and we employ more than 200 dedicated and professional employees.”

Q. Georgian customers have named Synevo Georgia as their favorite Medical Laboratory this year. What brought Synevo Georgia this recognition in your opinion?
A. There are many reasons for this but one of the major ones is that we are a very customer-centered and quality-oriented company. We always put our customers at the heart of any of our operations and act accordingly. Everything we do comes with an understanding that behind every tube there is a person and their health depends on our actions.

Q. Golden Brand is given to brands following successful operations of the previous year. Please summarize 2022.
A. 2022 wasn’t an easy year. COVID-19 went away and so did projects that were directly connected to this. The war in Ukraine, worldwide inflation, local political instability took its place. There were many issues that affected our region, Synevo operations in Europe, and in Georgia, but despite that we had great results in 2022 as in all previous years.

Q. What charity activities is Synevo involved with in Georgia?
A. Ethical responsibility: Synevo operates its business in an ethical manner that upholds human
rights principles, such as fair treatment of all stakeholders, fair trade practices and equal pay
without gender discrimination.

Environmental responsibility: Several years ago we started switching from big engine cars to
smaller engines and hybrid cars. Starting this year we will start acquiring electrical vehicles as well.

Philanthropic responsibility: Donating funds to children and women organizations. Participating in sporting event fundraisers.

Q. What are the main challenges that Synevo is currently facing in Georgia and how will you overcome them?
A. One of the main challenges that should be mentioned is the unethical promotion of many
players on the medical market. It creates an unfair attitude and violates customers’ interest. We are a European company and strictly follow ethical marketing rules.

We are relying on our service quality and transparency in all business processes. On the one hand the solution is to explain to the medical society in Georgia that Synevo does not work this way. When they need quality testing they are welcome to try us, but on the other hand the government regulations and following these regulations, are essential to overcoming this problem as well.

Many hospitals and clinics are not looking for quality testing and are focused mainly on pricing. We are choosing very carefully our partners and switched the business model in the last years from 100% corporate dependent to 95% end-customer dependent.

Q. What is the innovative and advanced diagnostic experience that Synevo brought to Georgia?
A. Synevo’s vision from the very beginning was focused on innovation, quality
and on patients’ needs. Our lab is equipped with state of the art analyzers from Roche
Diagnostics, machines that no other lab in the country has.

Synevo Georgia utilizes a fully automated laboratory information system and pre-printed barcode system. We expend a lot of resources to reduce human error to a minimum while performing laboratory tests. We are constantly bringing new tests and new technologies to the country. For example, we send tests from Tbilisi to Germany and Cyprus for the latest generation NIPT testing Veracity and Veragene, that is done only in our labs in these countries, or Liquid PAP testing, the new standard in early diagnosis of papilloma virus in women.

Synevo Georgia was also the first laboratory in the country that aimed to bring quality, accurate laboratory testing and convenience not only to the central neighborhoods in Tbilisi, but to all of them and to every region in the country. This is why we are constantly expanding and operating laboratories all over the country. This actually affects the local market as lab quality gradually increases. Local competitors began noticing us and were forced to increase their quality as well.

Q. Synevo Laboratories also runs a home visit service. How in-demand is this service?
A. I would say that home visit is a very popular service. We started with one home visit team
several years ago and today we have five teams in Tbilisi who go on home visits every 40
minutes and are fully booked.

Comfort is actually the name of the game. This is one of the reasons why we started to open laboratories in different neighborhoods in Tbilisi and other regions. Giving tests should be as simple as going to the bank or pharmacy next door. Emailing of lab results is also part of this approach ⁠— we have been actually sending results via email since 2012. All of this is to make our customers’ lives easier and more comfortable.

We are also the first provider of laboratory services to develop an online ordering service through our website, where customers can order any single and profile tests in all branches of our laboratory as well as at home. This makes our service even more convenient and patient-oriented.

I will also use this opportunity to express my gratitude for and appreciation of our committed and professional team in Georgia. They are the ones who are responsible for quality of service and outstanding success in Georgia.

