Transcript: IMEA Essentials SA
Chris Tozer: Saudi Arabia is an absolutely vast country, it’s the largest by population size, it’s physically the largest country in the region, in the GCC and it certainly has the most wealth. 7.1 million people live in Riyadh, it’s the traditional home of the Alsaad family and it’s the centre of government as you’d expect. Jeddah is the ancient port city on the Red Sea. It’s considered Saudi Arabia’s kind of commercial hub or commercial capital.
Saudi Arabia is going through a period of almost unprecedented change at the moment. The key initiative is called Vision 2030 and a component of it is called the National Transformation Plan and the whole focus of this activity, driven at the highest level, is to diversify Saudi Arabia’s economy away from its dependence on oil.
This huge change that Saudi Arabia’s going through offers many opportunities for many New Zealand companies across a wide variety of sectors. To name but a few, training and education, Saudization and the push for Saudis to be more skilled and to have greater technical competency is a major focus for the Saudi government. Many people come to Saudi Arabia each year as pilgrims for religious purposes, the Saudi authorities are wanting to build on that and to provide infrastructure and opportunities for people to enjoy Saudi Arabia for tourism and fun. Traditionally, the food products we’ve sold have been commodity, typically meats or dairy. What we’re seeing is a very exciting shift towards more value added higher value food and beverage products into Saudi Arabia, from New Zealand.
A common misconception is that Saudi Arabia is a closed country and the Saudis themselves don’t necessarily know a great deal about the world. This is absolute not the case. Many young Saudis have lived and been educated overseas. Also, the Saudis are some of the highest social media users in the world. Saudi Arabia is and currently remains a conservative and Islamic country and women have historically largely been subservient and lacking in power, comparative to men. However, that is changing and it’s changing rapidly. To western ears perhaps, some of those changes might sound modest, but in this part of the world the changes are fundamental.
A very strong suggestion is for New Zealand businesses to look at both the National Transformation Plan and the Vision 2030 documents. Inside each, there are KPIs and if there is some way for a New Zealand business to weave in those KPIs into their sales pitch to the Saudis, that would certainly enhance what they can offer.
Understanding time and how business processes work in Saudi is important, you should be prepared to be very flexible and to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice. Do take the time to meet with your business partner on a regular basis, have cups of tea, go out for lunch, go out for dinner and get to know them as a person.
A strong message to New Zealand businesses is not to rely on email. I’d highly recommend either picking up the phone or better yet, using WhatsApp to communicate with Saudis.
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