How to Manage Workplace Perceptions in the MENA region?

How to Manage Workplace Perceptions in the MENA region

  • Perception management at workplace holds increasing importance as organizations worldwide are adopting 360 degree feedback and peer review mechanisms, to establish collaborative workplaces.
  • Lack of effective perception management can backfire for employees as even positive actions of an employee can be perceived in a completely different (sometimes negative) manner, by peers and management.
  • Some suggestions towards building a good perception at workplace include communicating transparently with your seniors,​being punctual, driving conversations towards productivity and effectiveness (vs. hours pent), taking initiatives at work, seeking feedback from revered seniors and peers, among others.

Perception management at workplace holds increasing importance as organizations worldwide are adopting 360 degree feedback and peer review mechanisms, to establish collaborative workplaces: With collaboration culture increasing at modern workplaces, organizations value employees who can not only achieve their professional goals but also create and maintain healthy and collaborative work places, and most have instituted 360 degree feedback and peer review mechanisms to assess the cultural fitment of employees. Therefore, being perceived in the right light by peers and management is becoming important than ever for employees worldwide, including the MENA region.

Lack of effective perception management can backfire for employees: An employee might face a lot of challenges if he/she fails to manage perceptions at workplace, so much so that even positive actions of an employee can be perceived in a completely different (sometimes negative) manner, by peers and management. A look at some examples below underlines this point.

How to Manage Workplace Perceptions in the MENA region1

Source: Arab Business Review, Askmen.com

As made amply clear by the above examples, the same action can be perceived in different ways by you (the employee) and your peers and seniors.  Therefore, it is important to manage perceptions at workplace, and here are some way on how to do it:

Communicate, communicate, communicate! Whether it is your long-term goals, preference for a good work-life balance or an idiosyncratic working style, make sure that you communicate that to your seniors and peers.  Let your manager that you mean business and that you are interested in fast growth. Also, let your colleagues know that they can bank on you in crunch situations and during fun times!

❝ Arab Business Review spoke to Amanda Brailsford-Urbina, an HR leader who has worked in the U.S. and Qatar, and she reiterated the importance of communication in managing workplace perceptions. “Frequent and ongoing communication is essential so that understanding can be reached about work-life balance. Due to the diversity of the employee groups, there can be totally different perceptions of what is acceptable. For example, someone coming from a country where professionals only take a few weeks off for childbirth will look at a leave of absence differently than someone from a country where a lengthy maternity and paternity leave is common. Organizational cultures vary as to whether not using holiday/vacation time is something to boast about or something of concern. Some organizations honor holiday/vacation time off and don’t call unless there is an emergency. Other companies believe you are on call 24/7. Also individuals of different generations perceive work-life balance and dedication differently. Colleague and supervisor/subordinate relationships will be enhanced by communication about expectations and wishes for work-life balance”, says Amanda. ❞

Be punctual and drive conversations towards productivity and effectiveness, as opposed to hours spent in office: Being punctual and diligent with your work schedule can go a long way in improving your perception. If you don’t do your hours, or often take breaks for personal work people will notice your absence and that will affect your perception negatively. Also, it is important to drive conversations with you manager towards productivity and effectiveness, and not on hours spent in office.

Seek feedback from respected co-workers and seniors, and bond with the best: Interact and seek feedback from seniors and co-workers who have ‘been there, done that’. This should help you identify areas of improvement and also instances where you might have acted as a cultural misfit. Once you identify your actions invoking negative response, start acting to improve on those.

That said, make sure you are seen interacting and seeking advice from seniors and peers perceived in good light by others. Bonding with the wrong set of people is a sure shot way of driving down your perception at the workplace.

Take initiatives with your seniors in loop: Taking initiatives can help you be perceived as a leader and an out-of-the-box thinker, and is usually important for people looking to assume leadership positions since leading a group requires a combination of knowledge and team work.

A couple of points of caution here: firstly, make sure that your initiative is relevant to your team and organization, else you will be perceived as someone who is interested in attention and not results. Secondly, make sure you have the consent of your manager (or the relevant authority) before publicising your initiative; not doing so can be perceived as a sign of insubordination in traditional set-ups.

Ask your manager to share your successes with others: Your manager can help you improve your perception and build your brand name at workplace. When you complete your tasks successfully, your manager is a happy man. It is at this time you can ask him to share your success with other team members and/or senior management, so that your hard work does not go unnoticed.

Work on important projects (and give them your best!) to enhance visibility: Getting involved in important project gives you more visibility and improves your perception with senior management. Always keep your eyes open get the information regarding important projects, and discuss with your manager on how you can be a part of such projects. Such projects are double-edged swords, so make sure that you give it your best and come out with flying colours, and do not let your manager and peers down.

Avoid using phone/workstation for personal use: Employees who attend unnecessary phone calls at workplace and use their office workstation for personal tasks are likely to attract negative perceptions from peers as well as managers. If you are majorly seen on phone interacting with your near and dear ones then you are perceived as an employee who is wasting his bandwidth on unfruitful task. If some urgent personal task needs your attention for which you need to use official resources you should keep your manager informed.

We hope some of these points will help improve your perceptions at workplace, and would like to hear your thoughts on what else can be done to maintain a perception at work.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

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Can Investors Bet on a Broad Emerging Markets Recovery?