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Solari Expanding Portfolio WIth Almonds, Peanut Snacks

To meet the brand’s growing demand, Georgian sunflower seed company Solari is expanding its product portfolio with packaged almonds and peanuts for snacking for the local and export markets.

General Director of Solari, Iuri Tkebuchava, told Golden Brand that product testing started in May, and if the new products prove their viability they will be sold on the local market and later on the European.

“Hopefully our new products, like the traditional, will also satisfy customers, and we will occupy a worthy place in the Georgian market, giving us incentive to enter the European market," Tkebuchava said.

In the meantime Solari produces three types of sunflower seeds – roasted; salty roasted; and
shelled, roasted seeds. The company uses locally produced raw materials.

Solari has been operating on the Georgian market since 2014, when it first introduced roasted sunflower seeds.

Q. In order to produce a new line of products Solari has acquired a new factory, which would be the second in Tbilisi. Is the factory currently operational?
A. The space was not in accordance with the standards and useful for the purpose for which the company needed it, so we had to do a lot of construction and repair. At the moment, 80% of that work has been completed.

We have installed a cold storage area for storing products, arranged communications both on the internal and external perimeter, rigged up production elevators, etc. Based on the scale of the space, by the end of the year it should be done and ready for expanded operations.

Q. The company has also started preparatory work for obtaining the ISO certificate. What work do you have to do to get this?
A. We're in the process of obtaining the ISO international certificate.

We've brought hygiene and food safety in line with international requirements in the company's main factory. We also had to upgrade equipment. We think we'll have certification by the end of the year.

Q. The ISO certificate would also bring you closer to export to European markets. Have you already started negotiations with those countries?
A. Our team has set a goal to enter the European market, which means moving to European standards in all areas - quality of raw materials, production equipment, the technical side, and many more details. We are in negotiations with foreign exporters, who expect to receive from Solari competitive products made with Georgian raw materials.

Q. What are some recent developments at the company?
A. I would call them “challenges” rather than “developments”.
The import of raw materials from Ukraine was interrupted due to well-known events. The company was completely reset, returning to the Russian market. The export of raw materials from Russia has brought a number of difficulties recently, because the Russian government imposed a high export tax on sunflowers - 50% instead of ~6.5%. Basically, logistics have become much more difficult and time-consuming. However, with the team work and common efforts of the company, we have gradually overcome these problems and the supply is currently experiencing no delays .

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Golden Brand Winner Shiraqi to Expand Portfolio with New Dairy Products

Shiraqi, a Georgian producer of dairy products, is planning to expand its line with new products such as yogurt, matsoni (strained sour milk similar to yogurt), dambalkhacho (made from buttermilk cottage cheese), aged cheese and other varieties of milk products.

Founder of Shiraqi Nikoloz Beniaidze told us that the company has a “great desire” to create a Cheese Museum in the country, “where master classes on cheese and tasting events will be held,” he said.

Currently the company produces fifteen raw milk products ⁠— sulguni, smoked sulguni, Imeruli cheese Extra, Georgian Cheese, twisted cheese, smoked twisted cheese, sulguni sticks, smoked sulguni sticks, matsoni, cottage cheese, ghee, butter Glekhura.

Dairy products under the brand of Shiraqi are sold not only locally but on export markets as well. Today, Shiraqi cheese and sour cream is sold in Singapore, Dubai, France, the USA, and Bahrain.

Beniaidze said that Shiraqi is working to expand its exports, with Canada and Israel showing interest in Georgian produce.

The company processes up to ten tons of raw milk per day, of which 15-20% is exported. Shiraqi exports about forty tons of products per year.

Q. Shiraqi won the Golden Brand in the category “favorite cheese producer”. What does this recognition mean to the company?
A. The whole Shiraqi team works hard every day to create a complete cycle "from field to table" to deliver the highest quality raw milk products to the consumer. For us, for the whole team, this award is appreciation and recognition of our work.

It is more gratifying to see that the company’s hard work done last year is appreciated this year. And I want to tell you that 2022 was quite challenging for Shiraqi. Due to a shortage of raw milk, it was difficult for us to meet the demand for raw milk products for some time, but we successfully overcame this obstacle and even became a recognized producer company this year.

