Posts Tagged ‘Saudi business’

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‘We have the best working environment around here’ … ‘we changed the whole competition landscape, we are the best now and our competitors have to live with it’ … ‘Our products/services are not comparable to others, we are the best’

Once such kind of mentality starts flying around your organization, then it is in need for a serious therapy; it is going through the ‘illusion of the best’ syndrome! And once you have it, it is the downhill road thereafter.

There is no doubt that the marketplace is a competition arena. However, deciding who is the best should be left to stakeholders and unbiased observers, certainly not to the organization managers only!

And let’s give it some thought; in a business environment, what is the best? the best compared to what? and in which categories? And should we compare our products/services/practices to our competitors only? in our environment only? or should we do that globally? I am sure you can come up with endless series of question like these …

My argument is that the whole concept of being the best should have no place in a business environment. The ‘best in ….’ is a relative term even if based upon ground measurements, because, at the end, those measurements are based on agreements between a number of people.

The illusion of being the best could be damaging on the long run. It generates demotivation and kills innovation; why should we do more, we are the best?!

It happened that I have being sitting once with one of the so-called-managers of one of the biggest companies in the country and he was talking about how they are conducting some of their business. The strange thing is that he was referring to many managerial flaws in his talking, and he was acknowledging those flaws! I asked him ‘it is great that you can put your fingers on the wrong doings that are causing pressure on your staff and your productivity. So why don’t you solve these issues?’ His reply was ‘this is how we do business around here!’ I said ‘but there are many companies around the world that faced similar problems and there are many lessons that you can get advantage of.’ He replied ‘No No No … do not talk about companies around the world. Tell me about local companies. We are the best company in the area and this is how we are running our business’!!!!

I hope you got what I mean now!!


p.s. I think the ‘illusion of best’ syndrome fits Jim Collins’s stage number one of declining organizations; the stage he calls ‘Hubris Born of Success.’ Read more about it in his book ‘How the mighty Fall, and Why Some Companies Never Give in’ published in 2009.


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One or two days to the Eid; hope you all have a happy holiday. And now be honest, how many times have you been out shopping for Eid?

There is something I am not quite getting about the retail markets in Saudi. Most of the countries around the world have organized sales seasons. You most probably heard about the US’s Black Friday and such. The concept behind such seasons is strictly simple; as holidays are getting nearer and people wants new stuff to own and to gift, prices are slashed to attract customers and drive sales. Simple, right!

Now when it comes to Saudi, it is a bit strange. Sales are coming on and off all the year long without prior notice. That’s till shopping season really starts which is mainly before Eid Al Fiter. Once started, prices hike almost exponentially!!! (if you want another point of view on the sales and shopping experience in Saudi, Jeddah in particular,  you may want to check out this audio blog from That Jeddah Podcast.)

Not only that, there is another tactics usually used by most retailers in the market. Just before Ramadan and during its first days, the flashy signs of ‘sales up to 50%, 60%, 70%, etc’ start to pop up everywhere. Now, if you ever shopped during this period, you will know that it is a mess. You cannot find all the things you want. It’s old merchandise, few pieces, and out of stock sizes! And just few days before Eid, all the new lines of merchandise are offered and prices more than doubled.

The strange thing is that customers are adapting and getting along with these tactics or how can you explain the crowded malls just two days before Eid!!??

So when most countries choose sales seasons based on holidays, retailers around here choose to charge more … and more!

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Just before the summer vacation sneaked in, I wrote ‘Tourism is a Business’ talking about how I, and mostly anybody I know, have never been persuaded by any local tourism activities.

Now, as most of the Saudi cities are living the so called ‘Summer Festivals,’ one of SCTA’s members went out on Arab News and talked about how these festivals are poorly organized, and how much they lack creativity and fresh ideas!

Most of the points he touched on like prices, transportation, diverse activities, and even electricity and water cutoffs, almost reach the level of agreement between those interested in the idea of local tourism, and we as customers are certainly interested.

The point is that if one of the organization’s members knows and can so eloquently list all these problems and shortcomings, I believe it is legitimate for us all to ask, where are the solutions??

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It’s been more than 10 days since my last post. I had the chance to take the family to the magical city of Paris and the magical world of Disneyland Paris. And since I am still in the mood of vacation and tourism, there is nothing better than talking about the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA). And I have to say, they are not going to like this!

I will start this by a confession; although the Saudi Commission for Tourism has been around since 2000 (they later became the SCTA in 2003), I have never been persuaded by any of their activities in those 10 years of operation to change my tourism destinations to inside instead of outside the Kingdom!! And to generalize this confession a bit, I’ve never seen any of my family members or friends change their vacations plans to the inside. Not that we do not have terrific destinations and rich heritage to visit and enjoy, and I mean my words; it is more of the fact that we do not have the business mindset of tourism.

The interesting thing is that the SCTA has an active and regular presence on the media scene and this is something they should be really praised for. However, putting the whole PR campaigns aside, there is nothing you can touch on the ground. At least from where I see it as a customer of whatever service they are providing!

In my belief, their strategy should’ve been built to satisfy two major objectives (they actually have a very long talk about their objectives, vision, and mission in their web page, but I would quote Seth Godin to describe it ‘You write and write and talk and talk and bullet and bullet but no, you’re not really saying anything.’)

  • Objective 1: Creating the Tourism Culture

It is creating the culture of hospitality and understanding of differences. The local community of tourism destinations are better to understand and be ready to accept and interact with different people of, sometimes, different cultures. That’s why Egyptians grow up knowing that their country is a major tourism destination. That’s why the people of London, Paris, and Rome are familiar with strangers filling their streets all the year long!! This objective is a pre-request to the objective number 2.

