While many business owners start their business in Europe and North America, some companies want to explore other markets and try their luck in the Arab world, which is a region with a very distinct market.
As an entrepreneur, if you intend to expand your business opportunities abroad, your interest might be attracted by the Arab growing market.
There is no doubt that the markets of Arab countries are rapidly growing, but these markets also have more diverse economies, with national economies changing from centralized socialist economies to hydrocarbon-exporting rentiers and free-market economies. The region is recognized for its oil production and export, significantly influencing the whole area through its assets and labor utilization. In current years, many of the countries in the region have begun attempting to expand their economies.
The Arab world is made by 22 states settled in West Asia and North Africa.
- United Arab Emirates
- Saudi Arabia
Despite some of its obvious political and economic hurdles, the area gives massive potential for entrepreneurs.
There are many Arab entrepreneurs who are no less than European entrepreneurs, and these will be a great inspiration if think to try your luck in an entrepreneurial venture. But before we introduce you to the Arab entrepreneurs, let us give you some key points to consider, if you are intent to start your business in the Arab region.
Key Points to Consider Before Starting Business in Arab Countries
The following key points will help you to understand the mindset of the Arabs in the area of business.
1. Value Their Language
In most Arab states, the official language is Modern Standard Arabic, other than the United Arab Emirates, where most business people are emigrants. They immensely admire their mother tongue, so it is important to learn a few Arabic vocabulary to make a favorable impression. It tells your equivalents that you are serious about accompanying business with them and that you value their language. If your business partners want to conduct the Arabic gathering, you can take a translator with you.
Handshakes may take longer than what you are used to doing in your European country. Do not withdraw your hand quickly. Instead, be friendly and wait for your Arab colleague to free your hand. It is essential to note that if you attend an Arab female entrepreneur, wait for her to show interest in offering her hand for a handshake as most of them are very conventional and not likely to shake a male colleague’s hand. And if you are a businesswoman dealing with an Arab equivalent, you should also wait for him to offer his hand to exchange a handshake. Arabs like to conduct formal meetings, so make sure to address them by Ms. or Mr. before their first name, but this differs from country to country.
2. Hire People Who Can Make a Link to the Culture Gap
The hiring of people is critical. Your best employees should be able to work locally and must have an understanding of Western business systems. People usually hire a Jordanian who is fluent in Arabic and English as well.
3. Give Time in The Region
Connections are significant in the Arab countries, and they take time to grow. Once you give some time in the region, you will understand and identify decisive cultural nuances. For instance, quick decisions are often considered in the United States, where as the decision-making process takes a long time in the Arab region.
4. The List of Paid Holidays in the Arab Region
The Arab countries observe different holidays than the European countries. Many of these holidays are paid, and in many countries, employers must wait. The paid holiday table comprises Ramadan, which lasts one month. This time of practice enables employees to reduce working hours. They do not eat until evening, so eating in public during the day is also forbidden.
Some other holidays are:
- Eid al-Fitr (Breaking the Fast Feast)
- Eid al-Adha (Festival of the Sacrifice)
- Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca)
5. Plan Face to Face Communication
It is also essential to know who wants to get the chances of doing business in the Arab world that it is better to go for face-to-face communication. Make sure to avoid communicating in business by phone calls or email. For the Arabs, personal contact is essential because there is only a fragile difference between personal and business connections.
Conveniently, meetings should be scheduled at least a week in advance.
These are the few useful tips if you consider before starting your venture in the Arab region it will be beneficial for you.
Top 9 Arab Entrepreneurs
Here are top Arab entrepreneurs who are giving their services for the benefits of others.
1. Khalid Al Khudair
- Founder of Glowork
- Country: Saudi Arab/Iraq
Khalid Al Khudair is a Former chief operating officer in Saudi, Kuwait, and Jordan for KPMG. Al Khudair is also the Originator of Glowork and served as the CEO of the company, which is an organization for women empowerment that has generated the opportunities of thousands of jobs for women. Khalid ultimately resigned from his day job when Glowork was taken by Saudi investment firm SAS Holding in 2013. His site boasted a network of over 1.2 million Saudi women and has united thousands with jobs. He has also succeeded in leading the firms he worked with to over 30 awards for its overall strategy and corporate goals. Furthermore, to his achievements, Khalid invested around $16m to expand Glowork’s current services into different angles. Khalid is currently serving as the Chief Experience Officer at the Bank of Riyad.
