he Women Business Council in Georgia (WBCG) is creating an online platform that will be dedicated to women entrepreneurs working in different fields of the Georgian economy. The platform will give them an opportunity to share their experience and help each other in building their own careers and success stories.
In addition, the WBCG plans to create a ‘meeting platform’ where women entrepreneurs will meet each other and discuss various initiatives, issues and challenges.
Chairwoman of WBCG Natia Meparishvili said that the organization also plans to become more active in the regions of Georgia and support women’s regional businesses in the country.
“Unfortunately, the global coronavirus pandemic has also affected our organization’s activities, but we are working on very interesting and useful projects and all of them will be implemented. This year we had to postpone our annual conference of ‘Women’s Role in Economic Growth and Policy Development’ until September and I hope this date will not be changed again”, Meparishvili said.
The WBCG is a membership-based non-profit organization founded in May 2015, and works with women from diverse communities locally and regionally and delivers a broad range of services that inspire participants to become economically active and personally fulfilled.
You said the coronavirus affected the activities of the WBCG. How has the organization overcome the challenges created by the pandemic?
We had to postpone our annual conference. This is a two-day conference during which more than 400 women entrepreneurs from various fields of the economy come together and summarize the current year, emphasizing the needs, voicing possible support programs, exchanging views and at the same time bringing forward current problems and opportunities for women.
The big challenge was the fears and questions of entrepreneurs, suspended startups, sharply reduced revenues. We had online groups where we shared with each other the new challenges that we faced. We all understood and patience was needed to let the situation calm down a little bit.
The pandemic has chained us to the virtual communication space. The council has not stopped working on the topics of the annual conference, which requires a lot of effort.
We also worked on the annual magazine, which will cover interesting women of 2020, who were able to deal with these challenges.
Georgia has been praised for its efforts in fighting against the coronavirus by the international media. How would you assess the government’s actions in the fight against the pandemic?
First of all, I would like to express my deep respect for all the doctors.
Those who read the international press are even more convinced of the successful work of our country and the government in fighting against the pandemic. There was a quick and effective response to the restrictions, but the most important thing was the high self-esteem of the citizens, and if not for this unity, we would have had a worse result.
In your opinion, how much do companies and businesses in Georgia cope with the pandemic? What kind of dangers/obstacles do they face and what kind of help do they need?
Our business society is suddenly facing a very big challenge. Moreover, for a developing country like ours, this challenge doubles the impact on the economy. The situation of a number of industries and sectors is critical. The tourism industry, which had been developing dynamically, is now stagnant. It is noteworthy that the contribution of tourism and the travel sector in employment was about 30 per cent, and employed about 480,000 people.
For some small and medium-sized companies, the pandemic may be so devastating that the struggle for survival will result in even more financial losses. It is especially difficult for those who have loans. It was very important that financial institutions have postponed the payment of loans for three months.
In your opinion, how will the pandemic change the business environment in Georgia?
I think working remotely, working from home will become more popular and will be established in the modern ‘Doing Business’ culture. It will dramatically reduce costs.
More innovative startups will be developed and the demand for learning a number of skills will increase.
For one year we will have an atypical environment in business; some businesses who have already studied their audience, have defined and calculated turnovers and so on, all of this will completely change and they will have to rearrange their activites as current events have changed people’s behavior, approaches and priorities.
I would like to remind the business community of Margaret Thatcher’s words: “Never give up and you will see others give up!” I hope nobody gives up.