Can Investors Bet on a Broad Emerging Markets Recovery

  • Following the 2008 financial crisis, emerging economies rebounded. But since 2011 things have changed.
  • Emerging economies are now richer than ever. And while these countries still have an opportunity to grow in the future, their growth rates are likely to be slower than in the past. 
  • As advanced economies recover and their monetary policies return to more conventional policies, further weakness in emerging markets’ equities and bond markets is expected.

During the global financial crisis the world economy stabilized thanks to vibrant emerging markets. Now, emerging economies are weakened by slower growth, rising financial vulnerabilities, and outflow of capital attracted by higher interest rates in the U.S.

What happened after the financial crisis?
Following the 2008 financial crisis, emerging economies rebounded. But since 2011 things have changed. In 2013 growth was 4.5 percent, compared with 6.5 percent two years earlier. Except for Arica, all emerging market regions were marked by some form of economic slowdown. These were the growth rates of the following areas in 2013 : Russia (1.5%), developing Asia (6.5%), Latin America (2.6%), MENA (2.4%), and Central and Eastern Europe (2.5%).
Emerging economies are now richer than ever. And while these countries still have an opportunity to grow in the future, their growth rates are likely to be slower than in the past. This is normal when a country’s catching-up process succeeds in raising its per capita income and its economy approaches a steady state. For example, Chinese GDP per capita tripled in a decade. At 7.5% in 2013 and 7.3% in 2014, China’s growth is lower than during the past decade, but it remains strong for a country where the GDP per capita is about to reach $10,000 this year.
The problem is that Chinese growth is unbalanced. China’s economy continues to rely on high investment and too much credit. In contrast, consumption is weak; it only represents 35% of the GDP. This low level of consumption reflects the macroeconomic challenges faced by the world’s second largest economy—as it redistributes income in a way that enables sustainable growth—and a larger middle class that benefits the economy by enabling more people to be consumers.
In other emerging and developing countries the problem is reversed. Consumption is too dynamic compared to production capacities, and growth is blocked by supply constraints and a lack of investment. Thus, in places like India, Brazil, Turkey, Indonesia, and South Africa current account deficits have widened to alarming levels .
These external imbalances in emerging countries indicate a contradiction between the aspirations of a growing and educated middle class—looking for more consumption—and production whose development is impeded by the lack of investment and inefficiency of the administration. Lately, these contradictions have resulted in growing political tensions (in Brazil, Turkey, and Ukraine) and increased financial fragility.
Countries with high external deficits are usually vulnerable to unexpected monetary shocks, leading to capital outflows. When the U.S. Federal Reserve hinted at its intention to put an end to its accommodative monetary policy last summer, many emerging markets—particularly those with weak fundamentals—experienced strong reversals of capital inflows as investors reacted to the expected “tempering” by reducing their investments in riskier assets (including the assets of emerging markets).
What to expect?
Renewed troubles and retrenchments of capital flows have certainly not led to a new financial crisis, and none of the emerging countries have defaulted on their debt or called for the IMF’s support (which was often the case in the 1990s).
Whereas this is a strong sign that emerging economies have become stronger, the cost of external financing for these countries increased, their currencies depreciated, and their monetary authorities had to raise interest rates (to contain inflationary pressures). All the same, equities and bond markets dropped.
Fighting inflation and preventing a currency from depreciating require tighter monetary policies. But this hampers domestic demand and weakens growth. Moreover, currency depreciations aggravate public deficits and create the sentiment that emerging countries are less able to service their debts denominated in foreign currencies.
As advanced economies recover and their monetary policies return to more conventional policies, further weakness in emerging markets’ equities and bond markets is expected. Emerging markets will face challenging headwinds this year.

The article is written by Dr. Charbel Cordahi for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Higher Education System – The Weakest Link of MENA’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

Higher Education System – The Weakest Link of MENA's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem

