5 bad assumptions in Exporting to the MEA Region

 

 

Thinking about exporting your medical products to the MEA Region? Many medical companies are seriously looking to develop their activities in the region. 

They are encouraged by the unprecedented increase in demand over the course of the next two decades. It is estimated that total healthcare spending in some countries will reach more than $60 billion by 2025. 

 

Despite the exciting news, exporting remains risky and bewildering prospect. Jumping in without concise planning and research about your product vs. market viability, cultural differences and best entry strategies are some of the challenges.

 

This post describes the 5 common mistakes based on wrong assumptions that medical manufacturers could make in exporting to the region:

 

  • Innovative products: With such a diverse range of local cultures, taboos and specificities, products which are successful in Western Cultures may not work/be appropriate in MEA markets. Having innovative products in your own market does not necessarily indicate that they will be viewed as innovative in foreign markets. Thus, it is recommended to do an evaluation study concerning the market viability and potential of your products; the study will provide you with the visibility to help you in your early decision making, saving you time and money. If you do not know how to do this study, reach out to a specialized agency for such service

 

  • Inquiries from Foreign Customers: having inquiries from interested customers or distributors is not a sufficient sign to decide to move to the region and certainly without preparation and planning. You need to establish the right professional credibility with the identified future distributors from the start in order to create viable and long lasting business development. Some aspects to consider are operations, finance, people and leadership, research and development

 

  • Tradeshows: Tradeshows can help you to “test the water”, to gauge the level of interest in your products and make one-off opportunistic sales. However, if the MEA is a long-term strategic region to your Business, relying solely on tradeshows to find your best partners is not recommended. Proper qualification of  credible partners your products deserve goes beyond attending tradeshows or online searches. Experience has shown that manufacturers sign up with the first lead that shows interest and believe their work is finished…. It has in fact just started

 

  • Cultural awareness:  As it may sound, being insensitive to culture is an obvious error .The Arab world is a complicated melting pot of cultural, Business practices, technical, market and legal differences. We see executives do not bother to learn basic things about local cultures and not even know where the MEA region is located in world map. In GCC (KSA, Kuwait, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain) you may even have to deal with “gate keepers”, a diversified community and a qualified non-Arabic salesforce from India, Pakistan, Asia,… . Therefore, a multicultural approach is required to create success in the region.

 

  • Leadership and people: Make sure to surround yourself with qualified teams. It could start from reorganizing your governance structure to recruiting persons with a "hands on" medical export experience to the MEA region. If you cannot afford this, you will need to do your homework. A good start would be to travel to this region, establish your network and customize your strategy and operations to your customer’s needs.

 

Exporting to MEA region with a business culture and language that are so different to your Own, is a challenging journey. Finally, do not hesitate to get info from Government bodies or to seek advice from credible MEA consulting agencies that have their “fingers on the pulse”. They will help you to navigate through the complicated entry barriers and cross-cultural challenges. The costs related to such services are far less than the costs resulting from damaging your reputation/Brand and poor sales results.

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