Millions found in “Kinder Surprise”
29 May, 2014
Millions found in “Kinder Surprise”
He is 39 years old and already the owner of one of the largest businesses in Russia. A Jewish man of Georgian descent owns the most popular network of restaurants.
There are three of them in the business – himself, his brother and his sister’s husband. The name of their holding “G.M.R. – World of Hospitality” starts with their initials – Giorgi, Merab and Roman. Today this holding unites 285 restaurants in 44 cities of 5 countries.
Merab Elashvili was
born in Georgia, in the region of Samtredia, in the village of Kulashi. The Jewish-populated village was dubbed “Little Jerusalem” by locals during Soviet times. His father owned a business, while his mother had a higher musical education but never used it, since being a housewife and raising three children took a lot of her time. Merab was 4 years old when his 23-year-old father died, leaving his wife with three children. Her parents and also her parents-in-law helped her raise the children.
He studied well at school, showing a penchant for mathematics, chemistry and physical education. His mother wanted him to become a doctor, but even then Merab was already leaning towards business and knew that medicine was not his thing. He was 18 when he traveled to Moscow and enrolled in the Academy of Economics and Law to deepen his knowledge. The idea of putting theory into practice did not stop haunting him, however, and one day he came across a “magical egg”, a chocolate treat with a toy inside. Such eggs were a novelty even for Europe back then, and were quickly conquering the hearts of children. Merab quickly calculated that children of post-Soviet countries wouldn’t be able to resist these eggs either, and got involved into importing “Kinder Surprise” to Georgia. It turned out to be a very lucrative business, because his import sold like hot cakes the moment he introduced it to the market. Selling chocolate eggs was a very profitable venture, which signified the beginning of 18-year-old Merab’s career as a businessman.
Later he tried investing money into real estate, but felt that this wasn’t really his calling, something he’d dedicate his life to.
In 1996, he went to Belgium and visited a small pizza joint, where he was treated to a cheap but very delicious pizza. It was then that he understood what Moscow lacked. He quickly made up his mind, bought a license from an American pizza joint network “Sbaro” and opened several pizzerias in Moscow. First the business got on quite well, but then 1998 crisis struck. Things were so bad that in order to save his business, he had to sell a pizza that cost 2 dollars for merely 60 cents. He lost most of his money due to this, but still managed to endure the crisis. Today he says that his love for his work saved him back then.
“I am young and think that I have my whole life ahead. I do not scramble to obtain some set-in-stone capital, I just strive for self-realization. I have a potential to do something useful for myself and society. Since God helped me to achieve such great success in such a small time, I should keep going forward.
Being supported in your business is also crucial. When choosing partners and collaborators, the most important thing for me is to make sure that we have similar values. Responsibility, honesty and ambition – this is the recipe for success. I need to know that the man standing beside me will not disappoint me and will be eager to go forward along with me,” Merab Elashvili says.
Today his holding unites over 5000 collaborators, with his property estimated to be worth hundreds of millions. His restaurant network brings him up to a hundred million dollars in income annually. He says that despite him being far away, Georgia still holds a special place in his heart. “I think like a Georgian, I make decisions like a Georgian. I even count my money as a Georgian would.” – He says with a smile. But this disposition quickly changes when he is reminded of the events of August 2008. “There was a lot of pressure on businessmen in Russia bearing Georgian surnames; their businesses were meddled with. They came after me as well, but we explained who we were and everything settled. Easy come, easy go. The scariest thing was that children with Georgian surnames were mocked and bullied by their peers in schools. Unfortunately, in the last few years, many were forced to change their surnames due to this. It was much easier for them to deal with their problems with a non-Georgian last name. I think differently; I think one should overcome the obstacles no matter what, because life is war.” – Says Merab Elashvili.
He donates a certain part of his income to charity, such as helping children who survived the terrorist attack in Beslan. Free banquets for the disabled are frequently held at his restaurants. In the future he plans to establish his own charity fund which would help youths with enrollment to prestigious schools and universities.
He likes to travel together with his family and regrets that he only managed to visit 30 countries. He likes being in Georgia the most, because it has a certain scent – the scent of his homeland. “I like Georgian dancing a lot, and frequently dance myself during feasts. It’s the best way to express your emotions and feelings,” says Merab. He also plans to write a book in the future, with the topic being him getting along with business.
He possesses many awards, with “Russia’s Best Manager” among them. However, the father of three children emphasizes that the most important awards for him are his family and children.

By Ema Tukhiashvili
"Kviris Palitra"

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