  • Education & training, and the role of universities in developing entrepreneurs – both key pillars of an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem – are the least developed in the Middle East & Africa, as per entrepreneurs trying to grow their companies in the region.
  • The higher education system in the region is public and controlled by the political class, thereby denying universities the necessary academic freedom to breed next generation entrepreneurs.
  • Courses specific to developing communication and presentation skills of young graduates and future entrepreneurs are missing, and the brain drain following the Arab Spring has further depleted the quality of the region’s graduating workforce.
The higher education system in MENA is the weakest link of the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. This seems to be the key takeaway of a recent report by the World Economic Forum that compares the Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Around the Globe. As per the report, entrepreneurs worldwide view accessible markets, funding & finance, and human capital & workforce as the three most important pillars when it comes to the growth of their companies.
And while Middle East & Africa (MEA) is better placed as compared to other in emerging markets like Asia and South America in terms of market accessibility and access to funding, the region has the least developed human capital workforce among all the regions, required for the development and growth of a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem. And the reason is not very hard to find.
Education & training, and the role of universities in developing entrepreneurs, both key pillars of an effective ecosystem, are the least developed in the MEA as per entrepreneurs trying to grow their companies in the region. Therefore, it is not surprising that the region has the least developed human capital workforce worldwide, and human capital is cited as the biggest challenge to growth by entrepreneurs in MEA.
Higher Education System – The Weakest Link of MENA's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem1
Source: World Economic Forum – Entrepreneurial Ecosystems Around the Globe and Company Growth Dynamics
Entrepreneurs were asked to identify which of the eight pillars of an entrepreneurial ecosystem were readily available to them as they built their venture.
Most of the higher education system in the region is public and controlled by the political class, thereby denying universities the necessary academic freedom to breed next generation entrepreneurs. Education is a political topic in the region and the recent Arab Spring has only heightened the scrutiny faced by the academia as the political class tries to maintain its control over the content and pedagogy.
As a result, universities are denied the intellectual and academic freedom to develop degrees and content aimed at covering key subjects core to creating a successful business (such as business planning and risk management), with coursework consisting of specialised seminars in which students create business plans to be presented to angel investors or venture capitalists.
Courses specific to developing communication and presentation skills of young graduates and future entrepreneurs are missing. A May 2013 report – Unlocking Arab Youth Entrepreneurship Potential – by entrepreneurship training NGO Injaz al Arab highlighted that schools in the region are schools are focused on rote learning and memorisation rather than problem solving and critical thinking, and that CEOs in the region felt that the education system does not provide graduates with the necessary skills like communication, presentation, teamwork, analytical thinking, and initiative, all critical to developing an entrepreneurial ecosystem
The political instability caused by the Arab Spring has also resulted in a brain drain, as the best lecturers (and students!) in the region have decided to leave the region for better opportunities in developed nations. As per University World News, other problems facing universities in the region included lack of research and publication, challenges of accessibility and quality, and low levels of student and scientific mobility and innovation. The result of these problems is a workforce that is not ready for the development of an effective entrepreneurial ecosystem. This sentiment was further echoed by global entrepreneurship NGO Endeavor, which found that 39% MENA companies cited an inadequately educated workforce as their biggest problem.
Therefore, it is important for governments in the region who view entrepreneurs and their ventures as a vehicle for driving growth and reducing unemployment in their countries, to strengthen their respective higher education systems by giving higher degree of freedom to existing universities with respect to course content and pedagogy, increasing domestic- and foreign- private player participation in the higher education sector to bring in global best practices, tapping successful entrepreneurs living abroad for their advice and connections, and developing more training programs for entrepreneurs, among others.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Growth of the Indian Basmati Rice Market in the Arab World

Growth of the Indian Basmati Rice Market in the Arab World

  • Basmati rice is grown in the Indo-Pak subcontinent and is considered the most preferred variety of rice consumed in nearly all parts of the Arab world.
  • Due to the phenomenal growth in sales the Indian basmati market has moved from being just a commodity to being a branded commodity.
  • Indian basmati continues to enjoy a robust growth in the Arab markets, especially in the traditionally non-basmati markets like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq etc. This trend is likely to continue in the next few years and thereby offers tremendous opportunities for the rice traders in the region.

Rice has been a staple grain in Arab cuisine for ages. This is true not only for the Gulf Arab states, but also for the Levant (also known as the Eastern Mediterranean) and other Arab markets. The region has fulfilled its needs for rice largely from the Indo-Pak region, Egypt, and Thailand. Each of these rice growing regions provides rice of different varieties with varying properties and is thus used for different dishes. But the most popular variety of rice consumed is the basmati from India/Pakistan because of its distinct properties.

Some of the common properties of Indian basmati rice are:
  • Non-sticky, fluffy, remains separate after cooking
  • Elongates almost double on cooking
  • High volume expansion
  • Possesses the natural fragrance (aroma) characteristic of basmati
  • Easily digestible
Basmati rice is grown in the Indo-Pak subcontinent and is considered the most preferred variety of rice consumed in nearly all parts of the Arab world. It is used for making a number of dishes that are an integral part of Arab cuisine. Also a large number of the spices used in Arab cuisine are also those emphasized in Indian cuisine. This is a result of heavy trading and historical ties between the two regions, and also because many South Asian expats live in the Gulf Arab states.
Some of the common rice dishes in the Arab world are Mandy, Bukhary, Kawazy, Zurbian, Chicken Biryani, Mutton Biryani, Fish Biryani, Vegetable Biryani, Pulao Biryani, and plain rice both white and Sella (parboiled). Although Indian basmati rice has been the hot favorite of the Arabs of the Gulf Region, over the last few years we are seeing a phenomenal rise in the consumption of it in the Levant countries. The below chart elucidates this trend in the region.
Growth of the Indian Basmati Rice Market in the Arab World1
Growth of the Indian Basmati Rice Market in the Arab World2
Source: DGCIS Annual Export/APEDA
One of the reasons for this changing trend is the return of a number of native people who have been living in the Gulf back to their home countries, these people have developed a taste for dishes like Biryani—for which basmati is the most suitable rice.
The consumption of Indian basmati is also growing in the traditional basmati markets of the Gulf and Iran. This trend is likely to progress with the passage of time as people in the Arab world are likely to continue to patronize the Indian basmati rice and consumption continues to grow.
Due to the phenomenal growth in sales the Indian basmati market has moved from being just a commodity to being a branded commodity. There has been the emergence of a plethora of brands in this category across the Arab world. Tilda was the first mover in this direction immediately after the first gulf war in 1991. It has been the dominant player since then despite the entry of other brands like India Gate, Dawat, Kohinoor, Himalyan Crown, Indian Star, Dunar, Radikal, and Raindrop to name a few.
The entry of these new brands has also fragmented the Indian basmati rice market with most players bringing in more than one variety of Indian basmati. While Tilda was selling only the traditional Indian basmati, India Gate came into the market with a new variant called 1121 Indian basmati. While the former offered aroma as the key product attribute, which is most suitable for plain steamed rice and green peas pulao, the latter offered elongation post cooking (2.2 times the raw grain size) as the USP (unique selling point)—which is very suitable for all types of Biryanis.
The other brands like Dawat, Kohinoor, Dunar, etc. came in offering multiple variants of Indian basmati, which can be differentiated by the different packaging colors. Indian basmati is also sold in different forms with each country having its own market dynamic. While the lower gulf markets like the UAE, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait are raw rice markets, the other markets like KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Jordan, etc. are parboiled rice (also called Sella rice) markets. Parboiling is obtained by steam boiling the rice paddy before processing. This makes the cooking of various dishes like Mandi, Khabsah, etc. much easier.
Indian basmati continues to enjoy a robust growth in the Arab markets, especially in the traditionally non-basmati markets like Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt, Iraq etc. This trend is likely to continue in the next few years and thereby offers tremendous opportunities for the rice traders in the region.

