Vladimer Gersamia was born in 1983 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Vladimer moved to the Netherlands with his family. He lived there for seven years until 1998, when he attended the British school in the Netherlands. This gave him his first experience of interacting with various nationalities from across the world, as well as getting his first taste of the British education system. In 1998 he went to prestigious Leys boarding school in Cambridge where he completed his high school studies, focusing on history, economics, and English literature. At school, he very much enjoyed playing rugby, representing the first team. He also developed a passion for history, winning the headmaster’s prize in the subject upon graduation.
Following applications to various universities, Vladimer earned a place at Bristol where he studied history in economics. This joint degree allowed him to develop two ways of thinking; one focused on humanities and the other on the technical aspect of business. After graduating from university in 2004, Vladimer was able to obtain a much sought-after role as an analyst in an investment bank in the City of London.
During that period, investment banking was considered a prime profession and competition for positions was extremely intense. Vladimer Gersamia worked in the realm of mergers and acquisitions with British financial institutions for one year, but eventually felt the need to focus his activities on his home region of Eastern Europe. He managed to find a job in the macroeconomic research and fixed-income trade strategy department at Merrill Lynch International in London. At that point, he was one the youngest analysts in the industry, in sole charge of presenting the bank’s view and strategy on fixed income investments in the former Soviet Union. Following such success, Vladimer was invited to join the blue chip hedge fund Fortis Investments with a portfolio encompassing all emerging markets.
The 2008 financial crash and its repercussions brought with it a period of disillusionment of what it meant to work in financial markets for Vladimer. It became clear to him that most of the quantitative risk assessment models based on backtesting data were not worth the paper they were written on. And it was extremely sad for him to see a few members of the financial community almost bring down the whole sector. Thereafter, Vladimer was convinced that his potential would be more fulfilled if he started working closer to the real economy.
After a period of several years investigating various production and manufacturing sectors, he decided that pursuing the trading of tangible goods for public benefit was more in line with his values and a better use of his talents. Upon making the transition from one industry to another, Vladimer realized it was important to obtain good work experience in a large organization. As such, he became a product specialist in the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) sector, working with some of the top brands in the industry. Vladimer’s focus was on exotic imports and creating supply chains for efficient delivery of products, primarily from South America and Africa.
He spent a good deal of time establishing relationships and gaining a first-hand understanding of the market. Close to 2020, he came to realize that the wholesale food sector would begin to experience major changes in light of emerging global trends. It was clear to Vladimer that the efficient supply of essential products would become of critical importance. Sensing the time was right, he took the risk of establishing his own business, setting up an entity for wholesale trade of fast moving consumer goods. He was able to leverage his previous experiences and relationships to create an enterprise that focused on the importing of various food products from across the globe to his home region. Vladimer moved back to Georgia and realized that there existed a disproportionate amount of inefficiencies in that nation’s supply chain which resulted in higher prices for end consumers. Addressing this issue has been the number one goal of his business, MMBI Trading.
Today, MMBI is an established multinational trader with offices in Dubai, Istanbul, Yerevan, Almaty, and Tashkent. The company boasts a sterling reputation with suppliers, delivering products at a fair price to its clients. Vladimer Gersamia is very proud that his business is able to feed millions of people in the region and bring them essential items as efficiently as possible.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
Following the 2008 financial crisis, I realized that there was not enough focus on the trading of tangible consumer goods. The vast global supply chain networks were being taken for granted and no one was prepared for their disruption. I wanted to create an entity that would be resilient in that scenario. It took me close to a decade to bring my idea to fruition, but I did in 2020. The timing was quite something, as it was then that the COVID pandemic unfortunately proved me right. I fear it will be a long time before we get back to the smooth supply chain processes that we are all used to.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I wake up quite early to make sure that the day comes to me rather than me chasing after it, if that makes sense. Doing my morning exercises followed by an ice cold shower is important for me, as it prepares me both physically and mentally for the day. Another key to my productivity is to have specific times for checking email, as constantly doing this throughout the day is one of the easiest ways to get distracted. I try not to check emails until midday, and my staff and counter parties know that if something is urgent, they should just call me directly. In my opinion, all important tasks should be addressed in the morning.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Constant and open dialogue with staff and partners. Sitting down with a group and conversing about an idea always yields results better than brooding over ideas in your head and not vocalizing them until you feel you are ‘ready.’
What’s one trend that excites you?
One trend that excites me is the focus on cutting back waste during transportation. The amount of products that perish during transportation is staggering. As this becomes properly addressed, the savings for end consumers will be huge.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am very approachable and therefore my staff never hesitates in presenting their thoughts or ideas to me. This is a major key to maintaining efficient operations, as the well being of the team is the foundation of all good business.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Patience is key to business and life. There is never any benefit in rushing.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
There is nothing wrong with eating desserts!
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Pay attention to detail. Conducting good business is all about the little things. These little details may have a negligible effect at the time, but taken together on a cumulative basis, they can mean the difference between achieving your goals and not achieving your goals.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Always respond to all enquiries. It is easy, especially once you reach scale, to not spend time responding to all enquiries or to ignore requests that come unsolicited. But sometimes you can find real gems of opportunity in speculative emails or calls. It is hard work sifting through them all, but if you look hard enough, sometimes you can get one that makes the time spent on all the others well worth it!
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
At the early stage of the business, we assumed that trade relationships would simply be a function of price. But as time passed, I realized that what is important is to invest time and money in nurturing these trade relationships so that customers and suppliers really know you and your business both personally and professionally. Simply having a good price is not alway enough. People want to be comfortable working with you and know that you are on the same page as they are. During the early stage of building MMBI, I underestimated how important this is. Today, mutual commercial benefit is just one aspect of our business dealings. We engage as true partners with every person and company we deal with, willing to show flexibility and support when needed, and willing to be fully transparent about who we are, what we do, and why we do it.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The Internet of Things is like a tsunami that is coming. Creating a sensor that would give you an idea of the freshness of fresh food would do wonders in reducing waste and avoiding adverse health effects, such as food poisoning. The effectiveness of new microprocessors and the possibility of quantum computing are making this a viable possibility.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
A high end pillow from a large hotel chain (I won’t say which one ). We underestimate how important sleep is. A large portion of our day is spent sleeping, and therefore it is important that we approach it as seriously as everything else. And yet most people—even including myself, in the past—do not. But upon advice from a wise colleague, I reluctantly undertook this investment and the return was absolutely fantastic. Believe me!
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Electronic signature. When you sign as many pages of agreements as I do, the old-fashioned way of printing documents, signing in blue ink, and then scanning and uploading them takes up a ridiculously large amount of time. I now have a setup from Acrobat that does this for me.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Shoe Dog by Phil Knight, the Founder of Nike. This book shows what you have to be willing to do to be a successful entrepreneur and why such steps are important.
What is your favorite quote?
This old Chinese proverb : “The lazy man works twice as hard.” Because it is 100 percent true and applies to everything!
- Be patient—it’s a marathon not a sprint.
- Invest in your relationships. People want more than just promises or profits in working with you.
- Be approachable—your team should always know you are willing to listen.
- Give importance to the little things.
- Spend time following the speculative enquiries
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.