Moving Forward at the Abkhaz Pace

Moving Forward at the Abkhaz Pace

Khvicha Makatsaria made his fortune in Ochamchire but lost it with his home in Abkhazia. Continuing his business career in Russia, he built pavilions and ran a chain of petrol stations before diversifying his undertakings. His business assets in Georgia, where he returned to in 2008, include Telasi, Tbilisi energy, Telmico, Beeline and several others. Rarely seen in the public spotlight, today, the businessperson tells the story of his life and commercial activities.

“I am not from Tbilisi. This city was unfamiliar to me twenty years ago. I am also not used to publicity. Nevertheless, I will tell my story and how I got to where I am today.”

Our meeting with Khvicha Makatsaria, who owns and manages several systemically important Georgian businesses, was not easy to arrange. The interview proceeded under certain conditions but turned out to be successful. From the first steps until today, his story will now be known to the public. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Khvicha Makatsaria.

Georgian society and relationships were unfamiliar to him and his family – his wife and children, of whom he is particularly proud. He also values his friends, business partners and everyone who has been part of his everyday life since his return in 2008. Before that, he would come to Georgia as a guest for a few days. “I do not think I ever spent more than a week in Tbilisi before 2008. My brief visits were usually of a business nature, but those were mainly emotional investments. Before permanently relocating to Georgia, I had already invested and lost $20-25 million. I do not blame anyone but myself for those losses.”

He quickly refutes my suggestion that he made his first money in Russia. “No, I had quite a successful business before that.”

– Do you mean in Abkhazia?

– Indeed, in my home city of Ochamchire.

– What kind of business was it?

– Hazelnuts. I will tell you the whole story.

Firs Revenue – Ochamchire

– Do you still know the Abkhaz language?

– I understand everything, but I have not practiced speaking the language for many years. I still communicate with Abkhaz people – my friends from university, with whom I never severed ties.

Khvicha Makatsaria graduated from Sokhumi State University (SSU) with a degree in Economics. He witnessed the 1988 academic split when a branch of the Tbilisi State University was opened in Sokhumi. Relations between Georgians and Abkhazians began deteriorating during this period. Despite the split, Makatsaria remained at SSU. Together with Merab Akhalaia and Gia Dochia, he was one of only three Georgians to do so. He graduated from the Abkhaz-language Faculty of Public Economy Planning and was awarded the Red Diploma. By that time, new economic opportunities and cooperatives were appearing all over the country, and Makatsaria’s head was full of business ideas. However, after several unsuccessful undertakings, he worked as an economist at the local poultry plant. His salary was good – when the average Soviet worker’s monthly wage was one hundred and twenty roubles, the young Khvicha earned four hundred roubles and various bonuses.

Nevertheless, the Abkhaz arrogance and youthful restlessness took over, and Khvicha Makatsaria’s career in agriculture ended after a few months. This was due to a disagreement with the factory owner, which Makatsaria still recalls today: “I refused to perform a mundane task and quit the job after an emotional outburst.” He spent the next few months hanging out with his friends, trying in vain to start a business. However, his fortunes changed when he met his namesake, Hamlet Makatsaria.

“He was one of the richest men in Georgia, possibly even the whole Soviet Union,” recalls our respondent. Hamlet Makatsaria studied in Moscow, where one of his friends at university was the future Trade Minister of the Soviet Union. This friendship allowed him to become the head of the influential Office of Commerce in Abkhazia, which conducted trade relations and barter operations with capitalist countries. It exported Soviet produce such as tea and hazelnuts. It imported various goods – from cigarettes to expensive household appliances such as fridges or the popular SHARP cassette players. Hamlet Makatsaria worked in Sokhumi, but he invariably spent his weekends in his home region of Samegrelo. On his way to Zugdidi, he would stop at the restaurant where Khvicha Makatsaria’s father worked as a cook.

“My dad has a story of his own,” laughs Khvicha. “Our family was far from poor. My father had a good income, but like most other wealthy people in the Soviet Union, he hid his revenue. I remember him driving an old white Lada Niva. I kept telling him to get a new car. He finally agreed – but the new car was also a white Niva, and he even kept the old number plates to avoid people gossiping. That was the Soviet reality.”

