The FINANCIAL -- Business Investment Group (BIG) is continuing to offer funding to micro and small-sized businesses in Georgia, those that are built around the business needs of micro and small-sized retail stores, providers of various services and household farms.
As a leading microfinance organization, BIG is focused on sustainable development and implementing economic, social and environmental objectives in line with international principles of the microfinance sector.
The main strategic directions of the company at this stage are rural development; improvement of the company’s overall efficiency through introduction of technological products and sophistication of the existing ones; also implementation of social projects having beneficial impacts both on its clients and the society as a whole.
BIG emerged on the Georgian market in 2008 and currently brings together more than 200 employees working at its head office and 10 service centres.
In addition to business and agricultural sector loans, BIG offers auto loans to individuals.
BIG won its first Golden Brand award as ‘Microfinance Organisation N1’ thanks to the utmost success the company achieved in the branding of their business.
Giorgi Mariamidze, General Director of BIG, talked about the reasons why Golden Brand experts and customers named BIG one of their favourite brands in Georgia.
“BIG offers flexible and customer-tailored products. We try to introduce individual products in accordance with the needs of the customer. We also care about our existing and potential customers and offer them trainings on various topics. For example, we launched a project ‘BIG for Farmers’ and offer special training to farmers with the help of an agriculture sector specialist. BIG has been facilitating these training sessions since 2011. In 2016-2017, four trainings were held in four regions of Georgia: Telavi, Gori, Senaki and Akhaltsikhe,” he said.
“BIG has been implementing the project ‘BIF for Women Entrepreneurs’ since 2016. The project involves organising training with the help of invited specialists in accounting, tax and other issues of interest to women entrepreneurs. The participants of the trainings held in 2016-2017 were awarded certificates and training materials,” he added.
“Last year we had different marketing activities. We launched advertising campaigns on social networks and TV, which increased awareness of our company,” Mariamidze said.
Q. BIG has been represented on the Georgian market since 2008. How have the company and Georgian market developed over these years?
A. BIG started its activities with just one branch back in 2008. Today we are represented in almost every region of Georgia with a total of 10 branches. During this time the company has successfully overcome many challenges.
As of today there are over 70 microfinancing organisations on the market but the business models of only some of them are based on responsible financing and have a social responsibility. BIG is one of those organisations that has the right values and I think the Golden Brand Awards proves this fact and enables me to say that BIG is one of Georgia’s leading microfinancing organisations.
Q. You mentioned challenges. Could you please tell us what challenges the company has overcome?
A. As I have already mentioned, there are many players on the market and for our company the challenge is distinguish ourselves compared to our competitors and to show customers that we care about their financial welfare. Luckily, we have achieved this goal as our products meet customers’ needs.
As for further development of the market, I think more should be done to maximally take into account customers’ interests and to raise the financial education of customers.
Q. The microfinancing sector is one of the fastest growing sectors of Georgia. In your opinion, what caused such rapid development of this sector?
A. In recent years small and medium businesses and start-ups have developed very fast. I think the development of microfinancing organisations is related to this process. For small entrepreneurs it is vital to have access to credit resources. Microfinance organisations are playing a very important role for the self-employed part of the population, since banks mainly focus on large enterprises and SMEs.
As of today, BIG serves about 9,000 clients. It is thanks to our support that many micro businesses have been developed in Georgia.
BIG strategically focuses on securing and protecting the rights of our clients. Before disbursing a loan we conduct detailed analysis of revenue and verify the client’s credit history. Based on this information, we offer customer-customised products. Due to an individual business’s specificity, we can offer an individualised payment schedule for customers.
In our portfolio the share of problematic loans makes up just three percent. We try to adjust to our customers and help them avoid indebtedness.
In July 2016, BIG endorsed the Smart Campaign and the Seven Client Protection Principles ensuring maximum protection of their clients’ interests. The company is ready to adjust its business model to the principles mentioned above in order to obtain a Smart Campaign Certificate. In this way, BIG will improve and strengthen its reputation as an accountable and reliable microfinance organisation.
Q. BIG does not provide funding to those businesses that are having a negative impact on the environment. How important is CSR for the company and what activities do you run in this direction?
A. Human activity has undoubtedly had an adverse impact on the environment. Like many companies, BIG is concerned with issues such as climate change, pollution and the consumption of non-renewable resources.
BIG acknowledges its responsibility to protect the environment and has developed this policy accordingly, which aims to: reduce any potential negative impacts on the environment made by the company, select clients based on their environmental principles, and implement environmental activities.
BIG is a member of the CSR club and has been implementing various activities to raise awareness of environmental protection.
Q. What innovative products has BIG offered to clients?
A. In 2017 we launched an innovative product ‘Business Loan for Legal Entities’. This product is an online platform through which legal entities are able to fill out an application online and get up to GEL 10,000 credit. This product was implemented in partnership with Quick Cash LLC.