The FINANCIAL — Due to a solid business strategy, Geoplant, one of the leading tea producers in Georgia, known by many for its packaged tea under the brand name “Gurieli,” has managed to take over a large share on the Georgian market recently.
Foreign tea importers have held leading positions for many years in Georgia, but local tea production and consumption is finally taking off. Gurieli now exports 460 tons of bulk tea to USA, Germany and Ukraine annually. Company says, commitment to corporate social responsibility is a key driver of their business development.
Gurieli and Rcheuli hold 22.7 percent of the market nowadays. Before their entrance, the share of Georgian tea in the whole market was only three percent. The major tea importer countries are Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka and the United Arab Emirates.
Geoplant exports both packaged and bulk tea. 200 tons of bulk tea is exported to the USA, 200 tons to Germany, 60 tons to the Ukraine and 40 tons to other countries. Packaged tea is mainly exported to EU countries.
“Only 10 percent of our packaged tea is exported from Georgia, 90 percent is used in the country,” Mziko Lapiashvili, Chief Marketing and PR officer, Geoplant said. “Our goal is to decrease the amount of import of tea, and to increase export, allowing us to introduce Georgian tea , which the country has been renowned for. The process has started, and we are looking forward to observing the progress..”
The company will be introducing Gurieli fruit tea in just a couple of weeks. Currently the brand produces four classic flavours of tea, but increasing the assortment will allow pleasing the customer of wider variety of needs and wants.
Demand has risen for quality products, especially as various research studies have shown that the quality of some teas is low. As such, in the forecast period demand for more quality products will grow, especially as consumers will increasingly demand new flavours and will seek out novelties.
Georgia produced 5,000 tonnes of tea in 2008 according to industry sources, representing a sharp nose-dive compared to the 23,000 tonnes the country produced in 2001. Under Soviet rule, according to the Statistics Department, the country produced over 500,000 tonnes of tea, serving as the world’s fourth-largest producer. However, in 2010, the performance of Georgian manufacturers improved.
The main advantage of Georgian tea is its price/quality balance, says Euromonitor, global marketing research company headquartered in London.
The market of packaged tea is 800 tons in Georgia. But real usage of tea is much more, as people collect harvests individually and sell them at market without packaging.
“For us, the center of the business equation is the customer. We have replaced the traditional 4 Ps with the 4 Cs, where product development is fundamentally based on the customer’s needs and wants. ” Lapiashvili said.
“Our business is extremely community- oriented. We are happy to offer a helping hand to community service projects, exhibits, concerts, and other social activities, which, in my mind, are key to creating a sustainable, productive, and promising society. As a result, we firmly believe that Gurieli will continue to establish itself as a customer and community-friendly brand, and naturally gain popularity among customers, suppliers, and business partners.”
“A commitment to social responsibility is central to our company’s identity and purpose,” said Lapiashvili. “The company strives for authenticity, integrity and purity in our products and in the way we do business. This means doing everything for the sake of honest relationships with our employees, partners, customers, and with the communities in which we do business.”
Lapiashvili says, the social responsibility is the fundamental idea behind the business itself. Geoplant employs 80 individuals during the whole year and 325 people during the harvest period.
“Tea production is a seasonal activity and is considered an unstable job in many countries,” she explained. “But the way we conduct business is making sure that our employees are occupied and motivated year-round. The idea behind leasing the land to private individuals is to motivate them, rather than expect any income out of the arrangement. We want develop a sense of ownership, instead of feeling like they are merely working for someone.”
The arrangement resembles a social project of the UN in the 90s, when flour and sugar was distributed to residents of Guria to motivate them to take care of the tea plantations.
As well as the work force Geoplant employs, the sister company, Geoflower also buys fruit from the Racha-Lechkhumi population.
Geoplant is one of the few companies, which publicly publishes its financial data from time to time through no particular obligation.
“Transparency of our financial data is a key aspect of our conducting business. We are really honest with our clients. We would like to communicate with our customer,” Lapiashvili stated.
Financing and caring for a small family-style foster home in Ozurgeti; a project that assists child victims of the Georgia-Russia war; and a cancer screening centre in Kutaisi are but some of Geoplant’s social projects.
“The house in Ozurgeti which we have befriended is a part of the Social Service Agency project, My Family,” Mziko Lapiashvili said. “The main idea of the project is not solely to attend to the children’s day-to-day needs , but simultaneously help them with social integration, making them feel part of the community. While they participate in cultural, recreational and other activities, get a chance to learn how businesses are run, they feel their part in the community. ”
“We work with the ethos that we are responsible for the community. Being responsible has resulted in the production of ecologically pure tea without any herbicides or pesticides,” she continued. “We firmly believe that with every success comes the responsibility of making everyone a part of it. We are committed to the idea of enriching prosperity and health in a progressive manner, and envision achieving this through various activities in the fields of education, health and heritage. Social responsibility should be an integral part of the wealth creation process, enhancing the value of wealth creation to society. Therefore, while taking the company to new heights, we believe in imparting the same growth to the community at large.”
Tea has numerous health-related advantages. Georgian tea is especially distinguished in terms of being healthy because of the climate in the country. Tea in Georgia is preserving its positive nature because of the natural conditions of its cultivation. Therefore Geoplant is committed to promoting the culture of tea as an integral part of a healthy and natural lifestyle.
“Gurieli Tea Time, which will be launched in January, will allow young people and adults across the city to enjoy Gurieli tea free of charge for an hour. As we spread this tradition to numerous different locations across Tbilisi, we hope to promote the idea of intellectual, alcohol-free conversation after school, work, or other daily activities.”
Geoplant cares about increasing general awareness about CSR in society as according to Lapiashvili, public expectations of CSR tend to be mostly towards so-called big businesses as well as from the Government. A recent UN study showed that an overwhelming majority of Georgian citizens considers big business to be almost as responsible for economic development and addressing social and socio-economic issues as the Government. Small and medium enterprises are mostly viewed as less responsible or significant in regards to this.
“The future development of public awareness, which we all can contribute to, will hopefully heighten public expectations of CSR, and promote universality of the concept–regardless of size and profit. After all, we are all equally responsible for the upward mobility and growth of our community,” she claims.
“The main idea behind the Gurieli brand is reviving the departed fields, contributing infrastructural development, creating jobs and generally promoting activities in Guria and Samegrelo. Our manufacturing creates value for the company and customer. We aim for our tea to be ecologically pure. From the company’s onset, we have been an environmentally conscious company dedicated to the principles of the natural production of tea. Therefore, being environmentally conscious is one of our top priorities.”