During one of his visits to the abovementioned restaurant, Hamlet Makatsaria met the young Khvicha. He persuaded him to take over managing a business that involved collecting hazelnuts in the Ochamchire-Gali region and selling them to state companies. The hazelnuts were grown in Abkhazia and shipped to Japan in return for appliances and goods worth one hundred or three hundred times more. Hamlet Makatsaria had the following proposal for his young namesake: Whatever number of hazelnuts Khvicha brought to the base in Gulripshi, he would be given electronic appliances worth ten times more. He could then sell those appliances and make good money.

Through this deal, Hamlet Makatsaria solved the issue of hazelnut procurement and sales in the Ochamchire-Gali region while also giving employment to Khvicha. The young man had enough savings to buy a vehicle for transporting the produce and soon made his first purchases. “I must have seen all of Abkhazia during this period. I went to villages where I never imagined I would find people, let alone hazelnut plantations.” Khvicha brought the first shipment of hazelnuts to Gulripshi and was paid in kind – one hundred and fifty fridges, television sets, cassette players and other appliances, as well as cigarette brands such as Pall Mall and Winston, which were in high demand. Khvicha’s warehouse in Ochamchire was soon filled with imported goods. When it came to sales, he was helped by resellers from Zugdidi. The warehouse was emptied within a few days: Around 30% of the appliances were sold locally, while the rest were shipped to Central Asia, bringing in the first streams of revenue.

Photo Credits to Leli Blagonravova / Forbes Georgia

“We ended up with five or six boxes full of Russian roubles. There were no electronic counting machines, so we had to count everything by hand. My business partners and I divided the cash and put it in cigarette boxes. I could not fit my share in my car, so I borrowed my dad’s Niva. I drove to Gulripshi and met Hamlet Makatsaria. “You are quite special,” he told me as we spoke in his office. “Nobody has collected and brought as many hazelnuts here as you. Now take this money, go home, and buy your father a new car. Buy whatever you want; just remember never to keep money at home. The thing about money is that either you own it, or it owns you. You are still young, so if you start hoarding money now, it will enslave you. Keep reinvesting funds – especially now, as the time is right for it.”

“At the time, I did not fully understand my namesake. He seemed a little bit strange to me,” Khvicha Makatsaria recalls. Nevertheless, he followed Hamlet’s advice and started buying all the critical facilities in central Ochamchire – shops, beauty salons, electronics stores, a restaurant chain, and the local lemonade factory. The young Khvicha also owned the first commercial bank in Ochamchire. As Khvicha Makatsaria moved his attention from provincial Abkhazia to Sokhumi, relations between Georgians and Abkhazians had quickly deteriorated. With his business partner Temur Aronia, Khvicha was also conducting commercial activities in Russia, shipping tea, tobacco, and other products to Omsk. However, as the conflict in Abkhazia intensified, Khvicha was forced to move to Moscow with his family and business partners. There he proceeded to establish new companies with Temur Aronia.

It is not easy to estimate the value of properties and businesses that Khvicha Makatsaria left behind in occupied Abkhazia. We are talking about millions of dollars. But Hamlet Makatsaria’s advice to never let money take control of him would stay with Khvicha for the rest of his life. To this day, he continues to invest in people and projects – mainly in Georgia, but also in European real estate and innovative technology.

Khvicha is most emotional when he talks about Abkhazia. He reiterates that he still maintains old connections and relationships. His warmest memories of Abkhazia are not from Ochamchire but the village of Dikhazurga in the occupied Gali region, where he would spend three months with his grandmother each year. “I left everything behind. I cannot say that I still dream about Ochamchire, but Dikhazurga is always with me.”

Niko and Khvicha

One of the more sentimental reasons for trying to arrange this interview was to talk about Niko Kvaratskhelia – a young man incredibly special to the Forbes Georgia team and the whole country. Niko’s social network Feedc is in Khvicha Makatsaria’s company portfolio, where he is listed as a partner. The tempo and energy of his speech decrease when he talks about Niko. The “golden boy” spent a lot of time with Khvicha in the final years before his death. “Niko reminded me of myself when I was starting out in Ochamchire. I mean his speed of action, persistence and impatience. Otherwise, I could never compare myself to this twenty-one-year-old boy – his intellect and knowledge were on a different level,” Khvicha recalls with a smile.

“His head was full of amazing ideas that translated into unique projects. Someone like that only comes along once a century – a true gift from God. And then he was gone, taken from us by envy and malevolence. Because people could not accept that someone so young could be so incredible, well-educated and full of ideas. I lost this amazing boy, and so did the whole country. We lost someone with boundless skills and talent.” At this point, I try to steer the interview away from Niko, as it is evident that neither of us could continue to talk about him without shedding a tear.

