I don’t think Kuwait will take offence when I say it’s not the GCC destination that’s usually top of the exporting list from countries such as the UK and US. And I say that as a resident of Kuwait now for more than a year, and as someone who has completely fallen in love with the country. So when I sit with international brands and startup entrepreneurs, and I tell them about the opportunities Kuwait has to offer– it can certainly be an uphill struggle.
Late 2015, I first arrived here as part of a trade mission with Scottish Development International, the focus of which was to encourage Scottish companies to do business in the GCC, mainly the UAE and Kuwait. As part of the cohort, we had a wide range of companies– everything from training, fire safety equipment, and logistics, right through to a supercar manufacturer. (Yeah, nobody wanted to take their turn after him in the introductory rounds at meetings!)
Now, in 2017, I am still the only one of the mission to have made the plunge and set up in the Kuwait region– though a few have tried. This stuck with me as I expanded my business here– for me, I was overly impressed with the opportunity in Kuwait to be part of a mature yet emerging market, of a modern yet still growing economy, and more importantly, to be part of the solution instead of part of the oversaturation problem seen in other, more Westernized, GCC business economies. So much so that over the last few months, we have changed our focus and now work solely with small businesses, startups and solo entrepreneurs from around the world, and convince them that if you can make it past the first few hurdles, you have patience to spare, and you really like the taste of coffee– then Kuwait is the perfect market for you.
Big businesses will always thrive in new markets that they go in to. They have the cash reserves, the marketing budget, the background analytics, and the existing expansion experience to make the right choice about which market is perfect for them. They can spend millions on analysis in order to make that decision, and if it doesn’t work out, they can pick themselves up and try again. It’s not like that for startups and solo entrepreneurs –when you bring a small business like that over, you are bringing the CEO, the idea machine, the heart and soul of the business– so you need to make sure they are in an environment where they are welcomed, nurtured, supported, and most importantly, needed.
It’s not just an expansion opportunity for these businesses– it’s a new way of life, a whole new beginning for the business, a new brand identity, and an entirely new focus for the direction of their product or service. And that’s why these types of companies should be the absolute focus of our inward investment strategies at the moment– because they bring with them not only the prospect of growth, jobs, and community contribution, but they are also the most innovative, hardest working, brightest, and best talent to be found anywhere in the corporate world. That’s why we need them right here in the Middle East– where technology is making huge inroads and smartphone penetration is at record highs, where new ideas are celebrated, and opportunities for investment are plentiful.
There are a lot of fantastic initiatives happening in the GCC at the moment to encourage homegrown entrepreneurs with their ideas, and this is great to see. If we can also shift our attention to bring in this new generation of tech, service based and social enterprise entrepreneurs from around the globe to work alongside homegrown talent, then there’s no limit to the advancements that can be reached.
It’s our duty as entrepreneurs, business owners, senior executives, and CEOs to encourage this next fresh wave of talent to come out to the Middle East, and make this region their next entrepreneurial home.