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Friday, December 30, 2011

Can I get a job or promote my business idea using Reality TV? Yes, You Can, in Georgia!

Georgians Looking for Jobs, Loans Can Make a Pitch on Reality TV - Wall Street Journal

TBILISI, Georgia—Governments around the world are scrambling to find innovative policies to create jobs in the teeth of a global downturn. In ex-Soviet Georgia, the government appears to have found a policy that's all its own: reality TV.

Every Sunday, Georgians gather to watch "Employ and Get Employed," an "American Idol"-inspired extravaganza, with echoes of "The Apprentice," on which unemployed citizens and wannabe tycoons pitch business plans to a panel of judges.

On "Employ or Get Employed," the new reality TV hit in the former communist state of Georgia, unemployed citizens and wannabe tycoons pitch business ideas to a panel of bankers. WSJ's Joe Parkinson reports from Tbilisi.

Only this panel of four suited men isn't chaired by a Georgian Simon Cowell, or even a Donald Trump.

Here, participants pitch to Vladimir Gurgenidze, head of Liberty Bank, who until 2008 was Georgia's prime minister; the current prime minister's brother, Bank of Georgia director Irakli Gilauri; plus a third banker and the mayor of the capital, Tbilisi. Mayor Giorgi "Gigi" Ugulava is widely expected to run for president in 2013, when his political mentor Mikheil Saakashvili steps down.

The show, screened at prime time, is notching up one of the highest ratings on Georgian TV.

A recent episode featured a Tbilisi pest-controller called "The Exterminator," who sought capital to decorate his van in cockroach skins. A man who said he was an economics professor pitched for financing to build a flying-saucer-shaped hotel. He said he had been contacted by aliens.

Soon after the show first aired in November, a trainee priest, accompanied by two uniformed female chauffeurs, pitched a "Pink Taxi" service that would be driven by women and only take women passengers. Neither of his companions had a driver's license, the show's producers said, but that didn't put off the panel. Bank of Georgia offered him a start running a taxi from its own fleet.

Critics say "Employ and Get Employed" is essentially a state enterprise, designed to help Mr. Saakashvili's pro-Western, pro-market regime overcome its political Achilles' heel: high unemployment. Georgia's official unemployment rate in September was 15.5%.

The show is bankrolled with funds backed by Tbilisi City Hall. The capital up for grabs—1.1 million lari, or about $660,000—is distributed by banks, but also guaranteed by the city government. If the panel likes a pitch, they offer the contestant a business loan at a 6% interest rate—far cheaper than the national average of around 20%—to help grow their ideas and combat unemployment.

As well as low-interest-rate loans, the panel can offer government jobs, places in state-run business education programs or free leases on municipal land. The show is broadcast weekly on the privately owned, pro-government TV channel, Rustaveli 2. It is produced by the team responsible for "Georgia's Got Talent" and the Georgian versions of "American Idol" and "Big Brother."

Mr. Ugulava, re-elected Tbilisi's mayor in 2010, is a philosophy graduate and former journalist. As the panel's chairman, he announces which contestants succeed in bids for state-backed loans. If a pitch falls flat and fails to secure a loan, the mayor occasionally doles out a job, a one-off contract or even lifestyle advice instead.

Bachuki Bakhtadze, a guitar teacher and composer from Tbilisi, asked for support to launch a floating restaurant for Georgian banquets. The panel decided that, as Georgian banquets are notoriously wine and vodka soaked affairs, the floating restaurant wouldn't be safe, or profitable. The mayor did, however, promise Mr. Bakhtadze a job as a tour guide at the capital's annual festival.

Guram Jobadze also failed to get funding for his project. He wanted to sell coil-shaped potato chips on skewers at vending stalls across Tbilisi. Still, he was offered a place to study at city hall's flagship business education program.

Mayor Ugulava also promotes Tbilisi's latest public works on the show. He leads the show's glamorous blonde presenter on tours that in recent weeks have encompassed the capital's new reservoir; an under-construction emergency call center; and a highway project designed to reduce travel times and accidents en route to the capital.

