Many Sandros can stop out-migration from the regions

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The FINANCIAL — If you are big city dweller but have sometimes caught yourself daydreaming about living in a peaceful and picturesque town or village, you’re not alone. Recent studies suggest that more millennials than ever from the developed world are saying goodbye to their beloved urban centers and moving outside their cities. This trend is a reversal of the rural-to-urban trend of in-migration that has characterized the world since the Industrial Revolution (Ritzer, 2000).

It is interesting to ask who those people are, and why they prefer to move away from cities. In Israel (research by Arnon & Shamai, 2011), these are the people with high human capital who are educated and employed, and who are driven by “post-materialistic” values and motivated by fulfillment and self-expression, subjective welfare, and the quality of life in a green environment and a meaningful community.

Not unexpectedly, the wind of post-materialism has not blown through Georgia yet. Quite the opposite; according to census data (2014), more than 340 000 inhabitants have migrated to Tbilisi, while only 94 000 have left Tbilisi to move to the regions. Of course, Tbilisi, despite being crowded and polluted, has a lot to offer that pulls people to move there, including employment opportunities, education and healthcare services, entertainment, etc.

The story of a 27-year-old Telavi boy

Sandro Tchuadze, a native of Telavi, also went to Tbilisi to pursue his bachelor’s degree. However, after graduating, he went back to his hometown and instead of sitting there idly waiting for something to happen, he created opportunities himself.

This is how it all started. One day Sandro got a message from the bank that he had been issued a credit card with a limit of 3,000 GEL. At the time, he was doing logistics and marketing for his family business, which is beer distribution in the Kakheti region. But the business was developing slowly, and there was not enough work for him to do.

“Why not open my own shop?” This question popped into Sandro’s mind. As there was not much to lose (just 3,000 GEL), he searched for a suitable location in Telavi that he could rent. Luckily, he found a small space (16 sq. meters) for only 150 GEL rent per month.

The location was not well-suited for a shop, nor was the building’s external interior appealing for attracting customers. To compensate for these disadvantages, he created a personal Facebook account for Ludis Sakhli (not a business page, which is costly) and added as many people from Telavi as possible. For several days, he was identifying people living in Telavi, friends of friends, friends of friends of friends, all of whom he invited to follow his shop. Within two weeks, he managed to reach 4,000 people.

In addition, he needed something spectacular and unusual that would make people visit his shop. He had the idea of selling live crabs, which was something new for Telavians, many of whom had never seen them before. He took a photo of live crabs in his aquarium and posted it on Facebook. Many people got excited and wanted to come over to see or even buy a crab.

“Ludis Sakhli” became famous in Telavi. Now it was necessary to sustain his customer base. To this end, Sandro frequently rearranged the interior of his shop, e.g. changed the places of fish and beer. He believed this would create the feeling that his business was working well. Imagine as a customer you go into a shop and you see a shelf with fish which several days ago was occupied by beer. What will spring to your mind? “Wow, beer has been sold out so quickly, it is a good beer indeed!!!”

Another strategy was to extend the assortment of beer and add different types of fish. In the first month alone, he offered six different brands of beer. Beer is a low-alcohol drink and if one wants to get drunk, a high quantity is required. Therefore, Sandro decided to have a low markup but sell higher volumes of beer. This strategy was successful, as he was selling even more than he had expected. His profit was increasing, but he reinvested every single tetri he made.

After a successful year, Sandro was confident enough to open a new beer shop. This time, however, it was designed to serve a different segment of customers, particularly those many young Telavians who would go to the central square to hang out with friends in the evenings. Consequently, the location had to be close to the square. Sandro found a suitable place, which was much larger and nicer than the previous one. He renovated it to make it more appealing, and he added wine to his assortment, as tourists frequently stumbled into his shop and asked for Georgian wine. Currently, Sandro employs seven locals and offers 16 varieties of beers, both Georgian and foreign, 30 types of fish, and a variety of wines. He achieved all this by starting with only 3000 GEL.

But Sandro’s business is not just about doing business

Telavi, the former capital of the Kingdom of Kakheti, is a beautiful town with spectacular views of the Alazani Valley and Caucasian mountains. In the 18th century, King Erekle II reigned from Telavi. The palace can still be seen, and the statue of King Erekle stands proudly in the middle of the city in the town square. On summer evenings, many Telavians gather there, having relaxed walks or hanging out with friends. However, aside from the picturesque town square, Telavi, which is Georgia’s 8th largest town in terms of population, does not have much to offer to its youth: there are no cinemas, no football fan clubs, and no music clubs where young people can go and enjoy their evenings.

In October 2017, Sandro organized a Telavian version of the German Oktoberfest. The festival lasted for two days. Everything was planned meticulously, e.g., the female waitresses were dressed in traditional Bavarian outfits, various entertaining activities were planned, and live music was played. Hundreds of Telavians gathered and enjoyed their time. Telavian motorcycle riders also joined the festival and advertised it by rallying in the streets of the town.

When asked why he organized this event, Sandro said that besides campaigning on behalf of his business, he wanted to make a change and bring joy to his community, as well as to the tourists who would visit the Kakheti Region during that period for Rtveli (grape harvesting).

Fortunately, Sandro is not alone in aspiring to create a difference in his community. Quite recently, in the summer of 2017, two friends named Eduard and Nana opened a social bar named “Mego-Bari” in Zugdidi in Samegerlo. In another example, a young woman named Keti and her friends established a literary café “Tsodnis Café” in Tsnori, a small town in Kakheti. In these open spaces, various activities such as concerts, public seminars, etc. are held on a daily basis.

So, after reading this blog-post, if you are still daydreaming about a green peaceful countryside and what is stopping you from making your dream come true is the lack of opportunities there, follow Sandro, Keti, Eduard, and Nana, take the lead and create opportunities by yourself.


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