The FINANCIAL — The first President of Magticom, former President and now Chairman Emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, and Chairman of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation – this is but an incomplete list of the roles and responsibilities of David Lee in Georgia.
The FINANCIAL — The first President of Magticom, former President and now Chairman Emeritus of the American Chamber of Commerce in Georgia, and Chairman of the Eurasia Partnership Foundation – this is but an incomplete list of the roles and responsibilities of David Lee in Georgia. He is also the Founder and Owner of Lee LTD, a wheat and corn farm, and runs this small business in the Imereti region of the country.
With a small team consisting of 30 people and 250 hectares of land David Lee gathered his first harvest this year. It took five years to get a harvest, but in the end Lee’s small farm saw the realization of 5 tons of wheat per hectare and 7.5 tons of corn.
“I believe I can improve on this significantly. We have just completed planting American and French winter wheat for next year’s harvest using “no-till technology”. There is always demand for wheat and corn but we are using most of our produce internally to expand. Next year will be the first truly commercial year,” David Lee said.
“For many years I have lobbied the Government that agriculture represents a huge untapped resource for Georgia and the Georgian people. Not developing this sector would be akin to Saudi Arabia and Russia not drilling for oil. At Magticom we have a culture of not just talking about what we believe in but taking action and it was therefore probably inevitable that I would do something tangible. Five years ago I purchased a small piece of land and began experimenting. Today I have 250 hectares and we have conducted many trials to study and develop which processes work best. We are committed to using a scientific approach and exploiting new technology,” Lee added.
As an entrepreneur David Lee has to deal with the problems of running a small business, especially in the agriculture field in Georgia, based on his own experience. Therefore he hopes there will be an agricultural revolution in Georgia. “Georgia has achieved a high ranking on the ease of doing business tables, but we all know that this is not the full story. It is very easy to register a business and the improvements to the roads and utility supplies, to the customs and taxation procedures make many business models more attractive. But before the election, uncertainty over the judicial and taxation process made the risk of starting a business very high. This is reflected in the relatively low levels of FDI today. In agriculture this is coupled with systemic and macro level challenges that the last administration did not adequately address,” Lee said.
“A whole generation has been lost and the level of knowledge and infrastructure is depleted. We simply do not have enough people who understand and have experience of modern agriculture. Education and the transfer of knowledge and technology should be the starting point. In my business and in my role as Co-Chair of the Amcham Agribusiness Committee I am committed to playing a part in what I hope will be an agricultural revolution in Georgia,” Lee added.
David Lee spoke about the parliamentary elections in Georgia and noted that history will judge 2012 as the tipping point in the post-Soviet era. “Georgia is now a democratic country and the world watched and took note. As the Co-Chair of the EUGBC DCFTA Committee, I met with EU representatives recently and it is clear that their perception of Georgia and the leadership has changed. Two months ago many people laughed at the prospects of Georgia joining the EU and NATO. No-one is laughing now. A peaceful transfer of power is the best thing that could have happened for business confidence and FDI. Georgia is a “Buy”,” he added.
As an entrepreneur, David Lee thinks that normalized relations between Georgia and Russia will not be an obstacle for American business in Georgia, on the contrary. “I believe that the attacks on Mr Ivanishvili as too pro-Russian are motivated by politics and often by those with vested interests who have abused the previous system and have something to hide. It is obvious that a normalizing of relations with Russia would have benefits for the economy and hence be good for American and any other foreign businesses in Georgia,” David Lee said.
“I am not a politician or a diplomat and do not care to speak of diplomatic relationships. However I lived for four years in Sakhalin and three years in Moscow. I believe that the vast majority of ordinary Russians think of Georgia and Georgians fondly and with kindness. They wish to import our products and holiday here as it was before. This is surely a foundation on which the new administration can build a united Georgia that is on friendly terms and trades with all its neighbours, especially with the EU and I hope one day again with Russia,” he added.
As for Magticom, just a month ago Lee moved from the position of General Director to the President of the company. This is the first time the company has had a president. Creating this position in Magticom was conditioned by its continued growth as a world class company.
“As one of the few telephone companies in the world capable of offering the elusive “quadruple play” of mobile, fixed, internet and satellite TV services we wanted to broaden our management team. As the President I will be able to invest more time in Magticom’s key accounts and the company’s relationship with the government and civil society. I will of course continue with my roles in the EUGBC, Amcham and the Eurasia Partnership Foundation which have important roles to play as the opportunities provided by the new political landscape become clear. The General Director will continue to focus on providing excellent service to all our customers and developing the business,” Lee said.
“I have been in Georgia since the Rose Revolution and this journey has been amazing. At Magticom we have grown from a few hundred thousand customers to over two million and we have achieved huge technological and business success. But with my colleagues we have also experienced great injustices and the tragedy of the Russian invasion and the political, social and economic consequences that remain to this day. When you prevail through such times you build a powerful and lasting bond with your company, your colleagues and the country in which you live. Georgia is a beautiful country and the Georgian people are magnificent. I am proud to work in Magticom and to contribute to Georgia’s future development,” David Lee said.