Next Stop – The Russian Federation

“Our first business in Russia was building pavilions and booths in the city center,” Khvicha Makatsaria recalls. “That is when one of my business partners, who was also from Ochamchire, proposed to build a modern petrol station in Moscow – something that the Russian capital did not have at the time.” Indeed, fuel distribution was primarily happening through mobile tank trucks, which the Mayor of Moscow brought in to satisfy the growing demand. With equipment imported from Finland, Makatsaria and his group built the first fully-fledged modern petrol station. They would add another seventeen stations in the space of a few months. Dozens of chains of petrol stations would pass through Khvicha’s business group over the coming years. By then, the revenues had already been reinvested into various entertainment, gambling, and restaurant chains. Makatsaria and his partners were even running the restaurant and casino of the National Hotel next to the Kremlin. At the same time, they bought various properties and land plots, enthusiastically reinvesting money on behalf of their company.

The company and businesses grew fast. The group became quite influential and well-connected in Moscow. New businesses were added, and new sectors were explored. At the same time, the decision was made to start investing in Georgia. The first investments back home were made in real estate and restaurants.

The Georgian Comeback

GMC Group should be a familiar name to the Georgian business community. The first investments were made by Khvicha Makatsaria and his partners in the restaurant business – Kalakuri, Matryoshka, and Old Tbilisi. There were other, less successful ventures. Expensive mistakes included a fruit processing enterprise in Adjara and the state company Hidromsheni. The latter was a particularly ridiculous case where Makatsaria’s group ended up paying money for the Hidromsheni brand and little else. The government sold them an empty company without any assets.

“I will never blame anyone but myself for these mistakes,” Khvicha insists. “It is one of the rules that I follow in my life: Whether I invest through emotion or intuition, with proper calculations, business plans and due diligence, nobody is insured against mistakes – especially in business. Nevertheless, we only lost money in Georgia until 2009, when I relocated here and installed an oversight system. The business began to grow; the losses decreased. I stopped taking emotional decisions and did everything through methodical calculations.”

– Is this a complete list of your businesses in Georgia and abroad?

– It would have been easy for you to obtain this information, as all our companies are transparent and audited each year. Additionally, most of them are subject to strict government regulations.

– Businesses usually try to keep their distance from industries that the government tightly scrutinizes. You are the opposite.

– What do I have to hide? What does the management of these companies have to hide? Most of them have been bought transparently at auction. As for government regulations and scrutiny, I presume you meant the energy and transport sectors?

– Communications as well. Several months ago, you bought a 100% stake in VEON Georgia/Beeline soon after the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Even before that, when you owned a fifth of the company’s shares, there was plenty of government scrutiny. You also used to own Caucasus Online, which you sold to an Azerbaijani company.

– I would like to clarify and confirm that the issue of Caucasus Online is closed.

– I do not know about you, but I consider this your most profitable deal, at least in recent years ($61 million).

– That may very well be the case. I want to add that I initially intended to merge Caucasus Online and Beeline and implement a much larger project, but as it is, the deal is closed and done. As for the deal to buy the 100% stake in Beeline, that is also true, but I would like to make one correction: The deal was closed in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but the negotiations took place and the agreements were reached a lot earlier last year. So things were finalized in 2022. All the terms of the deal are transparent; you can look them up.

– Did you personally speak to Letter One owners Petr Aven and Mikhail Fridman to finalize this deal?

– No, all negotiations were conducted with their management team, who probably agreed to everything with the owners. I do not know anything further.

– Is it true that attempts to buy VEON Georgia/Beeline continued for several years?

– Yes, that is correct. It took more than three years but ended the way it did.

– Our readers would be interested to know how the Russian firm VimpelCom, which operates the Beeline network, first came to Georgia. There were rumors that the goal was to end the oligopolistic deals between GeoCell and Magti on the market.

– That is incorrect. The story is entirely different, and if you want to know about Beeline’s entry into the Georgian market, it all started much earlier for our group, which became interested in expanding into the communications sector and setting up a telephone company as early as 1996.

