The FINANCIAL -- The fifth Telecom Meeting in Georgia (TMG) will bring together the representatives of 50 of the big players of the industry in Georgia on 29 and 30 October. During the event Georgian telecommunication companies will be offered the opportunity to meet potential investors. The geopolitical location of the country is the key factor attracting foreign investors of the telecommunication industry to Georgia. However, the activity of local companies and officials is not on a par with the enthusiasm displayed by foreigners.
“Telecommunication is a very profitable business sector in Georgia at present. However, its potential is even greater. We can attract big players of the industry who will further develop it with their financial assistance. Georgia is a corridor to Asia and the East and using this advantage is crucial,” Sophie Amiranashvili, Founder of TMG, told The FINANCIAL.
“The geopolitical location of Georgia is the main advantage that has been influencing foreign interest in our country. Our strategic placement is good for transit purposes. That is one of the main subjects of interest,” said Amiranashvili.
TMG is a telecom event that is held each autumn in Georgia. This action-packed two day event brings together voice and data operators, equipment manufacturers and system integrators from Europe, the Caucasus region, CIS countries and Georgia where they are able to meet, discuss partnership possibilities and close business deals.
The main part of the event is dedicated to bilateral table meetings in the meeting area of the hotel and features keynote speeches and company presentations made by delegates. Amiranashvili believes that meetings in an informal environment are usually more fruitful for participants. “In Kakheti visitors will be introduced to our traditions, which they find quite charming. The event is also important for promoting the country as a tourist destination,” she added.
In her interview with The FINANCIAL Amiranashvili discussed the potential of the Georgian telecommunication industry. She underlined the factors that make our telecom sector more advanced in comparison with our neighbours and yet what makes us more backward at the same time.
“There are 50 registered delegates for now. Representatives of huge companies of the telecom industry such as Turk Telecom, Deutsche Telecom, Rostelecom, and Sparkle Telecom Italia will be attending the event. These are big names in the world telecommunications market. The majority of Georgian telecommunication companies are also involved,” Amiranashvili said.
“I have been involved in the telecommunication sector for more than a decade. I have been intensively attending such conferences for years, albeit the scales of those abroad are much bigger than here. One of the most recognizable conferences takes place in the USA. Over 10,000 delegates participate in that. As a result of my attendance at these events I have amassed many partners from the telecommunication sphere. I always regretted that such a meeting was not taking place in Georgia. However, there has always been huge interest from our foreign partners towards our country. Representatives of the leading telecommunication companies have been visiting Georgia quite frequently. They were cooperating with local companies. Meanwhile there was never a precedent of any official format of meeting on such a scale. So, considering all of these factors I decided to arrange a telecom conference in Georgia. The first conference took place in 2010. This year the fifth Telecom Meeting will be taking place in Georgia. The first conference was on a small scale. Only ten companies participated in it. Then awareness started growing year by year. Together with the increasing popularity of the meeting, we have been observing growing popularity of the sector itself,” said Amiranashvili.
During the TMG event, delegates are welcome to make a 30-minute company presentation. In this way we are giving them the opportunity to introduce their company to other participants of the event, to exhibit an overview of their activities, products and services; in effect to showcase themselves.
Q. How would you rate the Georgian telecommunication industry?
A. TheGeorgian telecommunication industry has huge potential. It is well-developed especially in comparison to our neighbour countries. However, it can be developed further. Unfortunately, not enough interest has been paid to it over time. Telecommunication is not limited to phone calls or telephone connections. This is a much larger area, which involves data centres, fibre-optic infrastructure and more.
There has always been much greater activity from foreign companies. They are very interested in meeting with our Georgian companies. It is a pity that the Georgian companies show such little interest in response. By doing this they demonstrate how little import they give to such meetings. The meeting is a good opportunity to find new partners though, as well as to deepen relationships with existing contacts. In general, face to face meetings are very important in business. Increasing activity of large foreign companies stimulates local companies. However, this is not happening on a sufficient level yet.
Q. What could be reasons for the lack of activity of local companies?
A. I guess it is because the Georgians are not sufficiently estimating the importance of this meeting. This is the best place for ‘f2f’ meetings with potential investors and partners. I can say that from my own example as attending such meetings has brought huge benefits for my company.
Q. There is a long list of representatives from our neighbour countries among the delegates. How would you rate the telecom industry in Armenia and Azerbaijan?
A. The infrastructure, the whole industry, is more developed in Georgia than it is in our neighbouring countries. However, promotion and governmental support is higher in Azerbaijan and Armenia. I attended one of the telecom conferences in Armenia last year. The event is opened with a lot of press annually. It is attended by government officials. The situation is the same in Azerbaijan. Even the President gives a speech at the opening ceremony. They are trying to bring more popularity to the industry. It is unfortunate that we do not yet have the same level of interest and support from our officials.
Q. Georgia has recently signed the AA with the EU. What are your expectations of this agreement in terms of the telecom sector?
A. The Association Agreement may not be linearly related to the telecommunications sector. However, it has brought Georgia closer to Europe. The awareness of Georgia will increase. Most importantly, the trust of foreign investors towards our country will grow. This will then have a corresponding effect on telecommunication business.
Q. Tell us from your example what attending conferences like TMG has brought you?
A. Communication with the representatives of large, influential companies of the telecommunication industry is one of the main advantages for participants. This is business. It determines a company’s success. The company that sells a service is given a great opportunity to find a potential purchaser, a new partner.
Our meeting can bring lots of benefits for the industry as a whole. We host foreign companies that are looking for local partners to expand their businesses with.