For today’s article, we reached out to a company that has recently been in the limelight in the field of trade in the Middle East. Our questions are answered directly by its founder and CEO, Mr. Asama Hashmy.
What made you turn your attention to the Middle East?
I was born there. The political situation made us refugees and we found a new home in Europe. When I was deciding which school to go to and what I would do next in life, I knew that I wanted to bring the best of Europe to the place where I was born and vice versa.
It sounds simple, but it probably wasn’t, right?
The situation there is still not stable, but I managed to gain experience and close one trade, then it was something like a snowball. Back then it was a challenge and I can say that today, despite all the experience and contacts, it is no different. No trade is easy, but I see a huge opportunity here. If you have courage, knowledge and higi-quality products, you just need to persevere and not give up.
How are the local markets different from the European ones?
I would say they are more emotional. The first impression is also important to them, if they like you, it’s a good start. But you have to accept that the negotiations will not be easy. It takes a lot of patience, but it’s worth it. Where there is demand, there is supply. And here they ask for everything.
How would you describe trading in this region?
A different mentality and for many of us a completely different world of business. The Middle East has never been one of the primary topics of Czech foreign policy, but I saw great opportunities here, I like the specificity of it. The states of the Middle East are growing in front of our eyes, look at where they have moved in the last 20 years.
What are the traders like there?
They love our technology, design and mentality. Nothing is impossible and the opportunities are endless. Traders are very diligent and do their job perfectly. They try to buy cheap and sell at a profit, just like any other company, manufacturer or seller in any other country in the world. You have to offer them not only quality, but you have to stand your ground, be fair and patient. It is necessary to prove your qualities, no matter how good the goods itself will be, they will not buy them unless you accept their habits and if they are not satisfied with you as a person.
What is most traded?
This changes not only according to the season, but also in relation to trends. It also depends on what kind of country and city it is. For example, in Dubai there has been a large-scale construction for several years, the city is changing every day. Somewhere is a demand for building material, elsewhere for technology, somewhere they need raw materials, etc. The range is wide.
Have you ever been surprised by anything?
I would not say surprised, but it is true that I was very naïve when I thought that it is enough to come up with high-quality goods and the demand will just flood. I quickly understood that you usually don’t close a deal at the first meeting, even if you had a perpetual motion machine.
What does such behavior look like?
As with us here, there is a certain hierarchy, and you can be sure that you will have to work your way to those at the top gradually. Negotiations begin with representatives, but you have no idea, so you present everything to them, you start negotiating the terms, and only then you understand that it was the first of many that you will have to convince. On the other hand, when you agree on a deal, bureaucracy is easier here than with us.
How long does it take to close a trade?
It varies. There are a lot of factors involved. Some go through consultants, some through partners or investors. If you find the right person, you can close the deal really quickly, in two negotiations. If you go gradually and look for the right door, it can stretch fairly long and you do not know for a long time with what result. You can tell their interest in your product by whether they ask, whether they want to know the details, if not, the deal will probably not work out.
Do you think that interest will ever fade?
These countries are fragmented, every country has its own politics, sometimes every city. I can’t say what the future holds, but I still see a lot of opportunities here, everyone wants to trade here.
What countries can I trade with? What exactly is the Middle East?
Emirates, Qatar, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Oman, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan. The possibilities are many.
It seems that for an EU company it is a gold mine, why doesn’t everyone export there already?
As I said, it is not easy to make a deal there. A trader from Europe will have trouble understanding the mentality, will not withstand the pressure and will soon give up.
Are you not afraid of cheap goods from China?
No. European quality is sought after. Products from China may not necessarily be bad, but let’s say they try to push through the low price, at the expense of the quality of the material or workmanship. You often buy a product from China only once, then you calculate that the better product is actually cheaper as a result.
Do you check Arab companies?
Just as they test us.
Do you see any risk in trading with the Middle East?
I see a disadvantage in political instability, which is reflected in sharp changes in the value of a given currency and sometimes in sudden changes in import regulations. It’s something we have to deal with every day.
Can I prepare for these risks?
Only partially, the rest you have to deal with as it comes. There was and still partially is COVID. Then the war in Ukraine, a huge earthquake, complications such as the explosion of a warehouse in the port of Beirut, these are things that you simply cannot prepare for, but you have to be able to deal with them. Thanks to many years of experience in trading between the EU and the Middle East, we are able to eliminate the risks unlike those who do not have the experience and contacts. That’s why we started to represent others and help get their products to market. We also offer consultancy in order to protect investments and hedge against exchange rate risks associated with the development of the exchange rate.
What are you planning for the future?
We have some development plans and are considering making our own products, but we still have a lot of work to do. Now we have managed to close several interesting deals in Turkey and in connection with this we have gained interesting contacts. I am personally curious how we will do, I believe that we will be successful here as well.
So good luck and thank you very much for the interview.
Good luck to you, your readers and thank you for your interest.
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