On the outskirts of Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, thousands of books are piled up in a huge warehouse. From classic prose to crime thrillers, romance novels to poetry books, there is something right here for the most discerning reader. Bookland lives up to its name.
For Irakli Sebiskveradze, owner and managing director of this large Georgian book distribution company, the craze for books started at an early age. He turned his passion into a thriving business and is now on a mission to embrace green thinking. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Union are helping it achieve its objectives.
Entrepreneurship can happen at any stage of life. For Irakli, inspiration struck during his student years. It is difficult to say if he chose his profession or his profession chose it.
“My mother is a journalist and writer,” he says. “I wanted to help him promote his books, and at first I visited various institutions and organizations, donating his books to them. This is how the story of Bookland began.
Irakli’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Soon, itinerant booksellers approach him and request his services. The high demand prompted Irakli to buy a used car so that he could move around the city faster, and when demand exceeded capacity, he decided to take it to the next level by starting his business in 2005.
Fast forward 15 years and Bookland now supplies more than 150 bookstores in the Georgian capital, as well as 100 more across the country. The company employs 15 people in 8 bookstores and an online business, which also exports books. The online store has been particularly useful after Georgia introduced lockdown measures in 2020 to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Georgians are avid readers. When all the stores closed last year and we were stranded, many people contacted our online store to stock up, ”Irakli explains. “In translated prose, the classics are still the most popular genres among our readers.
Embrace solar energy
Still on the cutting edge, when Iraqli stumbled upon an advertisement for rooftop photovoltaic panels, he decided he wanted to power his business with clean and efficient solar energy.
Bookland is one of some 170 Georgian companies that have so far received funding from the EBRD-EU flagship program. The EU4Business-BERD line of credit helps local businesses invest in new technologies, become greener, develop their digital presence and expand into new markets. Bookland has secured a loan from EBRD partner financial institution ProCredit Bank Georgia to acquire solar panels and storage systems, which now fully meet the energy needs of Bookland’s warehouse and offices.
The EBRD loan was complemented by a grant and support from local and international advisers for the implementation of the investment project, also funded by the EU4Business initiative. The program is currently available in Armenia, Moldova and Ukraine, helping local businesses become more competitive, both at home and abroad.
Going solar for Bookland means less expense, but the move goes far beyond saving money.
“For us, it was very important to position ourselves as a small company that reduces its negative impact on the environment,” explains Irakli. “We hope that more entrepreneurs will step up their green commitments and together we will lead the way in introducing more sustainable ways of doing business. “
The EBRD is a leading institutional investor in Georgia. To date, the Bank has invested more than € 4 billion in the finance, business, infrastructure and energy sectors, 79% of which in the private sector.