  • Objective 2: Creating and Developing the Tourism Business

And this is not something expected from the commission only, but it is expected to lead the orchestra. The business of tourism is all about being organized and taking care of the tiny details. it is in the museums, theme parks, resorts, cultural activities, historical monuments, and logistics (i.e. transportation, tour guidance, information availability, etc). Strangely, our understanding of tourism attractions stopped at shopping festivals and opening bigger malls!! You want a proof, try the next time you visit any hotel around the Kingdom to ask the reception (or the concierge, if there is one!!) to give you a map of the city you are visiting!! And try the same thing in Dubai for example!!

Satisfying the above two objectives is only the beginning of the journey and the first steps on the road … so what do you think the SCTA has accomplished in its 10 years life time?

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If you ask me what are the biggest problems facing the Saudi business environment, I would say: there are two major issues; Saudis do not look at management as a science, and ‘Wasta.’

  • Management is not a science

It is a shock to see that lot of those leading Saudi companies and enjoying the front line positions are still believing that management is all about seniority and managerial practices are solely based on the managers’ own talents and gifts. The problems they are currently creating within their organizations because of such beliefs were very basic issues that had been discussed and dealt with as back as the beginning of the last century! Leadership, organization behavior, motivation, HR modern practices, and management of innovation are only example of the major issues most of Saudi managers lack deep understanding of! And the really surprising thing in this whole matter is to find out that even those studying or carrying MBAs have the same perception about management. Can you believe that?! A lot of those are not really looking into management as a science and the MBA as an academic degree; no, it is only another piece of paper to decorate the office and an exciting tag line to be added to the CV!

  • Wasta

It means that there is a huge chance to have a new job, or get promoted in your current job, not because you are talented and deserve to be in the new position, but because you know someone who can push you there. It is, as my friend Mohsen nicely put it, it is getting things done by ‘knowing dudes who know dudes!’ I am almost certain that if unbiased research is conducted to study this phenomenon, we would discover horrible outcomes. Just think of all the incompetents who were assigned in critical positions and because of their lousy performance millions vanished in poor projects and lost opportunities.

I will leave you now with this video about the last topic, Wasta, as featured in in our fellow bloger Qusay.

So … What do you think?

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[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=construction+worker&iid=307203″ src=”0303/0000303913.jpg?adImageId=12670905&imageId=307203″ width=”234″ height=”234″ /]The blog post named “Discrimination at KAUST, the Oger Way” published today by Nathan, the American student at KAUST and the blogger of “Saudi Aggie,” was very disturbing and you have no choice but to finish reading it filled with sadness, anger, and frustration.

The discussion of how inhuman practices are spread in our ‘low class’ labor market is not new to the public scene, but it is an issue we just like to pretend it does not exist! It is no secret, to almost anybody, that these people are abused in so many ways. They are over worked and under paid. And do not let me start talking about their housing, medical coverage, and their overall humanistic well being.

Most Saudi companies are, unfortunately, part of this mess. Most of them are outsourcing these small-low-service jobs to few companies in the market without any kind of supervision or intervention. They just want to pay the least amount of money to get the job done … and that’s it! On the other hand, while the service companies are winning millions because of these contracts, they are giving the field workers the crumbs, if not less than that!

And let’s just get few steps away from the humanistic dimension of the problem. How these companies are expecting those workers to perform while living in such conditions. what kind of management and what kind of workers motivation is this?

I cannot comment much on Nathan’s post, it is self-explanatory, but I really hope this incident will be investigated by the KAUST administration. And that director who spelled those ugly-full-of racism comments about those poor workers to be investigated and even taken to court if found guilty. This should not be happening in the gate of our future! This is should not be happening in front of our guests who are coming from all over the world!

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[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=court+room&iid=265118″ src=”0261/b960e01d-7cca-4160-a309-31efc1681f53.jpg?adImageId=12026066&imageId=265118″ width=”234″ height=”331″ /]A Saudi businessman is suing Saudi Airlines after purchasing an ill-equipped aircraft (Arabnews). I thought at first that he was suing the Airlines because of a missed important meeting or over a lost investment opportunity caused by their well known off-time scheduling. But hey, everyone has his own reasons!!

The point is that this piece of news made me wonder about the whole idea of suing service companies; will it make any difference in Saudi? It is not unusual in Saudi Arabia to be faced by poor services provided by a number of major players in the market. Saudi Airlines just happens to be leading the list!!

Although I do not have hard numbers to support my claim, I can comfortably argue that Saudi consumers in regard to poor business performances have always been known to be … what should I say … loud-but-with-no-action kind of people. That means they could initiate a scene and get loud whenever faced by a poor service, but that’s it!!! No further steps.

Now, let me rephrase my question above; Do you think companies’ fear of being sued by customers who understand their rights would eventually push them to provide high quality services? So no Airlines would manipulate its schedules because they were poor planners since the start by having central reservation servers in one city with no back ups elsewhere? No telecom company will fool you with you nice advertisements about the huge X Mbps Internet connectivity you could get upon subscription and when you do, you find out that you can only get 20% of that because of technical reasons! No contractors will leave the street in front of your house full of holes or improperly asphalted and force you to take your car to mechanics every 15 days! No hospital would prefer low waged so called doctors without much of background check ups, and just out of the sudden you would read about one of them causing a medical mistake related death?

Just a note before leaving you here; I said in my question above “sued by customers who understand their rights,” so may be the right question should be: “Do Saudi customers understand their rights?”

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