Originally published in: The Financial, April 4, 2012
Written by Alexander Kaffka
04/04/2012 09:33 (01:29 minutes ago)
Businesspeople know that, while making an investment decision, every detail counts. During a recent flight I spent at least two hours telling my occasional neighbor about the advantages of Georgia (which happens to be my native country) and attractiveness of Georgian products and business projects. After our conversation both of us had something important to think about. My vis-à-vis learned about a potential new market. Hopefully he’ll take a closer look at it. And I suddenly felt myself in his shoes, and thought about challenges facing an ordinary foreign businessperson approaching a little-known region like Georgia.
After our conversation both of us had something important to think about. My vis-à-vis learned about a potential new market. Hopefully he’ll take a closer look at it. And I suddenly felt myself in his shoes, and thought about challenges facing an ordinary foreign businessperson approaching a little-known region like Georgia.
Our air flight talk started over a meal. Naturally, the starting points were food and wine. My compliments about the quality of today’s Georgian wines were convincing enough, as my impressions of from a recent trip to Tbilisi were fresh. Okay now, - says my vis-à-vis, - how can I try this wonderful Georgian wine? That’s when airplane’s internet access comes handy. In a moment, we were browsing the web in search for wine tasting opportunities. Outside Georgia itself, we found a handful of distributors – only in USA and Great Britain. What about tasting the wine elsewhere? Open question. Well, how about upcoming wine fairs and other events to attend and taste Georgian wine? There must be a national wine association, which probably has all such information - in user-friendly form, with usual set of conveniences like email newsletter, RSS subscription, Twitter, etc. Wine is so important for Georgia, so I was sure to find that official wine information source.
Alas, Georgian Wine Association seems to exist, but has no web site at all. The government’s sites provide general information, tell about wine tourism, or lead to the wineries. It seems the question “How can I try this wonderful Georgian wine?” has no simple answer. I’m afraid an interested wine enthusiast or businessperson would soon loose most of enthusiasm, if his only option is a wine tour to a faraway country.
In fact, simple instruments may help to attract people interested in Georgian wines (or cheeses, and other products), instead of distracting them. An officially approved, user-friendly and comprehensive web portal should communicate the main message: we value your interest. There are cost-efficient solutions, which can make visitors enjoy the Georgian hospitality from the first click. You want to try wine, cheese, other delicacy? Here is a list of shops in world cities. Here are reviews by professionals. Or, how about a guide of restaurants serving quality Georgian wines internationally? Or a company, from which you may order samples by mail? This kind of services may really impress. Visitors interested in business deals should have access to list of official distributors, list of producers, agenda of global industry events. All the options should be available from a simple menu. In fact, this is not about large expenses, but rather about using professional teams, and regular content updating.
Georgia not only can demonstrate traditional hospitality from the very first acquaintance, but can become a leader in using the modern media and PR technologies and experience. An average foreigner seeking information about Georgian products or projects must be pleasantly surprised. It’s very important that he/she must be able to instantly share his positive emotions with others through the social media. You found a useful page? – Tweet it. You enjoyed the wine sampler, which you received by mail? – Share your experience and attract friends! Currently most of these social media buttons do not really work, even if they are present - including some government’s pages. Pushing those little blue “t’’ or “f” symbols on those sites now may upset a modern internet-savvy visitor – some of Twitter and facebook links have expired and lead nowhere, or confuse the foreigner by linking to pages in Georgian language. As mentioned above, there are no minor details – everything matters.
Information about Georgia still remains to be a problem. It’s unclear whether it’s because of insufficient financing or lack of PR professionals. My flight companion was not exactly a wine connoisseur, so he could do without Georgian wine-tasting. But he certainly was a high-level business professional. It was clear from the way he spoke about political stability and business climate (and later was confirmed by his business card). I mentioned successful development and construction projects underway in Georgia, and remembered the latest Lazica City. Instantly I could feel my companion’s genuine interest to the mega project. Looking for more figures on Lazica, I quickly googled, being sure I will find the project details on the government’s websites. Nothing! I tried different spelling such as Lazika, still nothing but few outdated newspaper articles. According to which, the actual construction of the new city had already started.
Unbelievable. The president announces this huge-scale development project, a lucrative investment opportunity, a bright new star on the gloomy crisis landscape. As a PR professional, I expected a highly successful international media campaign supporting this initiative. Investor presentations, images of computer models of future city, media events. The basic project data, accompanied by media “bells and whistles”, are essential information even for much less ambitious projects. They are an absolute “must have” for Lazica. But alas, there is simply no information. Where to look for it? No hint.
My companion’s interest is quickly fading away. Maybe he will ask his assistant to collect information on Georgia’s offers one more time. Hopefully it will be easier to do than it is now. Otherwise he will simply forget about investing in Georgia, unless he meets another enthusiastic flight neighbor… But how long this may take?
Alexander KAFFKA, Ph.D. is the managing director at Artenom CFE Consulting
email: AK (at) artenom-cfe.com