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Archive for the ‘Entrepreneurship’ Category

The Forbes’s list of the 100 most powerful women in the world is out. And out of the 100, only 4 Arabic women are there.

The magazine claims that its decisions to sort out the powerful women was based on their influence, creativity, and entrepreneurship. These women have not been chosen because they are celebrities, but because they are making a difference in their societies, if not in the whole world. These women are creating paychecks, forming new cultures, and challenging status quo.

One of the really interesting findings is that 39 of those powerful women are categorized in the business sector (the most influential sector followed by the political one). For those still debating women abilities to lead and inspire, they should read the profiles of these women who are running companies considered among the best in the world. Throughout their tenures, they created values, strengthen brands, and made differences. Maybe in Saudi we need some more time to comprehend such realities, we are still debating if women should be working in cashiers or not!!!!!!!

Anyway, from the Arab world, 3 politicians and 1 businesswomen made it to the list; that could give you another indication that Arabic women are still behind when it comes to the business world and to its top positions.

Here it goes according to the list:

  • At the 70th position comes the UAE’s Minister of Economy Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi. The first woman to hold a cabinet in the UAE and what cabinet it is! For a country that has many economical aspirations while going through many challenges, standing in her shoes is not that comforting idea.

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  • At the 74th position, Sheikha Moozah Al Missned, the first lady of Qatar. She is well known for her many initiatives when it comes to education, children welfare and charity in general. In addition to that, she is the exceptional first lady in the whole conservative gulf area that officially represents her country in many international events.

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  • At the 76th position, the glamorous queen of Jordan, Queen Rania Al Abduallah. Well spoken and Internet active queen who focuses on women rights and children education issues. That’s in addition to her efforts in bridging the cultural gaps between the East and the West.

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  • At the 94th position, thanks God Maha Al Ghunaim saved the face of Arabic businesswomen and made it to the list. Regardless of the heavy challenges facing her group at the moment, her leadership personality has inspired many women in the area to follow her lead.

 

 

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I believe that there are a lot of things we could learn from Google even when they take a wrong step and make a wrong decision!

About a year ago, Google introduced a new product called “Google Wave” which was presented as the new and revolutionary way to communicate online. It combined instant messaging, documents sharing, emails, and many other features that promised instant interaction on the network.

Few days ago, Google decided to stop developing “Wave” as a single product; simply, It did not accomplish its targeted goals!

Here are some Google lessons:

  • The company that does not fear innovation is the same company that does not fear setbacks. There is no doubt that Google spent a lot of resources on “Wave” and was, in a way or another, betting that it will change the online interactive scene. But the moment it felt that the product is not harmonious with customers, the company had the gut to stop it!
  • A message to customers; we are here to serve you. We thought that a new product will be beneficial to you all, but once we sensed that you did not like it, we stopped it and we are working on something else to meet (or exceed!) your expectations.
  • A message to employees; the company is ready to believe in and support your innovative ideas. We are ready to accept the risks to make a difference in our customers lives. And if that idea did not make it, we are ready to accept the consequences. Just go there and bring us some fresh and innovative ideas.

All in all, innovation management does not mean that all ideas should be introduced to the market without proper market analysis, but it certainly means that a company should know when to retreat and learn its lesson instead of being stubborn and start losing customers loyalty.

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It is time to talk about another local business success story; and how can we talk about successful organizations without talking about Al-Baik.

It is next to impossible that you are living in Jeddah or ever visited it without being to Al-Baik. The local fast food chain has been around since 1974. After 35 years by now, the restaurant is mainly operating in Jeddah with minimum number of branches in Makkah, Madinah, Yanbu and Taif. Arguably, Al-Baik possesses the highest market share and customer loyalty amongst its competitors especially in Jeddah; noting that when I say competitors, I mean international multibillion brands like McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut etc …

Let’s shed some lights on Al-Baik main success recipes :

–          The Quality & Price: for those of you familiar with the debate surrounding Porter’s Generic strategies, Al-Baik is a living proof that you could follow a strategy that combines both differentiation and cost leadership. Although there are a lot of restaurants serving fried chicken, the quality and taste of Al-Baik are certainly unique and its prices are way below the average.

–          The Trustworthy Brand: Al-Baik has a very strong brand equity whether we are measuring it by evaluating the restaurants’ products or by studying its brand impact on customers. Al-Baik brand communicates strong messages of quality, fast service, trust, affordability, convenience, and social responsibility. Its management has been very smart emphasizing these values into the brand using different methods of advertisements, public relations, or even by spreading stories about the brand. The entrepreneurial story of its founder and how he struggled to raise his community awareness about eating outside the home which was strange back then and how he has been working alone in the restaurant preparing the food, serving it, and then cleaning the small shop are all meant to build some kind of connection with its customers. Also, some suspense and mystery would not hurt either; the secret chicken formula that is only known by few individuals is one of the most preferred stories amongst such food and beverages organizations (didn’t you hear similar stories about Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and KFC?)

