It has been a busy and successful week of meetings, presentations, panel discussions and one-on-ones in London. I’m glad I didn’t venture too far out of the city as the weather was miserable; cold and wet for the most part. With confirmation that the UK is in a double-dip recession, the weather was probably the least of these business folks’ worries right now.
It’s clear that British businesses are not taking the recession lying down. All companies I spoke to last week realise that there is huge potential in the GCC, but the burning question is: how do they get their slice of it?
The good news is that governmental and quasi-governmental associations promoting bilateral trade are making their mark with funded trade missions, breakfast briefings, socio-economic outlooks and the like. At such a breakfast meeting early last week hosted by the Middle East Association (MEA), it was clear that many British businesses want to get their share of the various growth markets in the GCC.
What is the UK exceptionally known for? Well, services of course, and the delivery of them. Everyone has their complaints about the snow and the grit but they are not as vocal when it comes to the plethora of state of the art financial services providers, IT solution providers, healthcare solution providers and facility management services – areas in which the GCC is greatly lacking.
What was also clear from the MEA briefing is that GCC opportunities abound at all levels and across all sectors: education, healthcare, construction and services.
So where would one begin? If you’re a British business looking to expand overseas, the United Kingdom Trade & Investment (UKTI) is a great starting point – or perhaps by becoming a member (for a very reasonable fee, I may add) to associations like the MEA and the Arab British Chamber of Commerce. If you are a particularly large business, British Expertise – a leading UK private sector organisation for British companies, offering professional services internationally – would be great to link up with.
While the local skies may be grey, there is still opportunity for British businesses internationally. The key is identifying and pursuing such opportunities, at all levels. British businesses – from government to SMEs – are well received in the Gulf, mainly because they bring unmatched expertise and history with them.
As a British company looking abroad, take advantage of international expansion as a way to stimulate your home market. Leverage globalization and the proximity between the UK and the Gulf. The GCC markets have a need for expertise, and British companies have got exactly that.