Interview with Co-founder Tengiz Meskhi

Businesses, like people, can’t be the best at everything. Business Process Outsourcing (BPO), the practice where a business hires another company to perform some services that would traditionally be completed in-house, is a fast-growing sector. This is partly because effective businesses are constantly seeking out options that minimize costs and maximise efficiencies – especially where they have gaps in capacity or expertise.

In this interview with Made in Georgia Magazine, the co-founder of ServeStone, Tengiz Meskhi, a British-born Georgian, tells us about his journey from being a student at the University of Cambridge to becoming Deputy CIO at the Bank of Georgia, and the strengthening ties between Georgia and the UK.

Tell us about your background

I was born in Manchester and raised by my Georgian parents as a so-called ‘third culture kid’. My sister was born a few years before me in Tbilisi, before my parents emigrated to the UK for economic opportunities and the chance to give us a better education while the USSR crumbled. From a young age, I was strong at Maths and Physics and so decided to study Engineering at the University of Cambridge. After gaining experience as an account manager at an asset management company and as a programmer at an app development consultancy, I realised I enjoyed being on the cusp between business and technology, so I joined McKinsey Digital. There, I consulted public and private sector organisations including Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies on all matters of business technology problems, from implementing new AI solutions through to structuring markets to encourage more competition and innovation. After completing the agile transformation design project for the Bank of Georgia, the CEO offered me a position I couldn’t refuse! I joined BoG in September 2019, to lead the ongoing transformation and to further increase the agility of the wider organisation.

Interview with Co-founder Tengiz Meskhi

Most young people in Georgia long for opportunities to study and live abroad in Europe. What was your incentive to come back and work for the Bank of Georgia? What is your current position there?

There were three main drivers for my decision to come back and work for the Bank of Georgia, firstly to spend more time with my family, especially my grandma. Secondly, to impart the knowledge and experience I’d gained during my time at Cambridge and McKinsey, and make a real impact on organisational management and behaviour here. Thirdly to improve my grasp of the Georgian language, its history, culture and traditions, as well as to expand my network. Within the bank, my scope is to develop the structure, processes, people and technology in order to make the organisation more productive, efficient and adaptable to the highly dynamic and rapidly-changing world we live in today. Returning to my roots has opened many doors and shown me the vast potential of the country as well as the burgeoning UK-Georgia relationship.

What is the concept of ServeStone?

After witnessing a huge number of Fortune 500 and FTSE companies spend excessive amounts on back office processes during my time at McKinsey, it appeared to me that the most effective businesses identify what they do well themselves and what they should delegate to other companies. Trying to do everything leads to a fatal lack of focus for many businesses. Looking further into this market opportunity, I discovered that Georgia was an ideal destination for high-quality, low-cost outsourcing. The same sentiment resonated with Ioane Chikovani, a graduate of the University of Sussex in Accounting and Finance. He is involved in the running of a leading Georgian import & distribution company and supermarket chain, where he witnessed first-hand the importance of putting customers first. Recognizing the same drive in each other, we partnered up to create a competitive new provider for customer services and business processes in Georgia.

Having recruited a team equally passionate about capitalising on Georgia’s untapped potential, ServeStone was formed. We are a BPO company providing back-office services for our clients across a vast range of industries. Based in the UK but offshoring in Georgia, we optimise business processes for companies around the world  by harnessing a favourable talent pool, while assuring quality to a British standard.

Our mission is to help our clients enhance their effectiveness by enabling them to focus on what they do best and, in so doing, redefine the industry standard on quality customer service.

What are some of ServeStone’s advantages over many of its competitor companies in the UK? Why should companies looking for an outsourcer opt for your services?

We offer our clients the highest standards across three services lines: customer care, sales and administration. We incorporate the latest techniques to strive for the best customer care, while at the same time keeping costs low, thanks to our offshored centres in Georgia. We pride ourselves on being lean and agile, harnessing the power of both methodologies to optimise our teams. Deep focus on the end-to-end customer journey allows us to reduce handoff and rework rate, while boosting customer satisfaction. Our projects not only allow companies to cut costs, but also to significantly improve their performance.

At ServeStone, we take great pride in our high standards of customer service, made possible by in-depth training and feedback from our in-house coaches. These coaches are centred around three disciplines – elocution, rhetoric and language – and they uphold our three golden standards – efficiency, clarity, and satisfaction. Some of the key areas of our regular training include speaking style, tone and pronunciation.

What services do you offer? Could you name some of your partners/clients?

As mentioned above, we have three main service lines: care, sales and administration. Care includes services such as omni-channel customer care and tech support. Sales includes lead generation and qualification. Administration encompasses appointment scheduling & handling, data entry and more. And of course, in everything we do, we approach it with a lean-agile mindset to optimise processes and continuously improve the agreed project KPIs. We have worked with businesses ranging from British home services SMEs to European retail & e-commerce companies.

How do you think the global pandemic has affected the outsourcing market? Has it blocked any opportunities or opened new doors?

COVID-19 has, of course, significantly impacted the outsourcing sector. While recovery will not be immediate, when it begins, the bounce-back will be fast, and the outsourcing sector will be more relevant than ever. Lockdown measures such as curfews and employee travel restrictions are major concerns, not only for us, but many outsourcing providers all over the world.

Many SMEs that provide outsourcing services to companies in Europe are based in developing countries and they tend to lack the necessary equipment, infrastructure or management tools to allow their employees to work remotely. However, ServeStone is equipped with modern project management tools, facilities and resources to ensure resilient and exceptional service delivery.

The boom in remote work has undoubtedly accelerated digitisation and so, long-term, we foresee more and more companies deciding to outsource their IT and business processes in order to decrease costs while they focus on their own competitive advantage.

Having achieved this much at a strikingly young age, Tengiz’s future plans are focused on further self and general development. His long-term goal is to have as much of a positive impact on Georgia and the wider region as possible.

Reflecting on both his Georgian and British backgrounds, Tengiz expects “something beautiful to blossom post-Brexit between the UK and Georgia.” The free trade agreement in place combined with improved travel possibilities means that the two countries will inevitably come closer together. By enabling the trade of ideas, products and services, Tengiz looks forward to playing a part in forming a bridge between the two countries.

Interview by Nini Dakhundaridze