Doing business in the Middle East comes with its share of issues and concerns. For those, interested in doing business in the region, which is a buzzing and large market, here are some top tips for negotiating and navigating your way through the business jungle.
Diverse culture and mindsets…The UAE is a fascinating country with the old seamlessly mixing with the new. This creates complications at times, in the business place, where meetings need to be carefully handled and working on the right etiquettes is as important as the business you are working on. It does not mean that the Arabs are ‘touchy’ about manners, it just means that they have a different way of doing things, owing largely due to coming from a different culture. Being aware of what is the ‘right’ etiquette when it comes to dealing with women colleagues, potential clients, ‘greeting’ in the correct way and being aware as well as empathetic towards their code of conduct when it comes to business will help understand and do business better.
Business is often personal…People used to doing business in the West will nonetheless say that there is no set process or system in place. Rather, business is mostly personal. In fact, the Arabs do not separate business from the personal – for them it is the same. In India too, the emphasis is more on doing business with people you are comfortable with. This just means that business is often not on set grounds/processes but on the comfort level. So establishing that level of comfort of doing business is more important than anything else.
Negotiating the right way is the key…Negotiations are a tricky word in any kind of business. We are all good salesmen and marketers in our own way, promoting ourselves and our skills, in the global market. Do remember that Arabs being a trading class are excellent negotiators, hence, don’t get frustrated if the deal does not work out, just keep at it and keep at it in a careful way.
Referrals and word of mouth is still the best marketing tool there…These are often the only tools for doing business. This also means that people more used to doing business in the West, might not be very comfortable with this way of working. The Arabs rely more on the handshake, on the word rather than the signed contracts. This might lead some to claim that doing business there is chaotic, and tough. Not true at all, it is just a different style of doing business, that’s all. All you need is a little bit of adjustment in mindset and patience to deal nicely.
Decisions can sometimes take a little longer…again patience is the key. The dealings there take time since the organizations are multi-layered; take time to penetrate and also, people follow a different code of doing business. Hurrying things won’t work out at all, so the best approach is to hire a local agent/intermediary, well-versed with doing business there. This will pay rich dividends in the future.