The article is written by Subbooh Moid for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

6 Steps to Maintaining a Good Work-Life Balance in the MENA Region

6 Steps to Maintaining a Good Work-Life Balance in the MENA Region

  • Work-life balance has evolved from being a luxury in the past century to being a necessity these days.
  • While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a priority for MENA professionals, they seem to be struggling to achieve this aim.
  • While a large part of the responsibility lies with employers, employees should also take proactive steps to maintain a good work-life balance.
  • These include planning one’s week, embracing technology, learning to say NO, being aware of company policies and maintaining good relationships at work, and staying healthy and fit.

Worldwide, work-life balance has evolved from being a luxury in the past century to being a necessity these days, and the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region is no exception to this trend. As per the 2013 Employee Motivation survey conducted by Bayt.com and YouGov, work-life balance emerged as one of the key factors affecting employee motivation in the region, as 98% of the respondents claimed that achieving a good work-life balance was important for them to remain motivated at work.

While maintaining a healthy work-life balance is a priority, professionals in the region seem to be struggling to achieve this aim. This is reflected in the Work: life Balance Index conducted by Regus, where the Middle East scored 117, falling three points behind the global average of 120. The Bayt survey, on the other hand, showed that as nearly one-fourth of the employees in the region always work overtime or take work home, while another two-thirds do so occasionally.

A large part of the responsibility towards ensuring work-life balance rests with employers. Majority of the employees (especially the tech savvy younger workforce) felt that employers should offer more flexibility and allow them to work in ways that suit them, as opposed to age-old ways which respect ‘presenteeism’ at work. This includes flexible working hours, job-sharing arrangements, occasional distance working arrangements, sabbatical leave allowances, child-care units, etc. That said, the Bayt survey pointed that 58% employees felt that they receive some level of support from their employers to achieve a good work-life balance. Therefore, it seems that organizations in the region are aware of employee needs, and are developing and implementing HR policies to act on the above suggestions.

However, employees have an equally vital role to ensure that they are able to maintain the right equilibrium between their personal and professional lives. Work-life balance is for employees, and therefore we recommend that they address this issue proactively by taking the below steps to reduce stress levels, maintain productivity, & avoid burn-outs at work; all while leading an enriching personal life.

  1. Plan your working AND NON-WORKING week, and make sure you budget-in some “me time”: Yes, like with most things in life, the starting point is planning your week/day in advance and focusing on the important things, both at work and at home. Make sure that you are focused and productive during work hours, so that you do not have to work overtime or take work home with you. This is especially applicable for women, who have more domestic responsibilities to take care of once they get back home, as opposed to their male colleagues.

Individuals should look beyond their responsibilities as a professional, parent, child, etc. and budget-in some “me time”, i.e., time for activities which you enjoy doing and which help you unwind.  This could include listening to music, painting, hanging out with friends, a walk on the beach, etc. You can choose your activity and its periodicity (daily/weekend/other), but make sure to make it a part of your routine so that you get to recharge your batteries and do not feel drained.

  1. Be aware of your company policies: More often than not, companies are more flexible than employees think, and are willing to be flexible, especially to strong performers. This could include options like work-from-home, rotational shifts, extended maternity leaves (for women) or even a sabbatical from work. So, make sure that you understand your company policies well and are availing the flexibility that you are entitled to.
  1. Learn to say NO at work and at home: A key element to achieving work-life balance is to prioritize your tasks and learn when to say NO. This could be at work (filling-in too often for a colleague or being part of a new initiative just for the sake of it) or at home (neighbour-related tasks). Saying no is not easy, but it allows you to stay focused on things that are most important to you and which you like doing more. Remember you are not a superman or superwoman so you can’t do everything!
  1. Embrace telecommuting for work use of technology at homeTechnology is perhaps the single most potent tool for improving efficiency and work-life balance. So, check with your employer about the option to telecommute/work-from-home. Also, embrace technology more often for domestic tasks like paying bills, etc. Trivial as these may seem, such small steps ultimately save you precious time and energy.
  1. Maintain transparent communication with your boss and organization: It is important to have a good working relationship with your boss so that you can share your work-life related concerns. Make sure that the relationship is cordial yet professional, and that you are meeting or exceeding your organization’s expectations, in order to expect flexibility from them.
  1. Focus on staying healthy and fitNothing beats a healthy body and mind, so make sure that you are taking the right diet and are getting adequate sleep to rejuvenate yourself. Try to include some exercise in your routine as well.

