Tag Archives: tbilisi

What Bank to Choose for a Small Business in Georgia?

This blog post is destined primarily to foreigners when they shop for a bank for their small business in Georgia. It lists resources to help you make your own research and decision.

The largest commercial banks in Georgia by total assets reported on 31/03/2015 are(1):

  1. JSC Bank of Georgia, http://www.bankofgeorgia.ge/ (7 786 million GEL)
  2. JSC TBC Bank, http://www.tbcbank.ge/ (5583 million GEL)
  3. JSC Liberty Bank, http://www.libertybank.ge/ (1 530 million GEL)
  4. JSC Bank Republic, https://www.br.ge/ (1 297 million GEL)
  5. JSC ProCredit Bank, http://www.procreditbank.ge/ (1 134 million GEL)
  6. JSC VTB Bank Georgia, http://www.vtb.ge/ (1 124 million GEL)
  7. JSC Cartu Bank, http://www.cartubank.ge/ (920 million GEL)
  8. JSC Basisbank, http://www.basisbank.ge/ (674 million GEL)
  9. JSC KOR Standard Bank, http://www.ksb.ge (641 million GEL)
  10. JSC Privatbank Georgia (583 million GEL). Privatbank Georgia, subsidiary of the Ukrainian bank PrivatBank, was since acquired by JSC Bank of Georgia(2).

State of the banking sector in Georgia

Georgian banks are doing OK despite some issues affecting the country’s economy as a whole (high cost of credit, high rate of dollarization of the economy, etc.). That’s in essence the conclusions of a detailed report(3) of the Policy Institute of the International School of Economics (ISET) about the Financial Soundness Indicators (FSI) for Georgia.

The overall landscape may change, and while unlikely to affect your business directly, the “Law on the National Bank of Georgia” of July 2015 which strips the National Bank of Georgia of some of its banking supervision functions sparked a ongoing debate(4).

For reference, the website of the National bank of Georgia is https://www.nbg.gov.ge and the page for consumers is https://www.nbg.gov.ge/cp(5).


640px-National Bank of GeorgiaThe headquarters of the National Bank of Georgia(6).

Languages

All of the main banks’ websites are in English and Georgian. VTB Bank Georgia also maintains a version of its website in Russian. Customer service representatives will help you in Georgian or English. In practice, Russian-speaking customers will be served in that language at most banks, but this is worth checking.

Fees, Multi-Currency Accounts, Online Banking…

Browse the banks’ websites and visit them to confirm your understanding of their respective fee structures. Direct access to the fees for each bank (when such pages are available, or corporate customers’ homepages in other cases):

The legal currency of Georgia is the lari (GEL) and all payments in Georgia are made in GEL (typically at the day’s rate of the National Bank of Georgia if the amount is quoted in another currency). Opening a multi-currency account is easy: the most common currencies are GEL, USD, EUR and sometimes GBP.

Online banking is available for most banks. The websites of the 9 banks listed above also include “branches and ATMs locators”.

For foreigners: currency conversion, international bank transfers

Currency exchange rates at street booths offer better rates than those at commercial banks. For larger sums or currency exchange through online banking, you might want to stick with your bank and thus check their conditions and commissions for this service. The excellent Lari Explorer of Jumpstart compares the historical rates currency exchange of the 4 largest commercial banks(7).

International bank transfers can cost dearly. Check the rates as some stand out. For example, TBC has a competitive cap on the fees for transfers made by individuals to other banks, including abroad (about 15 EUR). Other banks may lure customers with attractive packages (for students for example), only for these to discover high hidden fees. Check online and check again with a sales representative at a branch.

 

 

Notes and Sources:

(1): Rating of Georgian Commercial Banks, May 11, 2015, http://cbw.ge/banking/rating-of-commercial-banks/. Please note that JSC Bank of Georgia is a commercial bank. It should not be confused with the National Bank of Georgia.

(2): http://expressbank.ge/ge/bank-of-georgia-and-jsc-privatbank-join-statement (Georgian)

(3): http://www.iset-pi.ge/images/Projects_of_MPRC/Financial_Soundness_Report.pdf. Pages 1-3 for the Executive Summary and page 57 for the Conclusion.

