Doha, Qatar at night.
Can I see a show of hands for people who would like to do business in the Middle East? Hey, where did everyone go?
If you’re still reading, then I would tell you engaging in business opportunities in this part of the world can seem similar to climbing a mountain. The rewards at the top are great but getting there can prove to be a challenging uphill journey through seemingly impassable boulder fields, across rushing streams, and along seemingly endless switchbacks that make for slow progress. However, we are discovering that the view from the top can be a rewarding and inspiring sight for those who are willing to make the ascent.
We have learned a lot in the short time we have been in Qatar, most of it by trial and error. There are many challenges to working in a country that essentially has only been modernized in the last 16 years. But the Middle East region is experiencing what is known as the “Arab Spring,” a revolutionary wave of demonstrations, protests, and wars occurring in the Arab world that began on December 18, 2010, (the start of the Tunisian revolution).1
The protests have shared techniques of mostly civil resistance in sustained campaigns involving strikes, demonstrations, marches, and rallies, as well as the effective use of social media to organize, communicate, and raise awareness in the face of state attempts at repression and internet censorship.1 If you were to ask the Emir of Qatar, he would say that the Arab Spring began in Qatar 16 years ago. Today, Qatar is considered one of the wealthiest nations in the world.
So what does all this mean for the small, medium, and large companies that desire to do business in the Middle East? From what I have learned thus far, it tells me this “season of change” has opened many doors and further expanded the opportunities available for foreign investment into this region. For example, Qatar relies heavily on the importing of goods and services into the region but is now underway with a major initiative to expand and modernize their industrial area.
This modernization will allow for growth in local manufacturing and distribution from within Qatar and less reliance of the importation of goods and services. That said, Bastian is excited to have a presence in Qatar and sees many opportunities for material handling automation solutions across the region as a whole.
OK, now back to the uphill journey and endless switchbacks I mentioned in my opening remarks. There is no magic bullet to doing business overseas as you will soon discover if you decide to head east. So if you decide to venture into this arena, I would suggest you plan for an extended stay.
The Arab people are a very close knit culture and “fly by night” companies are not well received. The development of trust and long-term relationships will be a key factor in the success or failure of any company wishing to do business in this region. That said, I have assembled my top five recommendations for doing business in the Middle East.
Top 5 Tips for Doing Business in the Middle East:
- Be patient and willing to develop authentic relationships with the diverse people and cultures of this region.
- Be persistent. The pace of business is unlike the West, and it often seems like “Murphy” is everywhere just lying in wait…but don’t give up!
- Understand the local laws and practices for employment, taxes, duties, and corporate structures
- If possible, plan activities in advance. It’s a lot easier to structure than to restructure.
- Identify a logistics company with regional experience (if you need a recommendation, I can help)
While Bastian Solutions is still new to the market and learning the ropes, I think you will find these tips to be helpful on your journey to the top of the mountain.
1. Source Wikipedia – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Spring