Since the so-called Rose Revolution swept President Saakashvili to power in 2003, his government has won international acclaim for economic reforms that overhauled labor and tax legislation, reduced corruption and eased the regulatory framework.

But while Mr. Saakashvili and his ruling United National Movement party survived defeat in a war with Russia in 2008, high unemployment is among the factors eating away at their popularity, in this country of about 4.5 million.

Mr. Ugulava's on-screen benevolence has raised some eyebrows. Critics say Georgia's business-friendly government is using the show to promote itself ahead of parliamentary elections next year, and to position the mayor for a run at the presidency a year later, when Mr. Saakashvili's final term expires.

"Of course this is political, but in a way it's smart politics. It's a pre-election treat for voters where the mayor is shoring up his credentials as a reform-minded job creator," said Koba Turmanidze, a political analyst at Tbilisi State University. "In Georgia, people like big political personalities."

From his office on the top floor of Tbilisi's 21-story city hall building, Mayor Ugulava denied the show is shaped to boost his popularity. He said he was warned by colleagues—and by his wife—of the political risks of starring in the show, but he wanted to help embed a free-market mindset in Georgia's population.

"The show's clearly not populist, because I have to say 'no' to a lot of people, and politicians don't like to do that; it brings no political benefit," said Mr. Ugulava. "We're a former Soviet state and we need to keep sending a message to the public: 'This is no longer a planned economy and the attitude cultivated during the Soviet period of reliance on the state is no longer relevant here.'"

Georgia's current prime minister, Nika Gilauri, also scoffed at suggestions that the show has a political objective. "Employ and Get Employed" is "like any other business show," he said in an interview.

Producer Giorgi Khaburzania said he previously tried to produce a show using the "Apprentice" format, but "it didn't work. We needed more money and more funny contestants," he said. "With this show, we've got it all."

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Georgia Certificate of The Compatriot Residing Abroad - Law passed and design is ready. Soon will be available for overseas compatriots!

Georgia State Minister of Diaspora Issues Mirza (Papuna) Davitaia and Georgia Deputy Minister of Justice Giorgi Vashadze presented design of the Georgia Certificate of The Compatriot Residing Abroad. The winner of the design contest Mamuka Gongadze was awarded 5000 GEL for his work.

The best design contest for the Georgia Certificate of Compatriot Residing Abroad Compatriots was announced on November 7. Those who were willing to participate had to submit their work by December 1st  to It was possible to view the works online on the Georgia State Minister's social network website –

Georgia Certificate of The Compatriot winning design and now, the formal and official design, looks like a booklet filled in Georgian and English languages. The background images feature Georgian public figures residing abroad, musical score of the anthem of Georgia and other Georgia historical sites and places.

The legal foundation of this Certificate is the bill "On the compatriots living abroad and diaspora organizations". The bill was passed by the Parliament of Georgia in November 2011. Bill "On the compatriots living abroad and diaspora organizations" will come into force in March 2012. That's the expected time when first Certificates will be issued to overseas compatriots. The purpose of the bill is to define public policy and the principles of Georgia with regard to overseas compatriots, to form the basis for implementation of this policy, and to determine the legal status of overseas Georgian compatriots and Georgian diaspora organizations.

Below you could see some snapshots of the Certificate. For additional information please visit online official page of the Georgia House of Justice (in english):

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Eristavi Wine vs. Eristoff Vodka from Bacardi: "wine story" sounds better for me...

Few weeks ago I wrote about one of the noblest Georgian families of Eristavi (Eristoff) and then there was another post from me talking about new Bacardi Vodka – Eristoff, advertised these days in many countries.

Well, I don’t drink vodka much and I can’t judge quality of Eristoff vodka. I was just a bit concerned about accuracy of branding and promoting it as a “100% grain vodka” which is ridiculous, given an old and very well known tradition of grape 'chacha' (Georgian grape vodka) in Georgia, as grain is not very much cultivated in Georgia, specifically in that mountainous part of the country,Bacardi was mentioning in the Eristoff vodka story.