Ultimately, each one of us needs to decide what works best for us, while keeping our families and organizations in mind (no one lives in a vacuum!). Therefore, it is important to create your own methodology, and keep changing it with time as the situations in your personal and professional lives evolve.

The article was originally published at: Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Time of The Machines

Time of The Machines

  • IoT creates a number of applications, services, and solutions that help us not only have control of our lives but also everything around us.
  • Turning life into a connected society where you can have control over your home, business, health, education, and everything else from anywhere is our goal.
  • It would be nice to show the world in 2020 that the middle east is exporting more than it consumes.

The power of today’s telecommunication and IT technologies has made it possible for humans to communicate with each other over great distances and despite means. That same technology also makes it possible for humans to communicate with machines and create amazing tools and applications such as Apple’s Siri or Google’s search engine.

Now is the era of machine-to-machine communication or what is commonly referred to as the Internet of Things (IoT). This creates a number of applications, services, and solutions that help us not only have control of our lives but also everything around us. The region needs pioneers that specialize in building ecosystems—pioneers that will build solutions on top of the current telecom and IT infrastructure—using telecom as a platform to connect with different verticals. Verticals like health, education, fleet management, SME, Smart Homes, and utilities are just some examples of the ecosystems that we strive for and continue to promote in the Middle East.

Ericsson reported that there would be 50 billion connected devices by the year 2020. This is around eight times the number of people in the world. Ericsson explains that we are in the early stages of the second phase of connected society development. The first phase was networking consumer electronics such as your mobile phone, your laptop, or your play station. The next phase will be networking industries. Building healthcare, government, home automation, and fleet management ecosystems are just a few examples of the planned industrial connectivity. We can already see some growth in the fleet management and home automation sectors, but not yet in other areas.

Turning life into a connected society where you can have control over your home, business, health, education, and everything else from anywhere is our goal. Imagine that you have a connected fridge at home that senses you are running out of milk. Imagine this fridge talking to your local grocery store, which then automatically picks the milk—and any other items you may be running low on—from the store shelf and notifies you via your cell phone: 1) of the store that is fulfilling your order; 2) for authorization and confirmation of payment; and 3) of an expected delivery time. Once you put the milk on your Smart Home refrigerator shelf, the system resets itself.

It will be interesting to see where technology takes us in a few years from now. The Middle East has many things to offer the world. And innovation should be one of them. Out of the projected 50 billion connected devices, let’s work on innovating and engineering at least 10 percent of that. I think this is fair if you take into consideration that the Middle East accounts for 8 percent of the world’s population. Wouldn’t it be nice to show the world during the 2020 Dubai Expo that the Middle East is exporting more technology than it consumes?

The article is written by Yasser Alobaidan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Processed Frozen Food in the Gulf

Processed Frozen Food in the Gulf

  • The growth of processed frozen food industry in the Gulf is driven by convenience, as more and more families are now having both partners who are full time employed there is a growing demand for quick and easy cook meal solutions.
  • Going forward the growing health and wellness trend is expected to positively influence the eating habits of consumers who will be seeking fresher and leaner meat, lower-fat chicken and gluten-free products, as well as more vegetables.
  • Frozen processed food will remain more affordable than fresh produce, hence, consumers will still be willing to purchase frozen processed food even if they have to compromise on the health benefits.

The process of freezing food in order to preserve it is an age old practice, it freezes all the moisture present in the food to ice. This in turn slows down the growth of bacteria which is responsible for food degeneration. The method is mainly used in preserving food such as meats, seafood and vegetables.

In Processed Frozen Food industry the various products are frozen at extremely low temperature (- 40 degrees) through a method called flash freezing or blast freezing. Food Products frozen in the above manner do not require any further preservative to be added. Since microorganisms do not grow at temperatures’ below -9.5 degrees and the standard for storing and transporting frozen food products is -18 degrees, the products continue to maintain their original state so long as the cold chain remains intact.

In the Gulf this is a growing category and convenience seems to be the key driver of this growth. As more and more families are now having both partners who are full time employed there is a growing demand for quick and easy cook meal solutions. Processed Frozen Food is being seen as a key category which is fulfilling this need cutting across all nationalities.

The Product Group with its various sub groups & segments is highlighted below:

Product Groups Meat Seafood Dough Vegetable
Product Sub Groups Chicken Beef Shimps Fish Flat Breads Other Dough Prod. Vegetable Others
Product Segments Chicken Beef IQF Shrimps Fish Fillets Paratha Croissants IQF Vegetables Samosas
Burgers Burgers Breaded Shrimps Whole Fish Chappati Filled Puff Pastry SpringRolls
FrankFurters Kebabs Marinated Shrimps Fateera Pastry Sheets
Kebabs Meatballs Bread Sticks
Nuggets Pizza Base
Breaded Fillets Muffins & Cakes
Meatballs
Samosas
SpringRolls
IQF Cuts

The Frozen Food category in the GCC consists primarily of the above Product Groups, Sub Groups and Segments. However based the contribution of these Sub Groups and segments may vary from country to country in the region.

