The FINANCIAL — International Corporation ICR is one of the largest and most stable organizations in retail business in Georgia. The company represents international brands of shoes, clothes, accessories, as well as furniture and restaurants. Two of ICR brands – Laboratory My Home and Georgian Restaurant Tabla have become Golden Brand Award winners this year.
Kakha Khazaradze, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of ICR, started a business 25 years ago. “Doing business in Georgia in the ‘90s was quite difficult as there was a civil war and a high rate of crime. I started a business together with my cousins. In the ‘90s we introduced the first supermarket chain Babylon to Georgia. A supermarket operating with international standards was a novelty at that time for the country. Later, it was followed by a travel agency, TV company, perfume and cosmetics store chain and others. We have run businesses in many areas. For now ICR operates international brands of shoes, accessories and clothes as well as furniture stores and restaurants,” Khazaradze told The FINANCIAL.
Currently ICR incorporates following brands: Bata, Ecco, Geox, Tamaris, Laboratory Shoes Gallery, Studio by Shoes Gallery, Bambino, Parfois, Moa, Okaïdi-Obaïbi, My Home, Laboratory My Home, Restaurant Tabla, Café Pomodorissimo, Café La France, Café Laboratory.
One can rarely find Kakha Khazaradze on the covers of magazines. He explained: “Self-satisfaction with the work I do is more important for me than self-promotion.” Khazaradze has now given his first exclusive interview to The FINANCIAL. In the interview the businessman talked about his experience in business and the values which he serves.
The First Business Experience in Georgia
25 years ago, when we were establishing our businesses, we were young and rather bold in the decisions we made. I have started business together with my cousins Mamuka Khazaradze and David Khazaradze. We created TBC group in Georgia at times when most of the people were trying to leave the country. Establishment of TBC group influenced later developments of business sector in Georgia and I think this is the great value we have created.
We have initiated and implemented a number of successful business projects. One of the highlights was Bata, our first international franchise deal. The brand had 6,000 stores worldwide and was selling a million pairs of shoes per day. Bata became a flagship for our business as the experience we gained from working with this company helped us to bring other international brands to the Georgian market.
How to Succeed in Business
I suggest starting a business with the goal of becoming professional and not for just earning money. These are two different things. If one wants to succeed, s/he needs to learn. Nothing has perspective without knowledge.
In Search of Professionals
The unemployment rate is quite high in Georgia. However, it is still difficult for employer to find professionals and high skilled workers. At ICR we always welcome talented and motivated people. But at the same time next to the professional skills we look for human values and virtues. Loyalty and quality of freedom is what I mean by human values. These are the main criteria according to which we choose people for our teams. Previously nepotism hampered Georgian businesses. This has started to change recently. Businesses now realize that when you create room for improper privilege you demotivate professional staff. Therefore our management principles ensure transparency of business processes, equal opportunities to all and professional development of our staff. I believe such principals are a key to any business success.
70 years of the soviet era destroyed the main values – a notion of the country and the citizenship. People no longer care what is going on beyond their homes. Probably another 70 years would be needed to restore fundamental values. I believe a new generation, with much better educational background and progressive mindset will slowly realise these changes. I, personally, am doing my best to give such education and upbringing to my daughters.
Who Influences You
My family, in particular my parents, are the most influential people for me. The only person I listen to is my father. He spent quite a long time living under the Soviet regime. He served in prestigious positions. However, my farther welcomed the collapse of the Soviet Union. Despite his devotedness to the communist party, he had a high level of freedom. He brought me and my brother up with the same values. I have always applied to him when I needed some advice. Now he is 76 and still remains as my adviser.
Khazaradze at Work
I work a lot. Business development and expansion requires even more time from me. In order to focus on bigger things I have established a professional management team who I trust and to whom I can delegate relevant tasks.
In general I have never refused to do any job in my company. Even today if someone needs my help at a warehouse for example, I will be there.
Currently we are still expanding and continuing to develop our network. I carry a huge responsibility for my 700 employees. Despite the various economic difficulties that have been present on the market for the last 25 years, I have never allowed myself to solve business issues by redundancies or reducing staff salaries.
After some point business becomes exciting. The further people immerse themselves in a large business, the more freedom they lose. They no longer belong to themselves. Losing freedom is what I am afraid of the most. When a business grows, it needs you so much that you no longer find time for your family, children and friends. I am currently witnessing myself getting into this situation and still trying hard to keep a work-life balance.
First 20 years in business were the most active in my life. I have travelled to more than 60 countries. In each country I have always studied the lifestyles of people and the values they carried. This inspired me to implement innovations in my surroundings. I was always dynamic and active. If you were to turn the clock back, I would change very few things in my past. I have always achieved what I wanted. Maybe some decisions were wrong, but that is how we learn – from our mistakes.