An interview with a founder of Coca-Cola Bottlers Georgia Temur Chkonia
Two years have passed since the government changed in Georgia. How do you assess the business climate in Georgia, did it become better or worse?
The deterioration of the business climate is not in the interests of any government. Any government is trying to keep it, and if the climate has worsened, it means that the business itself is weak. I think that the current situation in the business, especially in the banking sector, cannot be radically spoilt not only for 2 years, but for a much greater period of time.
As for the specific business and businessmen, their influence has always been different. 10 years ago the society’s attitude towards us was quite different, today there is much more respect to entrepreneurs. 10 years ago the attitude towards us bore the imprint of communist ideology. Partly, this can be observed now – we have young people who do not even know what is the pioneers and Komsomol, but think and behave as in communist times.
Georgia takes very high positions in the corruption perceptions index, freedom of business and state –business relations rankings. What could you say about this?
The greatest merit of the previous government is the corruption destruction. I agree with the view that today bribery is considered a disgrace in Georgia. Although, I believe that it is an achievement not only of the government, but the Georgian people in general, who showed dignity and showed that they were not corrupt. Anti-corruption laws have been passed by the whole of society, and it doesn’t succeed everywhere – in Iran hand is cut off for corruption, in China- shoot, in Russia there are organizations that declare the fight against corruption, but all this does not stop anyone.
How would you rate the tax system in Georgia? What changes are needed in order to develop business?
Tax legislation enacted by Parliament is very good. But then begins a cascade of problems. For example, regulations. Recently, it has been decided to raise the excise tax on beer in order to increase revenues in the budget. Only those who know nothing about the beer market can think so. The initiators of such a decision must take responsibility for the negative consequences that will be.
This decision, as well as a ban on drinking beer on the streets, seriously hurt a brewing industry. A law prohibiting drinking beer in public places was adopted by Lenin in 1918 and now the same thing has happened with us
Analysis showed that the adopted law and raising excise taxes sharply reduced the consumption of beer.
You are actively working on the Georgian fast food market – in particular, you own the right to open McDonald’s restaurants in Georgia. How are things going in this market?
Currently, 5 fast food brands are operating in Georgia – McDonalds, Subway, “Wendy’s”, “Burger King” and “CFS”. That is, almost all the leaders in the industry are present in Georgia. Now we need to increase the number of branded fast food restaurants.
As for the competition, we are not afraid of it. McDonald’s is a completely different level. If you look at world rankings, McDonald’s is among the ten largest companies in the world for more than 30 years not only in the field of fast food, but also in general.
This is not my personal opinion. This is a real indicator. Our competitors are much weaker. We can say that we are playing in the World Cup, and they – in the championship of Georgia.
You are actively engaged in the hotel business. Are there any innovations in this area?
Georgian Palace hotel in Kobuleti is a world-class hotel, not only in terms of architecture, but also in terms of service. During the summer season 300 people are employed there and we constantly conducttraining to maintain the level of service. We invite foreign managers, despite the fact that the Georgian management works very effectively. We do this because we want to increase the degree of integration of our staff with Europe.
We have plans to build hotels in Tbilisi and Bakuriani, although I cannot say anything concrete at this stage.
You are a very stable businessman. You work closely with all authorities. How do you manageit?
I do not do anything for this purpose. My company annually transfers GEL 54 million to the budget. It’s a lot of money. I do not interfere in politics – not because I’m not interested, but because I express myviews at the ballot box, not from the TV screen.
I have a very good relationship with the government. I have never broken the law, if all businessmen behaved in the same way in the country, the situation would have been much better.