While Chicken Frankfurters is the biggest category contributing almost 45% of Processed Meat Group in UAE and Oman, Mince is the biggest contributor to the group in Saudi Arabia. However between Frankfurters, Mince, Burgers, Nuggets, Breaded Fillets & Kebabs they contribute more than 75% of the Processed Frozen Meat category throughout the region.

Processed Frozen Food in the Gulf1

Processed Frozen Food in the Gulf2

Frozen Sea food is another major category in most of the countries of GCC because of the strong consumer preference for seafood like Shrimps & Fish Fillet etc. Although its contribution to the overall Frozen Food market is not as big as Meat.

In the Frozen Dough Group flat breads sell across countries in the region due to the large population from South Asia, followed by others categories consisting of Croissants, Bread Sticks, Muffins & Cakes, and Pizza Base, etc which are mainly used by the Foodservice sector. The sales of Puff Pastry Sheets is predominantly during the Ramadhan season by both Foodservice and end Consumers.

In terms of the brands that are available in GCC we can classify them as follows:

  • International Brands
  • Regional/ Local Brands
  • In House Brands

Amongst the International brands we have Sadia from Brazil at the top of the list followed by Doux from France and Emborg from Denmark offering an assortment of products. There are also a host of other international brands present only in the Chicken Franks segment from Brazil, Denmark, France, Turkey, etc.

Regional brands are those which are produced within the region and have a region wide presence, like Americana, Al Kabeer, Al Areesh, Khaleej, Al Islami, etc. Then there are some local brands that are available in a select few countries of the region like As Saffa(Oman & UAE) and number of local brands in Saudi Arabia & Qatar. These brands offer an assortment of various products mainly in the frozen meat Group.

Processed Frozen Food in the Gulf3

Processed Frozen Food in the Gulf4

A number of major retailers have also extended their In-house brands into the Frozen Food category and are gradually taking over large part of the frozen food shelf. All major regional retailers like LULU, CARREFOUR, CO Ops, PANDA, etc have now got their in house brands contract manufactured and are occupying prime shelf space, however they are restricted to their own out lets only.

Going forward the growing health and wellness trend is expected to positively influence the eating habits of consumers who will be seeking fresher and leaner meat, lower-fat chicken and gluten-free products, as well as more vegetables. Vegetables are likely to replace carbohydrates, which will boost sales of frozen processed vegetables.

Furthermore, the convenience factor will continue to drive this Segment as consumers will lead busier lifestyles and seek easier meal options. The product offering of Frozen Food is likely to see a change from the current “Ready to Cook” products to “Ready to eat” or “Heat & Eat” kind of options so we are likely to see a growth in Flash Fried products in the meats subgroup or Pre baked Parathas etc. in the Dough sub group.

Frozen processed food will remain more affordable than fresh produce, hence, consumers will still be willing to purchase frozen processed food even if they have to compromise on the health benefits. However the demand for lower-fat and organic frozen processed food items is likely to grow steadily over time.

The article is written by Subbooh Moid for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

Why CSR is great for smart SMEs

  • Small businesses can immensely benefit from incorporating CSR as a part of their overall business strategy.
  • CSR activities can give a powerful message to your employees and in turn get a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project from them
  • While it might not always be possible for SME’s to donate cash for such initiatives, many companies are deploying winning strategies to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisations.
  • Engaging your suppliers can also amplify the impact of your CSR initiatives, while helping strengthen your relationships with them.

Should an SME owner embrace the concept and opportunity of getting involved and supporting Corporate Social Responsibility projects?

Some of you may have followed the news when it was announced last year that the US government was on the verge of defaulting on their debt. For average people around the world, this was one of the most confusing topics in recent times, considering the three tumultuous years of financial storms, earthquakes and tsunamis and let’s not forget, scandals.

What got my attention was that Apple Computer had within its own arsenal, stockpiled more cash in-house than the entire US government. Could it be that Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, once a scrawny geek of a kid who scrapped conventional wisdom to go out and innovate as an SME, to fulfill a dream that everyone should own a computer, could ride in like a white knight and save the whole country? Does charity begin at home?

Innovation and courage make it possible for an entrepreneur like Steve Jobs to support social programmes with millions of dollars each year. But what if you have a small business, and your focus is just on survival? What if you are struggling for loans or investors for your own project, and cannot even conceive the possibility of crossing the threshold of success and being able to give back?

When does it make sense to get involved as a small business and give back to your own cause or community? Well, for my part, and for many of the consultants on my team, we believe in looking for opportunities even before rolling out a start-up and building that into the mix as an integral part of the holistic structure of the entire business strategy.

To understand these reasons, one should reflect on some of the advantages of actually shaping your company culture with this type of commitment.

Powerful message

For a start, think of the message you will be sending out to your employees who will begin to realise that they are part of something more than just a 9.00 am to 5.00 pm job. This will often give them a higher sense of belonging and loyalty to your project and endeavor that makes them proud to say to total strangers, family and friends, what they do, who they are and why they love what they are doing now.

This, HR managers will tell you, is a powerful factor in human capital retention, and a recruitment magnet is always more powerful, when the team within, are all ‘game on’ and buzzed about the company. Among your clients, there is a percentage who will appreciate that some part of your margins which they contribute to, are recycled in a place that has a ‘feel good’ or worthy cause impression, again amplifying another good reason to do business with your company. This can grow to the next level, namely getting clients involved in social action projects, which are miracles of good CSR work in so many communities.