(4): http://dfwatch.net/constitutional-court-suspends-new-bank-supervision-agency-38591 (October13, 2015) and http://factcheck.ge/en/article/the-parliament-of-georgia-took-the-recommendations-of-international-organisations-in-account-whilst-adopting-the-law-on-the-national-bank-of-georgia-2/ among many others.

(5) List of commercial banks operating in Georgia: https://www.nbg.gov.ge/index.php?m=403&lng=eng. Consumers’ page: http://nbg.gov.ge/cp/index.php. Statistics of the National Bank of Georgia: https://www.nbg.gov.ge/index.php?m=304&lng=eng.

(6): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bank_of_Georgia_headquarters

(7): http://feradi.info/en/visualizations/lari-explorer?category=economy_business&view=interactive

Public transport maps and schedules for buses and minibuses in Tbilisi

I recently participated to a small workshop organized by a government agency to brainstorm useful services for tourists, visitors and foreign residents in Georgia. Most of the participants to that workshop had spend 6 months or more in Georgia but, together with a friends, we were surprised to see that not all of them knew about the official online websites for bus and minibus services in the capital.

Autobuses – http://transit.ttc.com.ge (previously http://transiten.ttc.com.ge)

The website of the “Tbilisi Transport Company” has a useful Journey Planner, route schemes and timetables (under the menu Timetables in the left column) and real-time data. The Bus in Realtime option gives you the location of buses along each line of the network, and the Stop Board Info shows you the expected waiting times at any of the bus stops (particularly useful to know when to leave your building and minimize your waiting time at the stop).

The journey planner information and real time data are shown on maps. Data entry uses addresses or the stop number (every bus stop has a unique identifier). Zoom and scroll to find the number of your departure and arrival stops on the map, then input those numbers in the journey planner to plan your trip.

Tbilisi_public transport network_bus stop and stop board

Pictured: bus stop in Shindisi village on the outskirts of Tbilisi. Notice the electronic LED board with waiting times. The other sign tells you to send an SMS to 93344 with the stop number (here 2885) in order to receive an SMS with the expected waiting time until the next bus.

Minibuses – http://tm.ge

This website is the public face of the Tbilisi Microbuses Limited Liability Company (შპს “თბილისის მიკროავტობუსის”). It has an excellent interactive map to figure out your way around town with marshrutkas (маршрутки) – the Russian name for minibuses. On the main page, click on “Eng” for English, choose the menu and sub-menu Routes > Search for Routes, click on “Eng” again and then click on your departure and arrival point on the map to find out the best minibuses between the two.

Unfortunately, those two websites aren’t integrated yet but with a bit of practice, the many hubs from which users transfer from minibuses to the metro or to autobuses become quite obvious (Baratashvili street, Didube station, etc.).

You have to pay the fare when you getting onto the bus but pay the driver of the minibus only when you get off the vehicle. Both buses and minibuses accept the “Metromoney” (მეტრომანი) prepaid card of the subway network. Typical fares are 50 tetri for a bus ride (0.50 GEL) and 65 to 80 tetri for a minibus ride. You won’t have to pay again if you transfer between two buses, from a bus to a metro or vice versa within an hour and a half.

 

Reference: more information about the public transport system in Tbilisi (Georgian), http://www.momxmarebeli.ge/?menu=73&rec=152

Soon in Tbilisi: the GENERATOR 9.8

Summer is when the pulse of the city slows down. Residents of Tbilisi travel to the many countrysides of Georgia to escape the heat of the city. Yet this summer, an unusual buzz took possession of Atoneli street, near the entrance of the Dry bridge. Volunteers are actively scraping, painting, sawing and assembling what’s to become a new hub of cultural, social and educational activities and events in Tbilisi.

Generator_9-8_logo1_sGenerator 9.8 is on the way. It will include a coworking space and a social bar.

Project & Team

Generator 9.8 is an initiative of the “International Centre for Peace and Integration (ICPI)(1), a Georgian non-profit organization involved in numerous EU programs, including the European Voluntary Service (EVS) and Erasmus+. It will include a coworking space and a social bar.

A lot of reflection and planning has gone into this initiative since the founders first talked about it in 2013. Natali Kenkadze, Ani Kokhtashvili, Ana Philauri and Khatuna Chaladze are busier than ever but determined to make their vision happen.