Inspirational Quotes of Khalid Al Khudair
As making an effort for the women empowerment he has number of saying in favor of women
“We wanted to change the way we approached things so we stopped marketing to women and started marketing to men. All our communication was directed towards men—as employers, employees, as fathers, as sons—for them to understand the importance of women working.”
“We would go to companies which never hired women and try to convince them to do so. We would do the filtering and screening for them and connect them with women who were unemployed. They send us their job descriptions, we do the interview process and then we send ready candidates to the employers.”
“It is not that hard for women to work from home but for men to understand the extra diversified income that could come into the household is very important.”
2. Ronaldo Mouchawar
- Co-founder and CEO of Souq.com
- Country: Syria
Ronaldo Mouchawar is a co-founder and CEO of the famous and largest e-commerce site, Souq.com in the Arab region. He is undoubtedly the most prominent individuals in the UAE’s entrepreneurial world. His website, Souq.com, which was started as an auction site 16 years ago, in 1995 and linked to the Arab internet portal Maktoob, which is considered as the Amazon of the Middle East. The site serves as a retail site, a marketplace for third-party retailers. The site Souq.com derivate in 2009 as part of Jabbar Internet Group. Currently, it shows more than 600,000 products varying from fashion, electronics, and household appliances and monthly draws over 42 million visits. After gathering around $150m in the financing, including $75m from Naspers, the company has hired above 2000 employees in customer service and logistics. According to the Google survey, the company is the second most searched brand within the Arab Emirates in 2014.
Inspirational Quotes of Ronaldo Mouchawar
“We had a mission- we wanted to connect the Arab world, We wanted Souq as a marketplace, as a brand. We felt we needed one; we should be able to build it and break the borders between the countries [of the region] as best as we can, at least economically, for trade. Something politically could take ages. With tech, you are able to do it faster, and just enable people all over.”
“Amazon and Souq.com share the same DNA– we’re both driven by customers, invention, and long-term thinking. Souq.com pioneered e-commerce in the Middle East, creating a great shopping experience for their customers. We’re looking forward to both learnings from and supporting them with Amazon technology and global resources. And together, we’ll work hard to provide the best possible service for millions of customers in the Middle East.”
“At every stage, we faced a different challenge- every step, there always was a solution. Because we’re a team of builders and innovators; so, you know, we had to figure out what we need to do. We have always focused on our customers, not as much on our competition, which, I think, has helped us to always be ahead of everyone else.”
3. Lubna Al-Olayan
- Country: Saudi Arabia
Lubna Al-Olayan is a businesswoman of Saudia Arabia. She worked as Chief Executive Officer of Olayan Financing Company by the end of May 2019. In January 2004, in Saudi’s history, Olayan was the first woman in Saudi Arabia to address an important conference; in the Jeddah Economic Forum.
In 2005, she had also been listed among the Top 100 Most Influential People published by Time magazine. She was ranked on the Most Powerful Women by Forbes until 2011 and was again considered in 2014. She put at the top of the list of Middle East’s Most Powerful Women in the Arab World by Forbes.
In April 2007, for Cornell University, she was elected as a member of the Board of Trustees. In April 2006, Olayan also started working on the Advisory Board of Effat College. It is a private and non-profit college of girls in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She possesses many other important positions in various educational institutions, and she is working hard to provide a better education for children globally. She has received various business awards and is an outstanding advocate of progressive business practices in Arabia.
Inspirational Quotes of Lubna Al- Olayan
“The more challenges you face in life, the more of life you experience. This lived experience gives one the influence to impact others’ lives.”
“Saudi men have sisters, mothers, and wives, and in my working experience, I have had tremendous support from Saudi men. I really don’t think that Saudi women are oppressed or abused.”