Khvicha Makatsaria’s Assets in Georgia
Company
Brief Description
TELASI – JSC Telasi is one of the largest network companies operating in Georgia, distributing and selling electricity in Tbilisi.
TBILISI ENERGY – Tbilisi Energy has been serving the Georgian capital since 3rd May 2019, when it acquired a 100% stake in the largest gas distribution company in Tbilisi.
TELMICO – Since 1st July this year, Tbilisi has had a new electricity supplier, with Tbilisi Electricity Supply Company (Telmico) replacing Telasi in this role.
VEON GEORGIA-BEELINE – The first mobile call using the Beeline network was made on 15th March 2007. Since then, the company has been developing dynamically and now offers its 1.3 million subscribers 2G GSM 900/1800MHz, 3G 2100 MHz and 4G 800/1800 MHz wireless services.
GEORGIAN SERVICE NETWORK – LLC Georgian Service Network is the local official representative of the Bulgarian firm Daisy Technology. It has been operating in Georgia since 2011. The company supplies modern GPRS cash registers and provides technical and warranty services.
THE GEORGIAN NATIONAL LOTTERY – The Georgian National Lottery operates under the Lotto.ge commercial license, which it obtained exclusively from the Ministry of Finance of Georgia.
TBILISI MINIBUS – LLC Tbilisi Minibus, founded in 2011, manages four companies that won the Tbilisi City Hall tender to transport passengers within the administrative borders of the capital over the next twenty years. These companies are LLC Tbil Line, LLC Capital Group, LLC Public Car, and LLC Tbil Car.
FEEDC – Feedc is a social media network founded in Georgia where people can draft articles, create blogs, and become content creators. The company was launched in 2018 and has been rapidly growing since then. Feedc is now developing a geolocation-based social network.
RESTAURANT KALAKURI – The company owns the restaurant Kalakuri, situated in the center of historic Tbilisi, between some of the city’s cultural landmarks. It offers splendid city views, including the Presidential Palace, Rike Park and the Anchiskhati church. It is the most famous historic and touristic area in the city.
TBILISI CENTRAL AGRO MARKET – Tbilisi Mall owns the oldest agro market in the capital, located in the city center and covering an area of 13,917 square meters. The two-story building can accommodate trailers and delivery trucks.
ELEPHANT – Elephant is one of the most successful local advertising agencies, which offers individuals and companies the opportunity to place adverts on public minibuses in Tbilisi.
GEOFISH CO. – Geofish is one of Georgia’s largest fishing license holders. The Geofish Factory, built by the company in 2010-2011, meets the latest international standards and is equipped with European machinery. A total of $2.5 million has been invested in the construction of the factory.
AGRO HOLDING FOUR SEASONS – The owner of ecologically clean, high-tech greenhouses. Agro Holding Four Seasons is the partner firm of Stimor. In addition, it holds the license for the natural thermal waters in Tsaishi.
BLACK SEA PRODUCT – The company is managing and implementing the construction of a new port on the Black Sea coast of Georgia, at the mouth of the Supsa River.
First Contact – Beeline Georgia

“We first became interested in the communications business in the late 1990s when my Russian acquaintances told me about the potential in this field. We purchased a frequency (900 MHz) and obtained the appropriate license under the condition of receiving investment. The initial investment required at the time – $20-30 million – was quite difficult for me to raise. My business routine in Moscow consumed a lot of time, and I delayed paying proper attention to this sector. We then rushed through a deal with a US-Canadian company that provided us with the necessary investment funds and started the infrastructural planning process. However, the government did not forgive us for the delays in fulfilling our licensing obligations. We made many requests and showed them the proof of investment funds, but they still took away our license. We could not agree with the Georgian government back then but became even more determined to establish a communications company. This is how we came across Betacom, whose base we used to relaunch our bid. To this end, we invited the Russian company VimpelCom, under Ukrainian management at the time. Before signing the agreement with the new investor, we obtained new licenses and prepared everything for bringing VimpelCom to Georgia. However, we failed to reach a deal that was beneficial for us, and VimpelCom retained 51% of the shares. That is the truth about the beginnings of Beeline Georgia, who initially invested $150 million here, and $300 million overall. They employed thousands of people and trained new professionals in this field. I fail to see anything negative in all of this. Our Georgian partners later sold their shares. My personal stake in the company was 20%.”

