Gulfood Manufacturing and Discover the Middle East programmes are open for business

Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Dubai

09 September 2019

Tony Martin / Regional Director, India, Middle East and Africa More articles from {…} Tony Martin

Next month our teams in the Middle East will support a group of New Zealand companies involved in agritech, biotech, food processing, industrial equipment and engineering, food ingredients, and supply chain solutions, who are already engaged in business activities in the Gulf region, to accelerate business opportunities in the Middle East.

The good news is that there’s still time for you to sign up. Register here.

Centred around the Gulfood Manufacturing trade show in the last week of October, participants will spend time at the show meeting new or potential contacts, as well as attend networking events, and a series of workshops on topics like:

  • Selling in the Middle East: tips for working in a diverse and dynamic market
  • The latest market regulations and market access requirements
  • Insights from NZTE’s Beachhead Advisors (for example, see Q&A below with advisor Naim Maadad) and other experts in Middle Eastern markets
  • Understanding distribution channels: know the key players in the market and manage your distributor relationship to enhance sales

For exporters thinking about doing business in the Middle East for the first time, our Discover programme could be just the ticket. A range of sector-based activities linked to major trade shows in Dubai will offer exporters the chance to explore opportunities, learn more about the business and cultural environment, and network with other New Zealand companies and potential in-market contacts.

The first Discover the Middle East programme is for food and beverage exporters. Beginning with an introductory workshop in New Zealand in November, followed by a 3-day visit to Dubai in February 2020 to coincide with the Gulfood trade show, Discover the Middle East will help food and beverage businesses prepare for exporting to the Middle East and understand what it takes to be successful.

Sign up to participate here.

New Zealand was one of the first countries to announce its business leveraging programme in preparation for Expo 2020 Dubai. While the event is expected to attract millions of international business and leisure visitors, and is a fantastic opportunity to showcase New Zealand on an international stage, businesses should also think about the broader opportunities across the UAE and wider Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region.  

Our team sat down with Naim Maadad, one of our Middle Eastern Beachhead Advisors and an experienced hospitality entrepreneur, to find out about the opportunities he sees across the Middle East. Participants on the Road to Expo programmes will have plenty of opportunities to hear more insights from experienced Middle East business operators like Naim.

What changes are we seeing in the region at the moment?

Over the past five years the Middle East has matured rapidly on multiple fronts. Overall, it’s far more accessible as travelling into and within the region and getting visas has become easier, as has setting up a business.

Many of the government entities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are reaching out to the global arena, looking for international expertise in multiple disciplines. There are a number of gaps in the market, but businesses need to be clever about how they fill these gaps.

The Middle Eastern hospitality sector has also developed in recent years. Consumers are looking for more variety and higher levels of service and both home-grown and imported brands are beginning to meet this demand.

Investments in infrastructure and the improved accessibility have made the UAE a hub to reach important markets like Saudi Arabia, which is a multi-billion-dollar market for the right company, but they need to move fast.

Where are the opportunities for New Zealand businesses in the Middle East?

Saudi Arabia is a massive opportunity but it’s a completely different market to the UAE. Businesses need to consider:

  • Saudis want instant solutions; they want businesses that are already established and are ready to launch. In the hospitality sector this means business models need to travel well, cater for different demographics and offer short, mid and long term solutions.
  • Cities in Saudi like Riyadh and Jeddah aspire to emulate Dubai in some ways but businesses need to keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is still a very different market.
  • Certainly a lot of wealth in Saudi, but there is a significant middle class group of Saudi nationals.

Across the region there is demand for companies that are able to provide higher quality products and service.

What are some of the current challenges?

There has been a major tourism demographic shift. We’re welcoming more Chinese and Indian tourists and less Brits and Russians. Consequently, there needs to be a shift in what services are provided; we need more specialist food options and the market needs to offer more lower and mid-range options.

There is often a culture of subservience in the services sector. We’re focused on encouraging engagement rather than just a delivery model.

The cost of living in the UAE is rising, and while we can’t really mitigate against this, it’s important to be aware as it has a lot of impacts on doing business. 

What excites us most about the Middle East?

There are lots of opportunities – businesses just need to find what they are, see if they’re right for them, and then fill the gaps. Businesses can cover an enormous range of activities if they have the right expertise and solutions.