Inspired by the emerging movement of collaborative consumption(2) (Natali has conducted many trainings on this topic across Europe), they have settled for a not-for-profit social enterprise driven by the energies of volunteers.

Generator_9-8_first-meeting-with-volunteers
First meeting with volunteers.

ICPI have convinced the investors of the Startup Terrace of GITA(3), of Startup Marani(4) and just a few weeks ago, of the Ministry of Sports and Youth to support the project and provide startup funds and methodological support. Additionally, ICPI is meeting both small and large companies to co-fund the Generator or to trade some support against publicity for the company. To ensure the project’s’ sustainability, ICPI has also created a club of “business angels” to raise donations on a regular basis towards paying the rent and the bills.

Location & space

The premises are a 120 square meters’ cafe on Atoneli street, at the bottom of Leonidze park and just 400 meters off Rustaveli avenue. Large trees on the sidewalk provide welcome shadow to the group of about 10 volunteers who currently conduct renovation work.

Generator_9-8_photo1  Generator_9-8_photo2
Renovation work in progress.

Inside, the ground floor comprises a kitchen, the cafe area with the bar and two toilets. Above, two mezzanines will be equipped to host the coworkers. The space is projected to host up to 30 coworkers or a maximum of 100 people during events. A ramp will be provided for wheelchair access to the ground floor from the street.

A day at Generator 9.8

Start your day with a hot drink and surround yourself with the studious atmosphere of the Generator. Until 7pm every day, members come to Generator 9.8 to get work done. Of course, you’re more than welcome to engage in a conversation with your neighbors and learn more about them and what they are working on. This is the essence of coworking where, through contacts made in the same work place, people expand their network and horizons!

The following services will be available: Internet, printer, scanner, xerox machine and mobile telephone as well as notarial, accounting and lawyer’s services. The staff will encourage sharing and the exchange of information (infodesk, access to a library and other resources). A wardrobe service will be made available and coworkers will have the possibility to use the fridge if they bring their lunch with them. They will also have the possibility to order Italian specialties from the kitchen.

At 7pm starts the “aperitivo”, a happy hour to transition to a more festive and relaxed atmosphere. Break the ice and engage in full-fledged conversations with other members! Drink orders during that hour will be accompanied by free snacks.

The evening program starts at 8pm, with a different cultural, social or educational activity every night. These will include an Italian language club, a film club, conferences, workshops and concerts.

Memberships

Memberships will be reasonably priced in an effort to attract a wide array of young people and professionals. The projected membership plans consist in monthly passes to use the space 1 day per week, 2 days per week, 3 days per week or every day. The membership plans will include tea and coffee.

The primary target of Generator 9.8 are startups, NGOs(5) and freelancers but anyone who shares the values and objectives of the project will be welcome (students, informal groups, young people, youth initiatives…).

Rendez-vous at the end of August for the opening!

Generator_9-8_logo2_s

 

Facebook: Generator 9.8 / გენერატორი 9.8
Address: Atoneli street 29, Tbilisi, Georgia
Contact Tel.: (+995) 557 229998

 

Footnotes:

(1) About ICPI

logo_ICP I

International Centre for Peace and Integration – ICPI is a Georgian non-governmental non-profit youth organization founded in February, 2011 by young people with 9-10 years of working experience in the NGO sector. The main mission of ICPI is to support socially active youngsters, promote integration and contribute to peace-building processes, to give a hand to create a more active, educated and modern society. The organization aims to support young people’s personal, educational and spiritual development, to promote the idea of active citizenship and the importance of volunteering, to deepen intercultural relations and build partnerships between Georgia and other European countries.

The organization cooperates with different NGOs in different countries of the world and is actively involved in the ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Commission, organizing training courses, youth exchanges on various topics. ICPI is an EVS (European Voluntary Service) hosting and sending organization.

 

(2) Collaborative consumption: when technology enables people to share the use of objects which each of them would previously own. “Access” replaces “ownership”. Reference: http://content.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2059521_2059717_2059710,00.html

(3) Georgia’s Innovation and Technology Agency (GITA), http://gita.gov.ge/

(4) Startup Marani, http://startupmarani.ge/

(5) NGO: Non-governmental Organization