Briding the Gulf: a guide to doing business in the Middle East

The Arab world as a prospective marketplace for international businesses is one of wildly contrasting potential outcomes for the uninitiated. On the one hand, there is an idea of the Arab business world as being one where transparency is lacking, where penetration is difficult, and where opportunities may be dashed either informally – because of perceived social or cultural differences – or formally, by overly bureaucratic and unfamiliar processes. The region’s perceived social instability and volatility can also lead to fears of uncertainty for any business seeking a new foothold there.

The extent to which any business looking to enter this marketplace may feel uncertain depends somewhat on how they perceive these same factors to be present at home, but at least a little caution is very common.

However, the opportunities presented when seeking success in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will still easily tempt any truly ambitious international businesses into exploring their options in the area, regardless of their uncertainty.

The rewards can be significant, partnerships fruitful, and fortunes transformed, if an introduction to the business community is made well and any relationships maintained and grown with care. In these circumstances, the aforementioned uncertainty is quickly dissipated.

Quite apart from any mere uncertainty, there are some more practical obstacles to be navigated for a business new to the GCC who may be making this journey unaided. Among them is the fundamental issue of communication. This is a vital element of any successful international venture, which needs to be carefully controlled with mutual understanding.

A common language is only part of what is required for successful communication between international partners. There is still a wide variation of meaning that can be conveyed in that single language, and potential misunderstandings over language use that can be fed by differing cultural, social and historical factors.

Then there is market intelligence, itself a fine art no matter where in the world it is focused. Fortunes have been won and lost depending on whether new market intelligence is gathered or simply assumed.

Somewhat linked to this is an understanding of the business culture of the Arab world, and how best to navigate any differences in customs that could otherwise cause important doors to close through sheer unpreparedness. A good general example of this is the relatively blurred line between professional and personal relationships, which are an important factor in successful partnerships. If mishandled or treated purely as business relationships, these partnerships can easily falter. If nurtured and understood, the resulting mutual trust can change lives.

But therein lies another problem. For an international business whose experience so far has reinforced the reliance on a purely practical kind of business partnership – one in which personal connection plays little or no part – then the prospect of devoting time and resources to building a face-to-face relationship with a potential new partner may seem daunting, impractical, or even impossible.

If, for any of these reasons, a new venture in the GCC should fail, there can be little to blame other than a lack of valuable local knowledge and accessibility.

Making it happen

This is where a company like Alea Global Group can make all the difference. Alea Global Group is a Kuwait-based family business who have made it their mission to bridge the gaps in knowledge and understanding between Arab and international business.

Taking on all aspects of building a successful business partnership across countries and cultures, Alea Global Group offers cross border business development, business advisory services and indepth market intelligence in addition to its main business activities deploying Alea’s capital in direct real estate and direct private equity.

Alea Global Group has key members across the region, as well as the world, offering a prepared professional network of representatives in vital areas. Not only does this save time and money for the international businesses it works with, but it also offers the benefits of local knowledge and pre-existing relationships in those areas.

In the Middle East – with the aforementioned blurred lines between the professional and the personal – Alea’s advantages as an intermediary cannot be overstated. CEO Mohammad Al Duaij, as a member of the Al Duaij family, carries a legacy that holds great significance in Kuwait in particular, and the GCC in general.

Settled there since the 17th century, Al Duaij is a dynasty so established that the city’s old souq carries its name, as does the first charity and water foundations. This is the unspoken basis on which new approaches by Alea Global Group in the region, on behalf of international partners – are guaranteed an audience. Among the connections Alea Global Group can boast are those with key entities and families in the Middle East and Iran, as well as extended partnerships in Europe and the USA. Having a company like Alea Global Group on board is equivalent to an international business having an outpost in the Middle East, but one which is already long established, familiar with the marketplace, accessible to regional partners and at home with the business culture.

For any business who doesn’t have the time or resource to build these things from scratch, Mr Al Duaij and his international team are able to hit the ground running, bringing positive results in faster. Mr Al Duaij has studied and worked all over the world – with positions in investment, real estate and economic development – so the experience he brings is borne of first hand knowledge.

The wealth of that experience, combined with the advantages of knowing his home market of Kuwait and the GCC in great detail, are a valuable combination for international businesses seeking the key to success in the Middle East.

Further information

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