The FINANCIAL — The most successful enterprises often attain this success because they are able to respond effectively to changes that are taking place in the societies in which they operate.
The FINANCIAL — The most successful enterprises often attain this success because they are able to respond effectively to changes that are taking place in the societies in which they operate. These companies see that society is no longer the same, that the game has changed, and that there are opportunities that are up for grabs. For example, around Tbilisi we have seen the rise of restaurants with various types of foreign food.
The marketplace was altered – disposable incomes had gone up, there were more foreigners in Tbilisi, and there were more Georgians coming back from abroad – so these restaurant entrepreneurs saw an opportunity for foreign food and entered the market.
Another such opportunity that is relatively unexplored is the rise of obesity and unhealthy lifestyles: 51% of Georgian men and 57% of women are considered overweight, and 22% of people are considered “insufficiently active” by the World Health Organization. In fact, in terms of deaths caused by cardiovascular disease and diabetes, which are typical lifestyle diseases, Georgia ranks very high compared to other countries, especially when it comes to men.
The causes can be split out into two groups: food and lifestyle. On the food side, the Georgian diet is not very healthy, because it is heavily dairy and meat based. We are also seeing that the ingredients of people’s diets are shifting from natural to processed and refined. Furthermore, there is often a cultural tendency to stimulate kids to eat more than they need to, and in fact 19.9% of Georgian children under five years old are overweight. This is more than double the American number, and Georgia ranks only behind a handful of other countries on this measure.
On the lifestyle side, a growing number of people now have sedentary professions, which means that they sit down for most of the day. These office workers don’t move around as much as people who stand up while doing their work. A related problem is that Georgians don’t exercise very much, and especially not in groups: only 0.3% of Georgians are active members of sport or recreation organizations, according to the World Values Survey, and this is the lowest number for any of the countries surveyed.
To me, this indicates a market opportunity: there are a growing number of problems related to unhealthy lifestyles and obesity, while there is still very little participation in organized sports or other forms of exercise.
The gym industry in the United States has an estimated size of $25 billion dollars, while in Georgia the fitness industry smaller and mostly concentrated in Tbilisi, with a focus on the higher segment of the market. “Gyms are either very expensive or very low-quality,” says Mariam (22). A player looking to enter this industry with a high-volume, low-margin type of business could capture a significant part of the market in quite a short period of time, especially if they also focus on other parts of the country. Because Georgia is such a family-oriented country, any business where parents and their children could be engaged in different activities at the same time may gain traction too.
However, it is not only the gym industry that stands to benefit from this change that is taking place in Georgian society. The diet industry is an industry that we have also seen ballooning in America, and it can boom in Georgia too. While there is quite a lot of “diet food” available (mostly sold as fasting food), the dietary advice industry is not very developed yet. For those of you who are not in the know yet, two liters of “matsoni” every day does not constitute a diet! Dietary advice, both in consultations by dieticians, self-help groups, and writing, can help to meet this demand.
And let’s not forget that this is not just a profit opportunity: these are a real problems, that have ravaged the health of millions of people in the West and that are now threatening the health of millions more in the developing world. By operating in this market, and grabbing the opportunity that is clearly present, you are participating in the fight against obesity and unhealthy lifestyles: you have the chance to lead a health revolution in Georgia.