With the economic development community stuck at home, fDi is reaching out to professionals on the FDI frontline as they grapple with the biggest global challenge in recent history. 

Georgia has been more successful than many countries in containing the spread of Covid-19. Nonetheless, Mikheil Khidureli, CEO of Invest in Georgia, sees this period as an opportunity for the country to reboot its investment proposition beyond tourism. 

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Q: How have the last few weeks been for you and your team?

A: Georgia was one of the first countries to put restrictions in place back in early February, and although it has been a huge inconvenience for many people we have stuck together and followed the government’s recommendations.  

I have been moving around a lot and attending factories because our agency is also responsible for local production and we have been mass-producing face masks.

Q: How have Enterprise Georgia’s activities changed during the crisis?

We have been focussing more on the reach-out process, which includes research and communication through emails and online conferences. Our customer relationship manager (CRM) system has helped us a lot too because we have all our pipelines there so we know where we are with each investor.

Although everybody knew technology was important, this period has helped emphasise how essential it is. There’s a lot of room for improvement in how we use tech. After the virus, I’m sure many organisations will revisit their operations and implement more technology.

Q: How are you planning for life after the crisis?

A: First of all, supply chains will change. I think many European countries will try to diversify their supply chains away from China, and Georgia offers a good option.

We are looking to improve our value propositions for the business outsourcing sector. The government will support us with funds for labour force training and infrastructure and office renovation. We will be utilising Georgia as a new destination for work, not just for factories but for warehousing and storage, as it could be just a part of the value chain that is relocated rather than the whole supply chain.

Location is more important now than ever, and Georgia has an advantage because of its geographical location between east and west. Geographically, we are at the edge of Europe, and we have very good access to Asia. We’re the only country in the [Caucasus] region to have free trade agreements with both China and the European Union, which means that both Chinese and European companies can utilise Georgia as a supply chain destination.

 Q: Georgia has ranked in the top 20 FDI Intelligence’s Tourism Locations of the future. How do you see this sector being affected?

 A: We are revisiting our strategy to improve our value proposition because global FDI is decreasing, which means that there will be fierce competition. I think for at least the next three or six months it will be really hard to invest in or attract many tourists, especially in capital cities, but the fact that we will start opening up sooner than some other countries gives us an advantage attracting tourists.  

Mikheil Khidureli is the CEO of Enterprise Georgia.

You can find the full archive of the fDi’s Virus Diaries series at the following link. If you work in economic development or investment promotion and want to share your experience in dealing with the coronavirus, get in touch at fDi@ft.com.