A success story of Bakuriani resident Zviad Mchedlishvili
“The number of satisfied customers is growing. Hence, a lot of similar rental booths are already built around us. Other service providers have seen the success of our business initiative, so they too have started to introduce innovations. I was the only one providing such a service last year, but now competition is steadily growing. Competition is a healthy process and crucial for development.’’
For over nine years, Zviad Mchedlishvili owned a small tin cabin in Bakuriani, a famous ski resort in the Borjomi municipality, where he offered rental service of winter sport inventories (skis, snowboards, sleighs) to tourists and vacationers. Like his neighboring similar service providers, Zviad worked in an uncomfortable conditions. To serve customers, he stood outside whole day in rain and snow, while his rental skis and boots were getting wet and frozen. Due to unfavorable conditions, the inventory was often getting damaged. His small tin cabin surely was not enough for providing a proper maintenance and drying facility.
Direct communication with tourists and visitors as well as long standing experience showed Zviad that his business needed a better infrastructure. He believed that by improving service conditions the number of his customers would increase, and so would his income.
“I knew that I had to improve my service. Yet, for that I did not have enough funds. At one point I even decided to take a small loan to expand my booth, but the process was very prolonged. The European Union’s ENPARD project was launched in our municipality just in time and provided much needed assistance that helped to develop my business.”
Zviad grew up with his grandmother in Bakuriani and graduated from a high school there. He was keen of skiing from his early childhood and even was enrolled in a local sports school. Unluckily, he broke his leg and was detached from his favorable activity for quite some time. Then the war started and economic hardship followed. These factors all together significantly hampered his skiing carrier.
“I had a great passion and interest in skiing. If not a skier I would have certainly done something else in this sphere’’ – says Zviad.
Indeed, after the graduation from the university and marriage, every winter season Zviad used to return to Bakuriani to give ski classes to tourists and vacationers. In winter 2009, Zviad opened his own ski rental booth in the city, at the so called “25 meters” slope.
Zviad learned about the launch of the EU-funded rural development project in Bakuriani at one of the community information meetings organized by the project implementing organization “Mercy Corps”. He got detailed information about the project and its goals, and found out that the call for proposals was open for local development initiatives that would benefit not only him, but also contribute to the development of tourism and local services, by upgrading standards, creating jobs and providing good example to local people who have been engaged in similar businesses.
Zviad sat down with his family, who live in the village of Kvishkheti in Khashuri, and together they drafted a proposal of his business initiative. Eventually, Zviad convinced the Borjomi Local Action Group (LAG) that his small project would have been profitable, sustainable and exemplary to other service providers in Bakuriani.
With the funding from EU, Borjomi LAG supported the business initiative worth of 30,000 Gel. 60% of the budget – 18,000 Gel – was funded by EU, while the remaining 40% – 12,000 Gel – was co-financed by Zviad. As a result, the small tin booth turned into a modern construction, which started offering quality sports inventory and European dryer for ski boots. The project now employs up to 6 people seasonally and the customers have access to a comfortable ski rental service point where they can get warm boots.
With the implementation of the project the number of customers started to increase instantly – “We offer quality service and that is the reason!’’ – proudly notes Zviad. The improved facility and services of the rental ski cabin attracted a new wave of visitors and vacationers. Everyone finds it comfortable to get warm ski boots. After few hours of skiing in the snow, fitting your own warm boot in a cozy setting is so comfortable for everyone, especially for kids. As a result, the business has grown up to 1800 customers annually. Zviadi’s income has significantly increased too and it positively affected the living conditions of his family. The family has already managed to redeem a loan, which they took for the business development.
Zviad’s boots dryer is the only service available in the nearby rental cabins. Additionally, he offers visitors ski lessons. Zviad’s success turned out to be contagious. Local people engaged in similar business started to improve their own infrastructure too. Now, many similar booths are noted in the surrounding areas. This perhaps is the best indicator of the project’s success!
“The number of satisfied customers is growing. Hence, a lot of similar rental booths are already built around us. Other service providers have seen the success of our business initiative, so they too have started to introduce innovations. I was the only one providing such a service last year, but now competition is steadily growing. Competition is a healthy process and crucial for development.’’– says Zviad.
Zviad’s day starts at half past nine. He cleans the area around his building, puts inventory in order and then waits for the consumers to arrive. His sister is also helping in running the business. The kids are around too, having lots of fan in the snow. From time to time, Zviad offers ski lessons to visitors and tourist. Despite his passion in skiing, he does not have much time to enjoy skiing himself, but whenever it’s possible, Zviad gladly hurries off towards the snowy slopes.
Part of Zviad’s daily routine is dealing with different types of people. In his booth Zviad meets and assists around 60 people a day on average, in addition he gives telephone consultations to about 30-40 persons – some wish to book skiing equipment, others are calling to exchange the sizes of rented boots… Communications with so many people of different mood and temper is an exhausting process, but Zviad handles it very well.
“I do my utmost to stay away from conflicts. If I start arguing I will certainly loose customers and hence my income will decrease. We serve our customers politely with an open heart. People are happy with us.’’– said Zviad.
The Mchedlishvili family changes the residence seasonally – in winter they stay in Bakuriani, while the rest of the year they live in the village Kvishkheti in Khashuri. “I really love skiing, but I also have another passion – agriculture. In Kvishkheti my family and I own vineyards. Cultivating the land in Kvishkheti, after three months of intense work in Bakuriani, is very relaxing, it helps to regain strength.’’ – said Zviad.
The head of the modern rental ski booth managed to buy a small tractor with the savings. The soil is fertile but the natural harvest is enough only for the family so far. Zviad wishes to expand the production, but he notes that working on the land requires considerable investments. He also desires to build a wine cellar one day, where he can host visitors and tourists.
Nonetheless, Zviad’s future plans are strongly related to skis. He tells us that ski business is fast evolving in Georgia. The number of tourists in Bakuriani is gradually growing. Many of them come from Europe, US, Russia, Baltic countries. Zviad is well informed about the trend as he maintains regular contacts with local tour operators. Therefore, he is going to farther expand the business to accommodate the growing number of tourists with his comfortable and high quality service.
“If not European Union and ENPARD programme? Everything would have taken much more time. I would have needed more financial resources, and certainly, I would not have afforded this nice building or ski boots dryer. EU helped just in time, for which I’m so grateful!”
Zviad’s rural development initiative aims to promote mountain ski sports and to improve services for tourists in Bakuriani. His project is one of the 28 rural development initiatives funded by the EU in Borjomi municipality that are supported by EU partner organization “Mercy Corps”. Under the EU-funded ENPARD programme, overall 122 rural development initiatives were supported in the country last year. These initiatives are boosting production and services in the areas of agriculture, tourism, social and rural infrastructure and environment. They have already provided better employment to over 700 rural households and benefited more than 8000 people.
By Thea Gvinadze