Lasha Tabidze has been with Beeline since 2011, coming from senior positions in companies with a variety of directions. He was recruited as CCO and immediately set to applying his enthusiasm and know-how to grow the brand. In 2018, he was made COO, overseeing a new digital department, amongst other directions. On March 15, almost exactly 10 years since he joined the company, he was appointed CEO. In just a few short months under his leadership, the Beeline market share has grown, as has the number of customers using its data.
“The vision for the company is key- for the whole team to understand where we’re going and why,” Tabidze tells us. “I’ve always encouraged, as both a team leader and now responsible for the whole company, giving people freedom and trust. When you give your team freedom in decision-making, it encourages them to feel responsible and dedicated.
“The key part of leadership is to push your team by making the challenges so interesting that they become eager to take them on and find solutions. Work becomes fun and exciting. This is how I drive my team, and how we all together drive the company toward success.”
What are your values in terms of running, maintaining and growing a business? Is doing so in Georgia different from doing so elsewhere?
If you follow the rules of a business and make yourself an integral part of that business, it doesn’t matter where you are [in the world], or in which industry you’re in: you will succeed.
Bringing the international experience we have to the Georgian market was very helpful. We share our knowhow, our way of doing business, with those vendors and partners working with us. Of course, compliance and integrity capture particular interest- many Georgian companies still don’t exercise such a focus on compliance and due diligence. But we’re seeing our partners taking on these concepts and applying them in their own companies.
When I joined the company, technology was limited- we had 2G, and, thanks to my belief, what we did was to jump straight to 4G, skipping 3G, the first in the world to do so. It was stressful and a huge investment. The vision, and the strategy built around that vision, is always key. You have to have your strategy built around your vision and execute every step of that strategy.
That is what I, as a leader of a super team, always aim to deliver.
You have come to the post at a different time globally and economically. What do you see as the challenges you’ll face? How will you overcome them?
2020 was a critical year for any business. When the lockdown came into effect and the borders were shut, we immediately lost all income from roaming. Consumer habits also changed- being stuck at home meant they had little use for mobile internet, using their home Wi-Fi instead. It hit Beeline hard, but because we had been investing in digital business- serving customers digitally, for a long time, we were ready, and got our entire team, including the Call Center, online within four days, uninterruptedly serving our 1.3 million customers through various digital channels. We pioneered SIM-vending machines on the streets, and it proved very popular. What we’d built as a legacy, our digital services, were boosted in 2020. We worked hard, fast and were ready for it.
In 2020, we tripled our digital performance in terms of application users, as well as introducing completely new products in music and gaming to the Georgian market. At the same time, we brought on Georgian startups, giving them the chance to join us and grow despite the challenges of the pandemic.
With this innovation, growth-mindset and collaboration, I’m confident we will be successful in 2021 and beyond, delivering new experiences across the Georgian market.
Tell us about the Beeline culture which has been developed, and about what makes Beeline and its team so special to you.
The culture cultivated in this company leads to high employee satisfaction, and the remuneration is just a part of that. The key is our corporate culture: the people come first, their comfort and satisfaction levels. Only after that is assured are other business decisions made. Treating each other fairly, all working as a team- this is key to our business success, and it took years to cultivate this unique atmosphere in our company. We’re happy to have done so successfully.
We started out as number three on the market. Now, we have 25% of the market share. It’s a great achievement. The key is to have employees thinking and working with the “winning mindset”. You learn, grow and never give up. When mistakes are made, you learn from them, expand your experience and get back on track even stronger. Even as number 3, we made it possible to win more market share, be number 2 in data users market share, and number 1 in data users penetration, smart phone penetration, and in other products.
“Winners never quit, and quitters never win” – this is the company winning mindset. For me, it’s one of the most important approaches to business.
What do you hope to personally bring to the company? What do you think the company needs to achieve the most?
I hope to bring even more energy, innovation, dedication and speed of decision-making. The speed of the leader impacts the entire company. Being a good leader means aiming to unlock your team’s potential, giving them the capability to grow.
Being a leader means learning continuously, then coaching, guiding, and supporting your team- giving them what they need to execute the strategy while working at the highest level as a team to achieve even more.
What’s your outlook for Beeline and the Georgian telecomm sector for 2021 and beyond?
It’s good to see the industry getting back to growth, and not only slight growth, but doubling year-on-year. 2020 was bad, but we focus on our customers’ behavior more than external factors. In 2019, we had 9 million people come to Georgia. Last year, that was close to 0. In 2021, we can maybe expect 1.5 million, not more. The growth I mentioned is coming from our Georgian customers and the new services we’re delivering.
This year, we started with a very strong first quarter, and April and May too, and we’re already looking at double the growth year-on-year, developing with high dynamics with regards our digital products. We listen to our customers’ experiences and needs. We’ve introduced non-telecom products just for them- language learning, fitness platforms, music platforms, gaming- and more is to come.
We’re on a new track right now, supported by my entire team in the understanding that we must be there for our customers, not only in delivering communication, and providing them the opportunity to interact with us on any digital channel, but also to deliver superior non-telecom services which will make life better.
If our customers are happy, the company can only grow. The customer is the foundation for the growth of any business.