Mobile press distribution stands on wheels appeared in Tbilisi streets in January 2012. Sellers wearing special jackets and caps sell press from the stands. The inscription on their jackets says – “I love free press.” Press distribution bicycle stands joined the mobile stands starting February 7.
Free Press Supporting Organization has launched the new press distribution network in Tbilisi. The Organization itself was founded by the Georgian Press Assiciation. Main funder of the Organization is BidzinaIvanishvili’sCartu Foundation. Media.ge spoke with the Executive Director of the Free Press Supporting Organization Lekso Jikia about the results and future plans of the Organization.
It has been almost a month since the Free Press Supporting Organization started realization of press. What results have you already achieved?
The given project is still political. We are at the testing stage and for the moment I can say that our project gave a new life to the city. The demand for press is high and it is not surprising as we have just entered the market and people showed natural interest to something new. For example, sales were very high during the first week we started, but it decreased later. The weather was against us too. The time that has passed now is not enough to make the precise analysis.
Our organization was created because distributors lost their kiosks and selling points which caused deficit of press in Tbilisi. Our goal is to eliminate the given deficit. We decided to sell press in a new, organized form. I think we are on the right track. Our service is different and even the uniforms that the sellers are wearing is new for Georgian reality. Those jackets look really nice in the gamma that is called the beauty of Tbilisi.
Your main funder is Cartu Foundation. What is the period of time that the grant has been allocated for by the Foundation?
First transfer of the project – GEL 131,070 is scheduled till February 28. The given amount received from the international charitable fund Cartu was intended for the material-technical equipment of the organization. With the given amount we purchased trolleys, bicycles, jackets and equipped the office, logistics centers and etc. The first grant did not provide for paying the salaries. Although we have not received the second grant yet, we saved some amounts so were able to give out salaries too.
How many employees do you have and what is their salary?
We have over 40 sellers, although only 36 trolleys move around the city for the moment. Our sellers have a salary of GEL 300 and additionally at the end of each month they will receive 7% of the amount received from selling press. Interns go around the city together with main sellers.
What is the principle of the work of logistics centers? How do they decide where to send trolleys?
4 logistics centers operate now – in Lermontov Street, Barnov Street, Tsinamdzgvrishvii Street and at Delisi Subway Station.
Our aim is for free press to get to the readers freely. Press kiosks and fixed stands were located only in central parts of the city, while people live in other places too. We try not to go to the places where press kiosks are already there, or where there are fixed stands at former locations of kiosks. We go out to people.
How do different publications get into your realization network? Do they come to you themselves and ask for distribution?
We do not select specific publications. We contact distribution services and receive all kind of press that they have from them. There are up to 12 distribution services like that in Tbilisi. Next week’s order is made by analyzing sales of previous two-three weeks. We analyze how many we received, what we returned and what we have sold.
If publishers want direct cooperation with us we refuse as publishers will not be able to fulfill the conditions that we have with distribution services. They know how to organize press; when and where to deliver the products.
You are being funded by Cartu Foundation. Is it possible for BidzinaIvanishvili, founder of the Foundation, to influence the activities of your Organization?
There will be no influence. Our organization is a non-governmental, nonpolitical, non-profit organization. We received the grant from the international charitable fund Cartu. The Foundation has the authority to issue a grant and our organization has the right to receive the grant. It will not happen that that person may relate his political viewpoints and strategy with our organization. We started solving problems with Cartu grant, not creating new problems.
How viable is your project? Does your work depend only on grants?
Our project is not a business and commercial project. It is a charitable project. We just want press to freely get to the population.
This means you don’t gain profit?
Our organization conducts business activities, but the principle of non-profitability is considered. It is only about several percent of profit, which cannot be even called the profit. Even this amount will not go to anyone’s pocket; it will again be used for project development.
We are helping the distributors who have faced serious problems. Our aim is for them not to have problems and to develop their business.
May not it happen that you do not receive any grants after certain period of time? Have you thought about that?
You can never say what can happen in future. A specific project cannot be hoping only for assistance from donors all the time. Of course grant amounts will decrease after certain period of time.
For the moment we do not plan to start gaining profit. First we need to form our approach – what it the right decision to enter the given market? Does the society really need this kind of service? After deciding upon all this we will probably start thinking about sustaining our organization at the market.
It seems that the given project is temporary. Can it stop functioning after certain period of time?
We have not given thought to ending the project. We are not thinking about liquidation at the beginning. We have certain plan; I mean further modified plan. We may broaden our functioning area and expend to suburbs – Gladni, Lotkini… Distributors say that Lotkin is unprofitable commercially. I do not agree. Commercial advisability has no importance for me. Demand may not be high at the beginning, but population will get used to it and start buying newspapers.
It all depends on now the society will approach our activities. If we see that the society needs this service and it is necessary for the development of printed media we will of course stay on the market and start modified activities.