So, how much do companies need to invest in a CSR project, and how is it possible to do this before making a profit? The answer that I propose is that, although it’s nice to be able to donate cash, often, in the lifecycle of young start-ups, it’s not feasible. Many companies are, however, deploying winning strategies in order to bolster their own contribution in kind, either through barter or by volunteering time to an existing CSR project initiated by another organisation.

In the MENA region there are dozens of such organisations that have created CSR projects that would appreciate the focus and participation of one hour of someone’s time. This could range from having your team agree to spend half a day repainting a home for the elderly within your community, hosting a car wash to donate money to a needy school, creating a used book drive to donate to an orphanage. In fact, subject areas are endless and there is never enough. The unseen advantage in all of this is, there is a magical, intangible and yet amazing feeling of giving back to something or someone.

We, as business people, are able to feel a little taller in the process of this work, and at the same time, we have the advantage of not only putting a smile on the receiver’s face, but also spreading pride and significance amongst our teammates and our network for our participation.

Brand recognition

This is not thankless work either. Many participating SMEs are able to elevate their brand recognition and perception, by associating with causes that speak to their audience. This is a key factor of creating a strategy that works for your company. Find a CSR synergy that fits to the services or products that you deliver to the market. Build this into your overall business plan and connect with people on various levels as a result of your winning strategy. Be warned that there is a fine line between being genuinely involved in a CSR project and exploiting it so that you purely get a part of cash rewards.

It is better when companies form committees where employees and officers are part of the steering process, to make the best case scenario recommendations to the shareholders, about not only installing a CSR department, but guiding it and sustaining it. Another helpful hint if your SME adopts this practice is your key secret agents who can make your efforts even more powerful – your suppliers.

You will be amazed that when your team is committed, and has the ability to share a clear vision about what, why, and who, your suppliers will ask when and how they can help. Therefore, you, as the owner of an SME, are able to light a candle in your own store and by the power of passing the torch, ignite second and third party attention and support all around your organization’s CSR wagon.

And yes, remember, charity begins at your front door.

The article is written by Michael J. Tolan for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation

  • One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
  • The Management Mix Guide is a 7 step referential platform for developing corporate strategy; it is also a guide for reengineering, & restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
  • The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into  consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
How can companies & organizations assure a sustainable strategic development?
One of the main reasons of the dissolution of numerous major corporations is the lack of vision and appropriate strategies for coping with the fast pace of business trends & technological innovations.
NCR, Wang Laboratories, BBAC are companies that have been vanished long time ago; and more recently major names such as Delta Airlines, General Motors or World Com have also disappeared.
In view of the above, a Managerial Guide is recommended which is implemented in hundreds of companies & organizations in specific industries such as the Banking & Finance, Telecommunications, Healthcare, Information Technology, Pharmaceuticals, Food Processing & other industries such as Machinery Manufacturing.
The Management Mix Guide is a referential platform for developing Corporate Strategy; it is also a Guide for Reengineering, & Restructuring and dynamically managing the change.
The Guide is based on nine organizational elements to be analyzed & formulated taking into consideration the impact of the five micro-environmental factors and four macro-environmental factors.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation1
The seven steps for implementing the 9-5-4 Guide are as follows:  
  1. Analyze the micro-environmental factors:  Competitors, Customers, Substitutes, Partners & Suppliers;
  2. Analyze the opportunities & threats in the macro-environment: Political, Economic, Socio-Cultural & Technological (standard PEST analysis).
  3. Identify the organization’s stakeholder’s constantly evolving needs.
  4. Analyze the organization’s strengths & weaknesses in the nine organizational elements, Each element elaborated separately in the following page.
  5. Formulate the Strategy regarding the 9 organizational elements.
  6. Set an action plan & implement the strategy.
  7. Continuously monitor & evaluate the strategy.
The nine organizational elements are as follows:
  1. Strategy: After revisiting and restating the Organizational Vision, companies should develop the corporate strategy, which includes the organization’s strategic orientations & objectives, based on the existing and required resources and assessment of the micro & macro environments in which the organization operates.
  2. Processes: Optimization, standardization & streamlining of the organization’s management, operational & supporting processes by controlling process related risks and ensuring the continual monitoring & improvement of the management system through the identification of KPI’s. Various types of international management standards are adopted, according to the industry and the needs of the organization.
  3. Talents: Development of a customized competency based talent management system for attracting, developing and retaining talents. The talents will implement the formal processes and informal processes for achieving operational and strategic objectives.
  4. Structure: Development of the required competencies and layers and setting the communication lines, the reporting system & cross-departmental coordination systems for supporting the achievement of the corporate strategies and organizational vision.
  5. Marketing: Development of a marketing plan by setting a Market Monitoring System for transforming information into intelligence and then into initiative in terms of new products and services, a pricing policy, a placing and a promotional policy by taking into account the constant changes of the customer behavior and the market requirements.
  6. Sales: Optimization of the sales process through the seven steps sales model and establishment cross-selling & up-selling approaches. In addition, development of sales channels in different geographical regions.
  7. Customer: Being in the center of the stakeholders, the company will develop a customer satisfaction and loyalty policy; the customer experience management system will be set and some specific procedures will be identified such as: loyalty programs, satisfaction surveys & complaint management systems.
  8. Information technology: Development & optimization of a holistic Information Technology policy that will support the implementation of the processes, including but not limited to Information security Management system.
  9. Resources: Development of financial Management and asset management systems for optimizing the exploitation of the resources.
A Best Practice in Strategy Formulation2
The Strategic Management Guide presented above has proven its efficiency in numerous corporations. Management Mix experts constantly monitor the results & performance of companies implementing the guide and provide customized recommendations to reduce the managerial waste (muda) and cope efficiently with the environmental changes.