–           Superb Customer Service: whether we are talking about fast service, servicescape design, or cleanness of the restaurants environment; Al-Baik is providing exemplary services in all of that. Even more, Al-Baik is one of the few restaurants that introduced items to the menu based solely on customers’ suggestions.

–          Convenient Locations: Al-Baik marketers are masters in choosing locations for their restaurants; I have never seen a branch of Al-Baik without it being packed with customers. The huge expansions they carried out in Jeddah have been built on population distribution analysis. That is why wherever you live in Jeddah now; there must be Al-Baik branch within your easy reach.

–          Social Responsibility: Al-Baik has always been known for its socially related campaigns. They have a regular presence in Hajj seasons providing free meals to pilgrims and they are periodically campaigning for environmentally related causes like banning smoking in their restaurants or preserving the city clean image. Furthermore, their active participation in the aftermath of Jeddah floods by providing free meals to those devastated by the catastrophe is one shiny example of how organizations could be interacting with its society.

Nevertheless, staying on the top is not an easy job. Al-Baik management has to deal with many issues to facilitate its growth. One of these important issues is on the mind of every fan who happen to live outside Jeddah; how much should they expand? Should they consider opening new branches in other cities at the Kingdom? What about being multinational or even global?

Moreover, how Al-Baik should respond to the growing concerns raised by healthy and organic foods advocates (it is selling fried chicken, right!!)? And most importantly, how its managers are going to maintain its competitive advantages and how are they going to nurture its sustainability strategy?

Finally, the free spirit statement; this is to confirm that I do not know, or have any relation with anyone working at Al-Baik management or restaurants, and this post has not been influenced by Al-Baik or any of its partners in any way …

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Just pick any generic product around you and think if you can transform it into a differentiated big business. If you can do that, then you must have a genuine innovative and entrepreneurial spirit.

I would suggest to use the Saudi Thobe as an example (I hope you know what a Saudi thobe is, if not, check out this Wikipedia page.  And yes, it is on Wikipedia!!). This product has been around for hundreds of years now. Although the fabrics and final touches have evolved a bit throughout these years, the general design, style and color almost kept unchanged. Now making a big, new and profitable business out of such a product is a real challenge.

Loai Nassem and his wife Mona Al Haddad did just that, they chose to be different in a saturated market, in a market that kept its status quo for hundreds of years.

The story of their initiative can be found here, but I would like to shed some light on the interesting marketing tactics they used to build their business:

–          Setting the imagination: One of the interesting quotes said by Mr. Loai, the founder of Lomar, that I particularly like is ‘I wanted this business to start big.’ It is obvious that he had imagined the business before its start.  Such perspective enabled him to set a reliable track for his business and brand. One of the most common problems of entrepreneurs is to have the idea and … that’s it!! Picturing the idea, the way it will be realized and how it will be recieved by people are all major factors determining the success of any entrepreneurial project. Once the picture is clear, the project business plan will be based on a solid ground; it will be more focused and will lead to more reliable results.

–          Careful Targeting: The well known golden rule in marketing is: you cannot sell to everybody. Lomar thobes is using this rule effectively. They wanted their brand to be associated with a specific group of people. People who are daring to change, and yet have the money to do it! That’s why Lomar thobes is charging a premium price in exchange for its products. Their prices are greater than the rest of the market by around 40%. Their boutiques are located in premium locations and their internal designs are unique and modren.

–          Emphasizing the brand: They are using their brand name on buttons, zipper sliders, or even somewhere on the thobe itself. This is certainly a unique approach in the thobes market. Usually seeing the brand name will start conversations about Lomar designs, colors and fabrics. In other words, by using this approach they are encouraging word of mouth marketing.

However, Lomar thobes are dealing with considerable challenges; such as:

–          Cultural Difficulties: Although recording a remarkable success among young customers (those between 25 up to 35 years old), Lomar is still facing some cultural acceptance issues. Surviving all these years with minimal changes, Lomar approach is seen as a threat to local costume traditions.  These difficulties can be sensed when comparing the popularity of Lomar designs amongst the Kingdom’s regions. Its success is still concentrated in Jeddah although are some moves to make it more acceptable elsewhere. 

–          Typicality and Competition:  Lomar made a surprise, a wave of shock if you want to call it, to the status quo in thobes designs. This was definitely a part of its success. However, people will soon start to wonder, what else? What is new? Especially when realizing that their first-player-in-the-market-position will last no longer, new entrants already started to position themselves in the market!

 

Finally, such initiatives should always to endorsed and given the chance to grow and prosper. And for young entrepreneurs, it is important to see peers from their own culture, their own environment who can face the challenges and come out with successful business examples. Modern economies are now built on such entrepreneurial spirits, on small businesses generating jobs and adding to GDP.

I think it is time to conclude now by stating that I do not know the owners of Lomar Thobes, or any one working there for that matter.

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