Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Export Opportunities in the New Middle East

Libya, Bahrain and Yemen are following closely on the heels of Tunisia and Egypt as the next Middle-Eastern countries to rise up and demand democratic representation. It seems the United States' hushed and extended stay in Iraq has had the effect of introducing democracy to the Middle East in a powerful, unstoppable way.

If things continue the way they are--which they most likely will--the world will soon see a new democratic powerhouse to compete with the U.S. and the E.U. And this new democratic powerhouse will undoubtably have an insatiable desire for Western and European imports as they get on their feet.

The revolution contagion will open up the doors to the Middle East for Western small businesses in more ways than ever before. But before the floodgates open, I'd like to take a minute to make a world-wide public service announcement.

The United States' business world can choose between two routes when demand for imports skyrockets: the traditional method of exporting obesity, gluttony, greed and a dumbing-down of social culture, or a new ideology of exporting products and services designed to improve the quality of life in the Middle East.

America prides itself on exporting Coca-Cola and McDonald's around the world, and at first glance that seems like a success story. A deeper look reveals that we have a tendency to export our most vicious and destructive vices to developing economies like China and India. Companies like McDonald's are not just an American icon, they are a major contributor to a serious obesity epidemic that costs thousands of lives in our country, regardless of how many salads they put on their menu.

Instead of exporting our worst traits, why not export our virtues? I'm looking for solar panel manufacturers, electric vehicle producers, efficient infrastructure designers, social media marketers and other eco- and socially-conscious businesses to offer their products and services to the infant democracies of the Middle East before socially-destructive mega-corporations entrench themselves in Middle-Eastern life.

Let's not export Hollywood, Burger King and Guess jeans to an area of the world struggling to pull itself out from under decades of oppression. Let's export birth control, communications technology and for-profit education. Let's not export diet pills and OCD pills and depression pills and allergy pills; those are our crutches, and the new democracies do not deserve to be burdened by them. Let's export grassroots political campaign experience, renewable fuel technology and our nation's vast range of nonprofit organizations to the Middle East. Let's export our most admirable and useful products, services and cultural aspects to our new neighbors.

What products and services can your business offer to the new Middle East that do not introduce the darker parts of American culture?

Read More
Daily News Pulse: McDonald's is Still a Favorite Around the World
China Business Review: Coco-Cola in China - Quenching the Thirst of Millions

If you build that foundation, both the moral and the ethical foundation, as well as the business foundation, and the experience foundation, then the building won't crumble. - Henry Kravis Share

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Lessons for Business From Egypt and Mubarek

Newswires across the world reported former President Hosni Mubarek's stepping down from his office as head of the Egyptian government today, amid the cheers of Egyptian protestors from all walks of life. The L.A. Times reports that Mubarek's ruling party, the National Democratic Party, will be systematically disintegrated as the nation moves forward with the next evolution of its political system.

We've all seen the news stories surrounding the protests in Egypt, and they all seem to be coming from the same, straightforward angle. I'd like to take the time to think a bit deeper about Egypt, and riots in general, to see if there are any underlying business opportunities to be found. The recession has taught me (and many others) that any event that is bad for one industry is good for another. Let's take a look at some industries that may benefit from riots and protests around the world.

Insurance carriers take a huge hit during riots, as large numbers of business clients file claims for property damage and theft. In the aftermath of a large riot, however, insurance companies can take advantage of unaffected business owners' fears that their storefronts may come under attack in the future. A post-riot quiet-time can give insurance salespeople an edge.

When a protest turns into a riot, it is a sign of failure on the part of the police. In the aftermath of a large riot, businesses and local government entities may be more willing to contract with private security companies to protect their assets and keep the peace in their establishments. If my shop had been ransacked by looters, I would gladly talk to a sales representative from a private security company.

Medical Services
Injuries and deaths caused by rioting are terribly unfortunate incidents, and they should be avoided at all costs. When things do get out of hand, however, business booms for private medical facilities in addition to government-run hospitals. You can bet hospitals in the Cairo area have increased their revenues exponentially as the protesting has continued to escalate.

Riots and protests make fascinating news. International events such as the protests in Egypt give freelance reporters and small-scale publications an opportunity to capitalize on something big, driving traffic to their websites and spreading the credibility of their brand.

Food and Beverage Vendors
This may seem a bit silly and terrifyingly surreal, but large-scale, drawn-out protests create the same atmosphere as a huge concert event: a ton of people crowded into a cramped space, standing and screaming all day with little or no food and water. If anyone were entrepreneurial and brave enough to traverse the crowds selling water bottles in Cairo, they could have made an killing over the last week.

What other business opportunities can riots around the world provide?

Further Reading
L.A. Times: Egypt Ruling Party Leadership Resigns
Sify News: Egypt's Credit Rating Downgraded
Addis Neger Online: Egypt Update - Mubarek to Leave?