Georgia’s Wissol Group and the EBRD are longstanding partners
I co-own and run several successful companies which are part of Wissol Group. We expanded two of the companies, Wissol Petroleum and the Smart Retail supermarket chain, with the help of EBRD financing (up to US$ 70 million for Wissol and US$ 13 million for Smart).
Our 14 Smart supermarkets are a favourite with families in Georgia looking for a quality retail experience - and for a very good reason. We offer something taken for granted in the West but brand new here: a place where you go shopping for high quality groceries while the kids are having fun in the playground and where you can then have a meal and treat everybody to a doughnut afterwards.
Our supermarkets always come with a Wendy’s fast food outlet and they are now being joined by Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants.
At most of our shopping centres you can also fill up the car at a Wissol filling station. The group started in the early 1990s with the creation of Wissol Petroleum and our first links with the EBRD were when we took up a loan through a credit line for medium-sized enterprises.
As Wissol grew, so did our cooperation. In 2014 the first syndicated loan for any Georgian company was arranged for Wissol Petroleum by the EBRD, together with FMO, the Dutch development bank.
Our business philosophy focuses on synergy, with cakes for the supermarket and doughnuts all coming out of one bakery. We are successful, with strong revenues and expansion plans.
At the very heart of our strategy is the satisfaction of our customers. We have some of the most sophisticated laboratories in the country to test all our products, and our customers know they can trust us.
Our group also believes in sustainability, from cutting waste to switching to cleaner technologies, and we can see the benefits in our own business results.
Wissol started building natural gas filling stations back in 2006, when virtually all cars in Georgia ran on conventional petrol. Today about a quarter of Georgian cars run on natural gas: it is more environmentally friendly than petrol and cheaper, even with the current lower oil prices. We have 16 gas filling stations at present.
And we also believe that more quality products we sell should be made in Georgia. Import substitution is an important priority for the government, and we couldn’t agree more. Today most of our groceries are still imported from Germany and other countries, but 85 per cent of fresh fruit and vegetables are locally grown.
We make about 200 products in our bakeries, including bread, pies and cakes, and buns for burgers. And several months ago, we started making the famous Frosty ice-cream for our Wendy’s restaurants right here in Georgia, from Georgian produce.