Q. How has Shiraqi been developing on the Georgian market over the years?
A. Founded in 2006, Shiraqi was first involved in milk collection and over the years has grown into a large producer of dairy products. This success was based on the experience and knowledge of my and our company’s employees in various training programs that we did in Europe and America. Successful and growing farms I saw abroad had a great impact on my plans. In 2013, we laid the foundation on the Shiraqi farm.

Q. Please introduce us to the whole production cycle of Shiraqi, as you said ⁠— “from field to table”.
A. We produce Shiraqi raw milk products with 100% local raw milk.

We have our own dairy farm of high-yielding Holstein cattle, who are fed mainly with food grown in our farm. We also collect milk and import raw milk from other high-yielding dairy farms.

We have raw milk collection points in Kakheti and Kvemo Kartli regions.

Q. Golden Brand survey showed Shiraqi is Georgian customers’ favorite cheese producing company, but what are the best-selling products according to sales data?
A. Imeruli cheese Extra and sulguni, Georgian Cheese, smoked sulguni, matsoni, cottage cheese are among the top-selling products of Shiraqi.

Speaking of sulguni, I want to mention that Shiraqi sulguni was the winner at the blind tasting of EBIARD/FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture in 2018, 2019 and 2021. Georgia patented sulguni cheese according to Shiraqi’s internal standard of sulguni-making.

Overall, due to the increase in the price of raw milk, the prices of raw milk products were high last year, but in spite of this our sales were stable.

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Optical Company Roniko Expands in Georgia, Updates Collection With Luxury Brands

Georgia’s leading optical company Roniko is expanding on the local market with about four new branches and offering luxury eyewear from such global brands as Ermenegildo Zegna, MaxMara, Barton Perreira and others.

Currently, Roniko has a wide network of 23 stores located in Tbilisi, Batumi and Kutaisi, offering the largest local selection of products - sunglasses, eyeglasses, power lenses and contact lenses, and even sight diagnostics.

The shelves at Roniko stores are always stocked with the latest collection of international luxury brands. In partnership with Luxottica Group, De Rigo, Marcolin, Eschenbach and others, Roniko supplies the local market with eyewear from Ray-Ban, Giorgio Armani, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Emporio Armani, Persol, George Piralli, Bvlgari, Chopard, Cartier, Ermenegildo Zegna, Versace, Vogue, Oakley, Miu -Miu, and others.

General Director of Roniko Roland Javakhia reviewed the company’s development with Golden Brand and thanked customers and experts surveyed by the Golden Brand awards for naming Roniko as their favorite lenswear company in Georgia.

Q. Roniko has been growing steadily since 1995. During this time the company has gained the trust of the customers, reflected by the Golden Brand nomination. What's it like to start the business in such a difficult time as the ‘90s and withstand the many challenges the country and of course the company have faced over the years?
A. We started our work in the most difficult period in the ‘90s. Roniko’s first optical store opened in 1996 on 107 Agmashenebeli Avenue in Tbilisi. This store still stands at this address.

We had no illusions that we would be successful when launching the company, on the contrary we worked patiently for several years and invested all the resources we earned in development. To date, our main revenue is used for development and invested in education, network expansion and modern technology.

Among many other factors, the history of Roniko is shaped by the people who work for us. The success and prestige of the company depend on their professionalism. Every employee who has a relationship with the customer is the face of Roniko. Ensuring the professionalism of the employees is one of the main tasks of the company. Seminars and training for ophthalmologists and sales staff are regularly held with the participation of experienced experts and specialists from partner companies. Staff are informed about the latest developments in the field of optics, fashion trends and master high-level service skills. It is a pleasure to keep the team stable and encourage them to grow into good managers.

During Roniko’s 27 years of operation, its main achievement is the trust of the customer. Our main task is to make Roniko a byword for high quality, good service and exquisite taste. We strive to offer customers diverse and updated collections. This is made possible by the fact that Roniko is the official distributor of more than 50 brands in Georgia and cooperates with the world’s leading optical companies.