“I think that driving is the least important issue. We as women have a lot more things to tackle before we get to the issue of driving, such as the opportunity to work in any field we choose.”
4. Paul Kenny
- Founder of Cobone.com
- Country: Ireland
Paul Kenny is a founder and CEO of Cobone.com, one of the most prominent and acknowledged entrepreneurs in the technology sector in the Arab region. In 2010, Cobone.com had become one of the Middle East and North Africa’s prime e-commerce sites and, in 2010, was sold to Tiger Global Management for an approximated $40m. Paul has now focused and investing in advising and mentoring companies globally through Emerge Ventures.
Inspirational Quotes of Paul Kenny
“We moved the ball, we just imploded when we got around the end zone. When they play as a group, they are a very good team. Unfortunately, there were times when we had individual breakdowns that hurt the whole team.”
“We held their offense to one touchdown in the first half. Things were looking good. In the second half, we lost our focus. We knew what we had to do to stop them and we would have stuck with them if we were focused in the second half.”
“The only thing missing from the retirement party for Blair was a gold clock. It’s quite clear that there’s an orderly handover taking place. What we saw is the new leader.”
“It’s almost a memory of nicotine in the brain. The reward system becomes hyperactive, even when the nicotine isn’t there.”
5. Shaikha Al Bahar
She is serving as the Deputy Group Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Bank of Kuwait, which is considered as the best bank in the Middle East. She was also the CEO of the Kuwait branch of the National Bank of Kuwait.
From Kuwait University, Al-Bahar took her graduate degree in International Marketing. Furthermore, she did her specialization in management programs at various institutions, such as Stanford University, Harvard Business School, Wharton School, and Duke University.
Forbes listed Al-Bahar in 2012, as the 85th most powerful woman in the world. Also, in 2012, Forbes Middle East placed her in the first place in their Top 100 Most Powerful Arab Business Women. Arabian Business also recognized Al-Bahar as the 8th most powerful Arab woman of 2012.
Inspirational Quotes of Shaikha Al Bahar
“Define an objective and find a mentor, learn as much as you can. Adopt high standards, cultivate a professional mindset and don’t be afraid to be viewed as decisive.”
“The enormous digital infrastructure has enabled the bank to provide exceptional services to its customers, during various stages of the closure period, with a very satisfactory level of service. For the markets in which we target the growth of the Group’s business.”
“The bank aims in Egypt to expand the retail market, by focusing on enhancing customer acquisition, facilitating the completion of their transactions, and investing in digital banking services.”
6. Ralph R Debbas
- CEO and Chairman of W Motors
- Country: Lebanon
Ralph R Debbas is the founder of the famous W motors and serves as CEO of the first manufacturer of the luxury sports cars of the Arab world in Lebanon in 2012, before shifting the company to Dubai a year later. The company sold its first vehicle, a Lykan HyperSport, for $3.4 million, and it was the most prized car to showed in the Fast and Furious franchise. A special edition vehicle has also been presented to the Abu Dhabi Police for examination. Ralph has earned quite a several international awards for his achievements.
Inspirational Quotes of RalphR Dabba
“Innovation is the approach of an existing idea or product by looking at it from a different angle. We are surrounded every day by inventions that made our life easier, innovation simply makes life more interesting. At W Motors we base all our work on innovation in technology, luxury, performance or design. Always taking things further in developing never seen before products.”
“It’s a passion and it’s a dream. If you don’t have any risks to take then life is not worth living. This is something that I’ve always wanted to do and as long you do it with passion then it’s always going to succeed.”
7. Magnus Olsson and Mudassar Sheikha
- Co-founders of Careem
- Country: Sweden and Pakistan
In June-2012, Careem has started offering its services. It is founded by Magnus Olsson and Mudassir Sheikha, and both were former consultants at McKinsey & Company and technology entrepreneurs in Sweden and Silicon Valley. Careem has developed the chauffeur service across the Arab. It is now serving in 14 cities over the Middle East, most recently serving in Morocco through Taxi’s purchase. Careem has achieved more than 10 thousand trips with an average customer rating of 4.8 on a scale of 1 to 5. The company has gathered above $10m on an investment managed by cooperation recognized as Al Tayyar travel group.
