We have been asked many times by medical companies about what sort of challenges they could face exporting their products to MEA. Their questions and intentions are legitimate. Converting those intentions into success is a different matter.
Over 20 years of professional experience in the region has helped us to identify and find practical solutions to many of the business challenges by Principals confronted with medical systems, business culture and languages so different to their own.
Let me share with you some of business environment challenges that need to be overcome in order to establish a sound business activity in the region:
Business Practices: Western business practices are focused very much on signing the deal …. And then what! Hundreds of distribution contracts are signed in the region annually. Very few are turned into long term recurrent business growth. In the Arab world, the “human factor” predominates the written formal contract. Patience and continuous support are critical elements of success.
Customer Relationships: The MEA is a relationship-based business culture. Relationships are above deals. Coming from a long history of trading, Arabs and Africans are known to be very warm and focus on relationships with their counterparts. . Personal relationships are fostered face to face. Therefore, you may have to spend extra time and resources to establish trust and to strengthen your relationships. This could be achieved by improving their knowledge and confidence in your products.
The Time Factor: We all work to different timetables. In most cases, you may see your distributors working at their own pace and not yours. Another factor is the time required ( 6 months to 1 year) to register your products in heavy regulated markets such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.. It is therefore realistic to build this time factor into your export budget. You also need to be persistent, determined, resistant and enthusiastic amid all possible setbacks.
Finding your best distributor: The MEA region is rapidly adapting to international standards and economic changes… a fantastic business opportunity! As a result, Distributors are consistently being hammered by worldwide medical manufacturers wanting to represent them. This has created a supply/demand imbalance and consequently made it difficult for principals to find credible Distributors.
It is important to ask yourself a number of straight forward questions:
Do I have the skills and experience to find, evaluate and select viable partners in the region?
Do I have the time (an important cost factor), structure, support and budget to develop an export business in a country so different and distant from my own?
We are all enthusiastic about our products. This enthusiasm leads often to deception because one has rushed almost “blind folded” into new markets without doing the appropriate due diligence beforehand. Correct Medical Device distributor selection against strict criteria saves time, energy and money. It lays the correct foundations for a sound business development.
If you think all this makes sense, but aren’t sure how to get started in the MEA region, We can Help.