The first impression when visiting the Gulf is one of modernity. High rise buildings, state of the art highways and every facility anyone could want, readily available. These fast developing countries somehow trick visitors with its ultra modern first impression. The high level of development is real, but the local culture is conservative. And this is something entrepreneurs should keep in mind when doing business in the Gulf region. Why is this important?
For a number of reasons. First of all there is the market. The market in these countries consist of people from many different countries, including nationals. In some Gulf countries, the local inhabitants are the minority. For example, in the UAE only 15 percent has the UAE nationality. Minority or not, the nationals are the founders of that nation with its local culture. Marketing efforts should be appropriate for that particular market and its culture.
Also, there is human capital and the implications of conservatism. In the Gulf, a strong division exists between the male and female world. Private first of all, but it also translates to public. In Saudi Arabia, it is not widely accepted yet that women work and develop a career. Depending on the industry your business is in, you might or might not encounter women and you might have to consider (case by case ofcourse) if you send a female employee to this market. However, this is changing rapidly as women are gaining more influence outside their private sphere.
Let me conclude by stating: don’t look at the Gulf as one block. Obviously, there are regional differences. A strategy adapted to the target market based on advise by people who know the market well, will determine the success of a new company in the market.
What has been your experience? Please, share your insights!