Photo Credits to Leli Bragonravova / Forbes Georgia

“I remember planning to merge Caucasus Online with Beeline. Unfortunately, Beeline’s representatives rejected this project. It is a pity because we were close to reaching an agreement that would have led to the establishment of a mega-company. However, there is no point in dwelling on it. I always try to turn the page quickly, forget the past and start something new. However, we would soon face a new problem: The executive team at our partner firm VimpelCom was replaced. The new management introduced a new development plan that involved leaving smaller markets such as Georgia. They decided to sell their shares, but it took three years of difficult negotiations to close the deal in the autumn of 2021. As I said earlier, this had nothing to do with the war in Ukraine. This tense process had been ongoing for a long time. We even had disputes in Georgian and international courts. Ultimately, this tiring and taxing process came to an end, and now Beeline is a 100% Georgian company. Customers can expect plenty of news and surprises, including a complete rebranding. From 2023, you will hear a lot about Beeline and our communications businesses. We have already invested in a project that will see us draw closer to market leaders Magti and GeoCell.”

I recall the story of Caucasus Online, which I believe was the most profitable deal ever concluded by Makatsaria in Georgia (the sale of Caucasus Online to the NEQSOL Group), Khvicha himself is less than enthusiastic to talk about it and regards the matter as closed. Nevertheless, he points out that he had intended to create a larger communications structure through a merger of Caucasus Online, Beeline Georgia and other firms. However, as the deal has been concluded, he no longer sees the point in discussing it.

– Why do you find regulated businesses so attractive?

– Do you see any problems with them?

– No, I would simply like to know your opinion.

– I believe that these companies have tremendous growth potential. I had a similar plan when contemplating the purchase of GWP (the water supplier of Tbilisi, Mtskheta and Rustavi) – creating a single mega-company that would incorporate all utility services and networks. We would have established a joint company and made an initial public offering. Unfortunately, despite my extensive efforts, we could not agree – the Spanish firm Aqualia paid quite a considerable amount to purchase GWP. I would like to add that when I talk about company growth, I also include myself personally. The growth and development process is not simple or easy.

– Do you mean you are personally growing and developing together with your companies?

– At the very least, I am learning a lot. Whether or not I am developing and changing is for others to say. I like to think in terms of results and new projects.

Energetic Makatsaria

Several days ago, I hosted the management team of Tbilisi Energy on the ‘Business Morning’ show. Afterwards, we asked them about investment, and Khvicha Makatsaria confirmed that he had bought out the former owners from Kazakhstan and settled the financial liabilities in full. The new management has been at the company since 2019, and around $70 million has already been invested since then, with an additional $10 million due to be invested by the end of 2022. Khvicha adds that he plans to invest a further H200 million within three to five years.

– Will you raise these funds yourself, or do you plan to bring in a business partner?

– We will act as necessary. The priority is to minimize technical losses, install smart meters and strengthen safety measures. To this end, we will also enhance our communication campaign. Although the situation regarding accidents has improved radically since we took over, we will do even more to minimize incidents caused by negligence.

– What about Telasi?

– Telasi is a different story. This is another priority for our group and part of our vision concerning energy. We will also continue investing in generating and producing renewable energy.

Will Makatsaria Buy Telasi From The Russians?

By purchasing a 25% stake in Telasi, our group has taken a firm foothold. We are part of the everyday operations, and there is complete harmony between the partners. Nevertheless, there are a couple of issues concerning Telasi that I want to be clear about. First, I will try to finalize the issue of its purchase.”

– Does this mean that you intend to buy out the Russians?

– Indeed, that is my intention. It is only a matter of time before Telasi, like Tbilisi Energy and Beeline, becomes a Georgian company.

– Is it too early to talk about specific dates and figures?

– It is an ongoing process. Today I can only confirm my intentions and my firm belief in the ultimate success of the process.

Energy firms are well represented in CBS (Makatsaria’s asset management company). Energy generation projects include the construction of 60 MW hydroelectric power plants, which will be launched very soon. Wind and solar energy projects are also in the pipeline, but the investor does not wish to publicize them at this stage. “We will have more details on this issue soon. Пока не стоит,”1 Khvicha says, once again throwing in a Russian phrase. “I will tell you one thing: Our companies will distinguish themselves over the next few years and become more sustainable. Energy and communications will become a priority. CBS Group management’s responsibility was demonstrated to our eight thousand staff during the pandemic, when not a single employee lost their job or had their salary paid late, despite many of our businesses having to suspend their operations due to Coronavirus-related issues. We did something incredible with the CBS management by accepting responsibility for everyone who worked for us and maintaining their financial stability during the lockdown. I am incredibly proud of this. Financial security and stability are vital for people.”

The portfolio of CBS Group currently includes the agricultural sector. However, Khvicha intends to leave this sector to ensure the sustainability of his companies and focus on energy and communications.