Inspirational Quotes of Magnus Olsson and Mudassar Sheikha
“It’s scary to have a 30-foot wave chasing you. If you are steering, you don’t look back. The crew looks back for you, and you watch their faces. When they look straight up, then get ready.”Magnus Olsson
“My belief is that you cannot build any business by trying to import something that you’ve seen somewhere else and then bringing it to another place. I don’t believe that is how you build a business. To me, the path to building something is that you look for a problem – a local problem in the local community, and then you try to solve that. If you use technology to solve that, that’s fine. But you need to solve that problem.”Magnus Olsson
“Sometimes as an entrepreneur, you get super excited about your own idea because you think it’s the coolest thing ever – the best thing ever – but no one really wants it.”Magnus Olsson
“I haven’t been asked about my childhood in a long time but if I have to pick between hyper or geek, I was definitely a geeky child. Always wanted to be on top of the class.”Mudassar Sheikha
“I realized one thing that it’s important to target a big market for my next venture i.e. find something broken in a super big industry. A lesson we applied when starting Careem which solves a huge transportation problem.”Mudassar Sheikha
“Life is like a boat with two oars. One oar is hard work and the other is blessings. You need both to work together in order to achieve success. Otherwise, you go around in circles.”Mudassar Sheikha
8. Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani
Sheikha Mayassa belongs to Qatar’s Royal family. She is the sister of the popular Emir of Qatar.
She is the Qatar Museums’ chairperson. She likes to draw international artists to Qatar to introduce them to their traditions. She also established the Doha Film Institute by helping filmmakers to develop Qatar as a cultural hub.
Al-Mayassa was named the most outstanding person in ArtReview’s Power 100 and prominently appeared on the Time 100, and Forbes’ The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
She got her bachelor’s degree in Political Science and Literature from Duke University. On 6 January 2006, Sheikha Al-Mayassa was wedded to Sheikh Jassim bin Abdul Aziz Al-Thani at Al-Wajbah Palace, Doha. They both have one daughter and four sons together.
Inspirational Quotes of Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al Thani
“In a time where the world is becoming personalized, when the mobile phone, the burger, everything has its own personal identity, how should we perceive ourselves and how should we perceive others?”
“People have said, ‘Let’s build bridges,’ and frankly, I want to do more than that. I would like to break to the walls of ignorance between East and West.”
9. Maha Al Ghunaim
Maha Al Ghunaim completed her education from the American. She managed the Global Investment House (GIH), which is the largest firm in the Kuwait region. There are many difficulties that companies are suffering currently in the area to restructure. She is one of the prominent Arab businesswomen who sits on the boards of several companies. She creates a crucial connection between sellers and buyers across the region.
In 1982, Maha Al-Ghunaim graduated from the San Francisco State Universit. Al-Ghunaum served as the Assistant General Manager in the Kuwait Investment Company. In 1998, she co-founded Global Investment House (GIH), which in 2008, came to be on the list of the London Stock Exchange. By 2006, GIH handled some $7 billion in assets giving different funds, and ventured into an investment with India, China, and Turkey.
According to Bloomberg, she was the global chairperson of GIH from March 2007 to September 2014, until the firm’s closure on 17 April 2017. In 2010, al-Ghunaim was listed 94th in Forbes’ Power Women 100 list. She also goes to the Kuwaiti chapter of Young Arab Leaders, a pan-Arab organization trying to promote Kuwait’s education and entrepreneurship.
Inspirational Quotes of Maha Al Ghunaim
“You need to make sure you’re always ahead of the game. You work harder, you give your opinion, you prove your point and you continue to perform.”
“I started from the bottom and learned how things are done and gradually moved my way up the ladder,”
“I never set out to be a role model, but it’s important for young women to see themselves reflected in different fields and leadership positions,”
These 9 Arab entrepreneurs are doing exceptionally well in their fields. Our society needs more of these kinds of individuals who are not only focusing on generating their revenue but also benefiting the society either by their creativity, invention, or business. They are the real inspiration for emerging entrepreneurs.