Anyway, further research of Eristavi (Eristoff) ‘brand’ helped me to find another product associated with it, and I would say more ‘user friendly’ for me personally – wine!

Looks like there is a local Californian winery, called Eristavi Winery. This information below is from their website:

“Master Vintner Victor Eristavi passionately instills a unique combination of old-world winemaking techniques and modern technology to create his handcrafted wines – while capturing the essence of distinct California grape varietals.”

Eristavi winemakers does not claim they are affiliated with any Eristavi Dukes or Princes, like Bacardi does, but honestly I have more trust in Georgian wine called Eristavi, then in Georgian “100% grape” vodka called Eristoff. However, Eristavi winery has a coat of arms, supposedly Eristavi coat of arms.

This is, I guess, more for decoration purposes, but at the same reminding us that Eristavi is not just another Georgian last name, but has long history and great traditions.

Well, back to Georgian wines in California from Eristavi Winery. They feature 3 wines:

2009 Zinfandel: “Medium bodied vintage offers delicious aromas of red cherry and raspberry fruit. The silky mouthfeel reveals a touch of dark chocolate and spicy oak leading to a gorgeous finish. Made in elegant and balanced style, making it an ideal for an array of hearty dishes”

2009 Zinfandel is an award winning wine from Dry Creek Valley. Retail price is $30 and you can buy it online here

Syrah 2009 – “Deep violet color packed with rich ripe fruit and berry flavors with a touch of spiciness. A rich, smooth wine that is well-balanced with a delightful subtle aftertaste. 2009 Syrah is another award winning wine, but this one is from Amador County and priced $28 per bottle. Can be ordered online here.

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 “This is a refreshingly crisp and fruity sauvignon well balanced wine flavorful and smooth, made for daily enjoyment” 2010 Sauvignon Blanc comes from Contra Costa County and I actually plan to start Eristavi wine tasting from this one. It’s priced just $25, but the reason is not the price – I just like Sauvignon wines and this one should be a great representative of this class. To order, follow the link here.

Anyway, Eristavi (Eristoff) is definitely a great brand and product like wine fits perfectly for the business strategy. Especially if you chief winemaker’s name is Eristavi. I plan to taste those wines and may be some time later will post a review on my experience. But if you are not passionate enough to wait, read what others are saying about Eristavi wine and just give it a try, order it online:

2009 Syrah Review at, Rating: 13.5 / 20: “The Eristavi Winery's award winning 2009 Syrah has been selected as's wine of the week for July 18, 2011.” : “Natural Aphrodisiac and Gourmet Foods, Wine, Romantic Travel”

2009 Zinfandel Review at, Rating: 14.5 / 20: “Aromas of red cherry and raspberry lead to a silky mouthfeel with touches of dark chocolate and spicy oak.”

Monday, December 5, 2011

Georgia "Candy Music" Wins Junior Eurovision 2011

Georgia's "Candy" pop band with its "Candy Music" became the winner of the Junior Eurovision 2011 song contest in Yerevan, Armenia. They scored 108 points. The girls, who range in age from 11 to 15, wore leggings and pink dress patterned with candy canes, shoulder pads shaped like dollops of frosting and at least one tutu that resembled cotton candy. The second came the Netherlands with 103 points, followed by Belarus with 99 points. This is not the first time when Georgia wins Kids Eurovision. In 2008 the nation won this contest with a trio of childern dressed as bees singing in an imaginary bee language. See their performance on the scene and complete list of results of all participated countries in Eurovision 2011.

1. Georgia – 108 points
2. The Netherlands – 103 points
3. Belarus – 99 points
4. Russia – 99 points
5. Armenia – 85 points
6. Moldova – 78 points
7. Belgium – 64 points
8. Bulgaria – 60 points
9. Sweden – 57 points
10. Lithuania – 53 points
11. Ukraine – 42 points
12. FYR Macedonia – 31 points
13. Latvia – 31 points