– Wealthy people are unpopular in Georgia. Is there any explanation for this?

– Of course, there is, but this is not a problem in Georgia alone. The same problem does not exist in the West or even in Eastern Europe. At least, not on the same scale. The issue is the Soviet mentality. It is not as if wealthy people are universally unpopular. If Georgians do not like businesspeople and wealthy people, it is a Soviet issue rather than a global one. The Soviet regime killed the desire to succeed. It made everyone equal – the successful and the unsuccessful, good and bad doctors, teachers, carpenters, and so on. The United States is an excellent example of a country where people who create jobs, pay money into the state budget, establish new companies, and work towards changing the country and the world for the better are appreciated and celebrated. These people and their stories are close to becoming part of college curriculums – people use their successes and failures to better themselves. Look at how many billionaires are teaching courses at various colleges. They are in huge demand. Why? Because society has an entirely different perception of success. They understand that anyone can achieve success.

Khvicha Makatsaria reveals that the number of businesspeople in Georgia is meager. Unless the number increases severalfold, the country will be unable to achieve rapid economic development. The current shortage of professional personnel is already very problematic.

Epilogue

Years ago, our main worry was the number of critical assets in Georgia that foreign companies owned. I did not see this as a problem. Not when the owners came from developed countries. If it were not for the Americans and Michael Scholey’s AES-Telasi, Russian state companies would not have become interested in purchasing the Tbilisi energy company. That is in addition to all the other benefits brought in by Americans in the form of knowledge and investment. It is different when such companies are owned or co-owned by the state enterprises of a country that occupies a fifth of your homeland, including our respondent’s native Abkhazia. How could anyone be happy about this? I see this as a nonsensical misunderstanding that we have been unable to shake off, mainly because we have never had a consistent and emotionally balanced society.

Now there are serious prospects taking shape for Georgians. The Kazakh Tbilgas and the Russian Beeline came under the full ownership of local shareholders as if nothing had happened. Yet only three to four years ago, every discussion on this issue and every story related to these companies was equated with a loss of our identity, occupation, and economic annexation.

For me, the return of these assets to Georgian ownership, considering who owned them before, is an important and noteworthy story. That is why I see this interview and conversation with Khvicha Makatsaria as a success. In addition, we got to know the Abkhaz-born businessperson who owns assets worth millions of dollars and has solid Georgian industrial networks and enterprises.

I believe that Makatsaria will manage to bring Telasi under his full ownership. Not because I met him personally and spoke to him extensively, but because I think there is a certain legitimacy in what is happening right now: A boy from Ochamchire, who has had a difficult and emotional life, is acquiring large assets in his homeland by buying out Russians, while owning real estate in Europe and shaping plans to build infrastructure on the Black Sea. Perhaps it is his mission to retrieve Georgian assets from Russian companies. We shall see.

We will learn much about CBS Group and its founder over the next few years. He promised the Forbes Georgia team that he would introduce the public to each of his companies’ activities and allow us to meet his team members and top managers – people who manage his assets and privately tell me what a team player he is. Makatsaria is an avid sports fan and continues to support the Georgian Tennis Federation and other sports. He insists that anyone who employs two people, let alone eight thousand, deserves respect. Though I do not know him well, I would have to say that Khvicha Makatsaria seems like a complex figure.

Final Question: What Was Your Most Profitable Deal?

After a brief pause, he replies: “Getting into business with my namesake (Hamlet Makatsaria). Just think about it – with the money I made from hazelnuts, I could have bought 276 Lada Zhigulis!” From the current Georgian businesspeople, he highlights Temur Chkonia, Temur Ugulava and Ilia Tsulaia. He insists that while Georgia has more good businesspeople than he can name, the country can accommodate at least three times as many. His attitude towards young people and the importance that he attaches to them is well known. Niko Kvaratskhelia again immediately comes to mind. In the last few years before his tragic death, Niko and his social network were nurtured by Khvicha Makatsaria’s business group.

Let us wait and see. I do not think we will have to wait long for his next story. He has cast a net in many different directions. I would love to see Temur Ugulava’s reaction to this article. The head of Adjara Group often jokes with me that he does not understand how Forbes can exist in a country with a small economy such as Georgia’s, find suitable respondents and deliver interesting stories. I would be interested to know what he thinks when he looks at the cover and sees the boy from Ochamchire recovering, managing and developing vital assets and industries in Georgia at his usual speed. This story is to be continued…

Until next time…

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