Doing Business in the Middle East – UAE Blog
By: Nikita Jeswani, MBA Candidate 2017
Salaam alaykum, and welcome to the University of Maryland Robert H. Smith Global Business Course: Doing Business in the Middle East – UAE blog! I am Nikita Jeswani, a Marketing Liaison for the Center for Global Business, and a participating student in the UAE course. Photo and video content shared here will be provided by Nour El Houda Bouadis, Photographer, and also a participating student.
This blog will document the experiences of students participating in this course, including:
- Exposure to the diverse cultures and economy of the Middle East
- Development a business compass to navigate business opportunities and challenges in
the Middle East in general, and the UAE in particular
- Expansion network of professional contacts in the government and private sector to
further students’ careers and introduce new opportunities to U.S. enterprises.
The course is taught by Dr. Hassan Ibrahim, and runs from September 2017-March 2018. Posts
will be provided daily from January 6-12 during the international component of the course and will include daily recaps, cultural insights, and photo/video highlights. Please subscribe to our Facebook page (@SmithGlobalBiz) and Twitter feeds (@SmithUAE2018, @SmithGlobalBiz) for more content.
Students attended a common core session and gained insight into cross-cultural differences affecting interpersonal interactions, managerial practices and work systems in other cultures, and characteristics of emerging markets. Students also attended two UAE-specific classes in College Park, MD, which introduced content on the UAE economic environment and business opportunities; mega logistics and infrastructure projects; mega renewable energy projects; mega real estate and tourism projects; major project financing including the role of private (family-owned) enterprises and the role of sovereign funds; and the U.S. multinational company perspective.
Meredith Gould, a third-year DC evening PTMBA student, noted that “one of the things [she is] most looking forward to learning about are differences in Middle Eastern cultures, ranging from
more conservative to more liberal.” Meredith and the other students benefited from the business and cultural insights of two special lecturers, including Mr. Talal Al Kaissi, Chief of Staff and Advisor to the Commercial Counselor during a visit to the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC, and Lobna Mohamed Abdel Rahim Ismail, President of Connecting Cultures, who joined one of our class sessions.
Dr. Ibrahim shared how the history of traditional markets in the Middle East has influenced how business is conducted today in all settings in the UAE. Markets, or souks, are typically organized with a conglomeration of vendors lined up in a common space, creating competition and giving rise to the practice of haggling. Interaction between vendors, competitors, and customers is an important component of making a sale.
“Doing business is about building relationships. It is part of the DNA of the culture, whether in small transactions or a big sale,” said Dr. Ibrahim. The pursuit of business opportunities in the
UAE will therefore require careful consideration of local partnership. Outside of the free zone, a local partner is in fact required and can be a facilitator for in-country relationships and business interactions.
We are excited to experience a range of cultural and academic visits when in-country. A tentative (and packed!) itinerary includes a Dubai city tour, visits to the Burj Khalifa, Palm Jumeira, Sheikh Zhayed Mosque, the desert, and the dhow. We will gain business insights from visits to the Arab Culturalist, CBS, American Business Council, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Cultural Authority, Mubadala Technology, Dubai 2020, and Dell.
Bon voyage, and we will check back in on January 6, 2018.