Issue 6, 2017. December-January



Indian investors are increasingly opening restaurants, shops and financing films in Georgia.

Lika Jorjoliani

Darispan Prasher at a Georgian event dedicated to Indian dancing

Indian investors are coming to Georgia, attracted by the country's streamlined laws for opening businesses and the growing tourism industry.

Large Indian companies have long been interested in Georgia: a bilateral agreement to start a feasibility study for a free trade deal between Georgia and India was signed in April 2017.

For example, JSW Steel partnered with Georgian Steel Group Holding Limited to establish a plant to convert metal scraps into reinforced steel bars in 2009.

Trans Electrica was founded by Indian firm Continental Construction, along with British and Georgian firms, to construct hydro power plants in Georgia. Tata Power invested around 280 million dollars in a power project in Georgia. KEC International has been working in power transmission in Georgia for more than five years.

But smaller investors-farmers, restaurateurs, and filmmakers-are coming in larger numbers today, according to Darispan Prasher, who works as the Adviser to the Rector in International Affairs at Caucasus International University .

While Indian citizens were initially attracted to Georgia for agriculture, today they are coming to open restaurants and retail businesses, as well as to study at Georgian universities.

Prasher, who used to work at the Georgian embassy in India, noted that many Indian farmers left after Georgian law was changed to restrict foreign ownership of agricultural land.

Today, he said, the majority of Indians in Georgia are opening shops and restaurants: there are around 20 Indian restaurants in Tbilisi alone.

Riju Naniyil recently started a business in Georgia. He is 30, newly married and is planning to move his family to Georgia. His business is a start-up, a small café-restaurant called Asian Cuisine, which is located in a prestigious part of Old Tbilisi.

"I registered my business 11 months ago. Prior to that, I leased this area. We mainly serve students and deliver fast food to Indian students. Generally, I suppose that my clients are Indian students, as well as tourists and local citizens," he said.

Naniyil said he was initially attracted to the country by the simple business registration procedures.

Anyle Sood manages the Sanja Chula restaurant on Aghmashenebeli Avenue. He arrived from Dehli two years ago in order to start a business, and initially planned to open a shoe factory.

But eventually he settled on managing the restaurant for its Indian owner.

"Primary investments for the starting of a business in Georgia are less than in India. And leasing of this restaurant in India would be much more expensive. In fact, starting a business in Georgia is easier," he said.

He notes that Indian cuisine is gaining popularity in Georgia, and the restaurant caters to locals as well as Indians and tourists.

"Our restaurant employs 50 persons. Right now we are only in Tbilisi, but we want to expand," he said.

From Svaneti to Bollywood

India's film industry has also become increasingly active in Georgia, in part thanks to the government's "Film in Georgia" program, which offers foreign film producers incentives to film in Georgia.

Prasher said he has taken part in two film productions, including an Indian film, "Machine," which was produced and directed by two Bollywood producers, the brothers Abbas and Mastan Burmawalla.

The second was an Indian thriller-"Mom"-was filmed in Svaneti.

Aromal Vasantha Kumar, the Director of Roza Rise Multinational Company, decided to establish a business that includes films in its portfolio after coming to Georgia as a tourist.

"My friends living here told me about their experience," he said.

"When I arrived here, I found that Georgia is a rapidly developing country, has friendly relations with Europe and has received a visa-free regime."

He added that the conditions seemed right to start a business.

"I opened my own company. The business climate is very attractive. My company is multi-profiled; I am dealing with tourism, the film industry and work in education," he said.

The film industry, he said, is particularly interesting, and he is working on attracting Indian filmmakers to Georgia. The country is beautiful, he said, noting that "Aghmashenebeli Avenue looks like Paris."