As for partners, there were cases when we had to prove the reliability and respectability of our company prior to cooperating with international brands. With these small steps towards success, Roniko has become a company that every foreign partner wants to have a relationship with today. Even today, they contact us and request to meet and communicate with us, as the leading optical company in the Caucasus. Today we have the opportunity to choose the best partner brands ourselves.

The most important achievement of recent years is the wide range of power lenses and contact lenses. Roniko offers Hoya and Essilor power lenses. As for contact lenses, we have products of all three major world leading manufacturers ⁠— Cooper Vision, Alcon, Johnson & Johnson.

Constantly updated, new and exclusive collections are the most important aspects of Roniko’s success. Collections are selected by company buyers who regularly attend international optical exhibitions. Every year Roniko’s team travels to the SILMO and MIDO exhibitions, as well as to Luxottica exhibitions in various Italian cities. The best collections selected there will be found later in Roniko optical stores.

Q. In the category “favorite optical company” Roniko won the Golden Brand award. Please tell us what led the company to this recognition.
A. First of all, I would like to tell you that it is very pleasant for us to get this award and see appreciation for and recognition of our company’s activities.

Yes, I agree that we are actually the leaders in the optical industry and that is the result of our 28 years of tireless work. We represent the largest optical network, distinguished by a collection and service backed by high quality.

Q. Please summarize 2022, as the Golden Brand award is given to the companies following the successful activities of the previous year.
A. Despite global difficulties and tensions, 2022 was a post-pandemic, recovery and regeneration year that should be considered truly productive for our company, both in terms of sales and branch growth.

The Russia-Ukraine conflict added an unhappy tone to the beginning of the year. The entire world's attention was directed to Ukraine, so consumers still missed some novelties and quality products after the pandemic. We correctly identified their needs in time and, together with foreign partners, provided in a timely and efficient manner exactly what was needed for the market and the country.

Last year we introduced daily contact lenses from Alcon's Dailies Total, a very successful project in 2022, and this year we added another brand, CooperVision, with its Myday lenses.

Technological developments have also ensured lenses made with unique technology. Customers can find BlueControl glasses lenses from Japanese company HOYA that protect against harmful blue light, harmful blue rays emitted from the screens of computers, phones, tablets and various digital devices.

Q. How many branches does Roniko have in Georgia and do you plan to expand?
A. Yes, of course we plan to expand. As of now we have 23 branches, although I think this number will increase to 26-27 by the end of the year.

Our country is developing quite fast, even now a new shopping center is planned to be opened in Batumi, where Roniko will also be represented.

We are planning to add a new branch on a very strategic street in Batumi in April. Along with the opening of new branches, we regularly update existing branches.

Q. Which international brands do you officially cooperate with and which brands are exclusively represented at Roniko?
A. Roniko unites more than 60 global brands. We represent the Italian company Luxottica in the optical industry, from whose portfolio a number of leading and popular brands are on sale in Georgia, such as Ray-Ban, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Versace, Armani, Persol, etc.

We also have jewelry brands such as Chopards, Cartier, BVLGARI.

We should not forget the Georgian brand George Piralli, which, thanks to its interesting collections and quality models, is loved by both Georgian and foreign customers.

Q. There are a number of optical stores in Georgia. How healthy is the competition on the market and what is Roniko’s competitive advantage?
A. We welcome the appearance of companies that sell original products on the market.

The main advantage of Roniko is stability, assortment, service, price, and selection. Tbilisi stands next to Milan, Paris, and other big cities in terms of trend-following. Our customers always see and appreciate this.

Style is what the customer likes, and usually it is quite diverse. You have to know your customer in order to help them choose.

Our slogan is: “With Roniko You See Better and Look Wonderful!”

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About Us

The brand popularity is revealed by the preliminary survey making key focus on creative branding-related solutions. Entrees are judged by about 100 experts. Nominee brands are selected by awareness, popularity as well as by their creative advertising campaigns.

The winners will be granted with diplomas and Golden Brand Statue. The event will be broadcasted via television, radio, printed and online media.


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