Beginning of this month, the Entrepreneurs monthly magazine of the Belgian Chamber of Commerce (VOKA) sat down with Dr.Jad Najjar to talk about the Arab market. Dr. Jad shared his experience and some tips that could help interested Belgina entrepreneurs approach this market. Read the translated article below:
Entrepreneurs Monthly (pp. 20 - 21)
International business presents many challenges. Together with our Mercurio Global Ambassadors, we go to great lengths to support your company in this foreign adventure. Thanks to this exclusive network, you can learn from their experience with trading markets around the world. This time we introduce you to Jad Najjar, Managing Director at Eummena, an innovative tech company that builds digital learning platforms for schools, universities and enterprises. He wants to help entrepreneurs to exploit the Arab market.
Jad Najjar founded together with his co-founders an innovative EdTech company - Eummena. This imitated after he completed a PhD in computer science at KU Leuven. Being aware of the need of many organizations for a reliable digital learning platform, he decided to put on his entrepreneurial shoes. Meanwhile, the company whose name is an abbreviation for Europe, Mediterranean, Middle East & North Africa, has a foothold in each of those regions.
What expertise do you have in the Arab market?
“We are active with Eummena in various Arabic-speaking countries, especially in Saudi Arabia. There we are currently implementing projects for government agencies, we also serve a few large private sector clients. We also have good presence in the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. I myself come originally from Palestine, but along with the language, we also share a large cultural background in that region. The combination of doing business and a thorough knowledge of language and culture means that I am at home in those markets and know where the opportunities and pitfalls lie.”
Why is this market interesting for Belgian/Flemish Brabant entrepreneurs?
“I would especially advise targeting specifically Saudi Arabia. There is one big reason for this: the enormous growth of their economy. Look at the massive transformation program, Vision 2030, that has been rolled out: the country is investing and building. In addition, they now allow foreign investment through new regulations. This makes it easier to enter this market. Before you invest, you want to know that there is the right supporting framework for this.”
“In short, over the last decade, Saudi Arabia has experienced tremendous growth that is still ongoing. There is also a great demand for services and products that Belgian/Flemish companies have the expertise in and can offer. I am thinking mainly of solutions in the health sector, but also tourism and renewable energy. That is what they need today.”
How can you, as a Global Ambassador, help entrepreneurs tap into this market?
“I would be able to advise them on what to look for if they want to take the step. Because I know the official sources for opportunities, I can guide people in a very targeted way. My extensive network of entrepreneurs who have already established themselves in the region and contacts at organizations that can help are also very valuable. As I also took the step from Europe to the Middle East, I can also draw on my own lessons that I learned.
Arab culture is very different from ours. How does that translate into business?
“Respect is very important. The biggest mistake you can make is to underestimate the Arab world or market. If they feel that, the door will close for you and it won't open again. Show respect for what is there already and how things are going at the moment and try to build on that. Then you will feel how hospitable and warm they are to you. Many people also think that the region is lagging behind because they are still investing and developing. That is not true. The developments that are taking place are enormous, and many things are happening at lightning speed. So don't underestimate the region.”
Practical tips for international business
- Meet people face-to-face. “Arabic culture is very visual. If you want to convince someone to do business with you, try meeting them, even virtually. Emails don't always work. If you feel there is a golden opportunity, invest in getting there and sitting down with your prospect. That is very much appreciated and respected.”
- Be sincere and honest, but not too early and too direct. “It's important that you build a relationship with your contact before you start asking questions or making comments. If you're too direct with someone you don't already have a personal connection with, doors will close. Win the trust and make it clear that you want to help them with your service or product. Only then will your contacts consider joining your proposal.”
- Don't rush. “If you have concluded a deal, first make sure that the entire sales process has been clearly drawn up and checked by both parties. It is not advisable to provide services or products before that process is clear. In short: wait patiently until all dots and commas are correct.”
This blog post is a translated version of the October 2022 monthly magazine for entrepreneurs of Voka - Kamer van Koophandel Vlaams-Brabant (Chamber of Commerce - Belgium Flemish Brabant).