Expanding a business always comes with risks, but expanding a business in the Middle East poses even greater risks. With the uncertainty of the global economy, businesses have been hesitating to operate out of their comfort zones, especially in a region like the Middle East. However, what many fail to realize is that there are also many opportunities in this oil-rich region. Many businesses, with the right formula, can flourish in countries with booming economies such as Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi. It just takes a lot of planning to get it right. In order to create the perfect plan, there are several things to consider before expanding a business in the Middle East.
Update Yourself with Current Events
It is common knowledge that there are a lot of political and economic uncertainties in the region. Being informed about the latest events in a country will be beneficial for your business. Particularly, it is important to know the relations between a specific Middle Eastern country and the US before putting up a business in that country. An example would be the Qatar crisis wherein several of our Middle Eastern allies have isolated and cut off all diplomatic ties with Qatar. It is almost similar to what has happened with North Korea and the rest of the world when news about Donald Trump imploring countries to further isolate the country was reported. The similarity between these two events would be a good indicator that businesses in Qatar and the rest of the Gulf region will be negatively affected.
Get to Know the Social and Business Cultures
First and foremost, it is important to know if your product will sell in the Middle East. This means that you have to do plenty of research. What sells in the US will not be the same with what sells overseas. This is why it takes a great deal of getting to know who you are selling to, and what they are willing to buy in the market.
Knowing the region’s social and business cultures is a big advantage if you want people to recognize and patronize your brand. This means you have to make yourself as relatable as possible to the consumers. With this in mind, it is a must to understand how business is done in the Middle East. Also, considering that the region consists of various cultures, religions, and ethnicities, it is important to get to know each country’s customs.
For example, Arabs are very proud of their own language since it comes from the language used in the Qu’ran. The common misconception in the region is that foreigners are not interested in learning their language, so knowing even some basic Arabic phrases and greetings will go a long way. The common greeting is “As-salamalaikum” which means “peace upon you”.
Understand the Basics of Islam
Islam is the major religion in the region, and plays a big role in a Muslim’s everyday life. One of the most basic things to take note of is that most Middle Eastern countries have a different work week because Friday is the holy day in Islam. Also, businesses are often affected during several religious events such as Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha, and Ramadan. During Ramadan, business hours are shortened.
Get Help from a Local
It is most helpful to get a local partner or intermediary to help you get started on your business in the region. However, before this can happen, it is customary in the region for business partners to be friendly at first. A face-to-face meeting is imperative in order to gain a sense of mutual trust. In the region, business and personal life are one in the same. In fact, it is considered impolite for business partners to talk about work before personal life. However, you must never offend an Arab by asking about female family members. Also, connections play a big role in the region. Arabs prefer to business with people that they already know.