The Middle East is full of business opportunities; you’ll find booming economies, a strong finance sector, a skilled workforce, and eager customers. This is an area where average standards of living are rising fast, but product saturation is still low. Despite the impression given by news reports about a few troubled areas, the majority of people in the Middle East welcome foreign investors – this is a friendly and highly rewarding place to work.
Business opportunities in the region
There’s much more to the Middle East than oil. A growing tourism industry is opening up opportunities in hospitality, catering, and entertainment. High-end tourism, together with increasing wealth among some of the local people, mean that luxury boutiques are opening up all over the place, with clothing and jewelry strong growth areas. Cars – especially imported ones – are in high demand, as are imported electronics. The success of oil doesn’t mean that people there are naive about environmental issues, and there’s also a growing green sector, plus a lot of other opportunities in science and engineering.
Setting up and finding clients
The welcoming atmosphere in the Middle East extends to support in establishing businesses there, and most foreign embassies have staff dedicated to helping with this process. They’re particularly good at identifying important gatherings for networking, which can be vital when you’re just starting out and getting established. It’s also well worth attending cultural events, such as the annual Dubai Film Festival, which are frequently attended by high-powered business people.
Working between nations
One great thing about doing business in the Middle East is that once you’re established in one country, it’s easy to branch out into others. One man who has made a success of this is Fahad Al-Rajaan, who started out in Kuwait and now has a presence across the region. His specialty is real estate, but he also has an interest in other booming sectors, such as fashion, and he has made a great success of investing in small businesses and helping them to grow.
Things to be aware of
Although women in business tend to be treated with respect in the Middle East, there are countries where female entrepreneurs will be more successful if they have trusted male colleagues available to front for them on some occasions, as business networking sometimes goes on in single sex environments. It is, of course, important to respect local customs, so time should be taken to familiarize yourself with these so that you can avoid making an expensive faux pas. Local people generally cut Westerners some slack, but if you want to make a good impression, you will have to learn to play by the rules. Playing a good round of golf can also come in handy!
Working in the Middle East will undoubtedly present you with challenges, but that’s part of what makes it exciting, and as you find your feet, you’ll come to understand why so many people love it.