The article is written by Raffy Semerdjian for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review

 

Using external consultants to save time and money

Using external consultants to save time and money

  • Recruiting staff can be a painful experience because there is a dearth of highly qualified and competent professionals, and more often than not organizations end up hiring the least bad applicant and not the best.
  • Further, to manage ad-hoc overflow of work companies need temporary staffing, but finding qualified candidates who are ready to work for a short term is even more difficult than finding full time employees.
  • A viable solution to these issues might be to hire external consultants on short or long-term contracts. These consultants are specialists at recruiting, and eventually prove to be a cost-effective options as they help organizations mitigate the opportunity cost risk.

I was formerly a senior manager for a service company in the UAE and I discovered that recruiting staff was a painful experience as there are were always plenty of people seeking work, or alternative jobs in many instances, but there was a dearth of highly qualified and competent professionals. Any job advertised would have many applicants but it took a long time sifting through the CVs and at the end of the process you might have 5 people at most to interview as most applicants didn’t even meet the advertised job specs. And even after short-listing two or three candidates it felt more like a case of hiring the “least bad” applicant rather than the best.

Although my recruiting experience are limited to Dubai I believe the problems I suffered are common to managers throughout the Middle East region.  I have concluded that hiring professional staff in this region is a long-winded process and not everyone recruited will be a best fit for the role in mind. And with experienced professionals coming at a premium cost it can be an expensive hiring mistake should the successful candidate ultimately need replacing.

In addition companies often have temporary staffing needs for special projects or to solve work overflow issues. But finding experienced professionals who are prepared to work for a company on a short-term basis is even more difficult than hiring them long-term.

One solution to these issues might be to hire external consultants on short or long-term contracts. There are several benefits to this option including:

Contracts can be time limited: Although some consultants work on indefinite long-term contracts it is more usual for contracts to be time limited although often with an option to extend by mutual agreement. So if the contractor is not performing as expected, or is no longer needed, then the extension option will not be taken up. Most contractors work on annually renewable contracts but it is not for special projects a 3 month or 6 month contract might be more appropriate. (For one organization I worked on 3 month renewable contracts for over a year). By contrast very few employees would agree to a one year renewable contract and it might even be a breach of the relevant Labour Code to offer same in some jurisdictions. And I know by experience that initially good employees can experience dramatic performance deteriorations during the time that they are employed for various reasons.

Contracts can be terminated relatively easily: If a contractor is not even meeting basic requirements, or is creating some other business problem, then it is possible to terminate the contract even before the renewal date subject to meeting the notice period. Most annual renewable contracts will have a one to three month notice period. And there is no grievance process even if the consultant believes his contract has been terminated unfairly. So he can have no legal complaint if the termination complied with the terms of the contract. By comparison any manager knows just how difficult it is to fire an employee and there is always the risk of a wrongful dismissal case even if the employee was non-performing. (I have worked with companies that settled out of court with former employees claiming wrongful dismissal, rather than endure the expense of fighting the case, even when the companies concerned felt they were fully justified in the termination).

Consultants are already technically trained, are reliable and can work unsupervised: Many consultants are older people with long experience in their relevant industry and most such contractors have been managers so are used to motivating employees without the need to be motivated themselves. (Indeed in some industries it is common for persons who have reached mandatory retirement age to be hired back as consultants almost immediately after the retirement party).  These consultants understand the need to meet deadlines and other targets and have the motivation to know that their contracts can easily be terminated if they fail to perform as required.

Consultants have their own resources: External consultants can often work from home and will usually have their own fully equipped offices meaning that they don’t require valuable desk space or equipment that can be reserved to the company’s own employees. Nevertheless most consultants are willing to work from the company’s offices when required to. In my own experience I spend a lot of time working at home but also work on assignment sitting at an office desk each day but almost always in a different country to my home country. (The company usually pays my travel and living costs in such case).

Consultants can reduce employment costs: Most consultants do not receive employee benefits such as paid vacation and sick pay. And they are not eligible, in most cases, for the company’s health insurance and pension programs. So these are cost savings in themselves. It is also the case, (but not always), that consultants will accept hourly pay rates that are below that of a full-time employee for the equivalent position. (Consultants who work from home will usually require a lower fee than those that are expected to work from a company office). In addition consultants are often also prepared to accept retainer fees, which means that the company can retain their services for a very low fee, and then pay them at the regular hourly rates when the consultant’s services are actually needed. In my case I offer a substantial discount on my hourly rates if a company pays me a retainer fee.

There are other benefits to retaining external consultants including the fact that a retained consultant can eventually become a full-time employee if it is mutually beneficial to all concerned.  And there are a few downsides such as no perceived loyalty to the retaining company although I doubt that many full-time employees have much loyalty to the companies that employ them for the first few years of their employment.

The article is written by Ed Rogers  for Arab Business Review

To read more thought-leadership stuff by leaders from Arab Region, please visit Arab Business Review