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Webinar "MENA for Ukrainian IT": How it was

Updated: Jan 26

New Year is another milestone to implement bold ideas, scale business, and boost performance. So did you have a chance to think about what market your team will master in 2023? If you are still in search, how about considering the MENA region?

JEVERA Software and IT-Enterprise group representatives made an excellent summary of 2022 by holding an insightful discussion, "MENA for Ukrainian IT." So, it's time to share the results and let you evaluate the MENA region from a business perspective. Read on to dive into details.


You may also like: JEVERA Achievements 2022: Through the Thorns to the Stars


Intro

Recently Iryna Manukovska, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, and Evgeniy Aleksandrenko, Head of Digital Transformation from the JEVERA Software side, as well as Oleksii Scherbatenko, Business Development Partner at IT-Enterprise group, met together to discuss MENA - the new promising market for Ukrainian IT covering the Middle East and North Africa countries. During a 1-hour webinar, they covered everything businesses should know to start their go-to-market journey and get a significant reward for their effort.


Frequently asked questions and sincere answers about MENA

What are the MENA tech and business realities now?

Did you know that the MENA market is unique because of a gap in the technology market? As it turned out, some industries are developing at lightning speed using the latest stacks and modern equipment. Meanwhile, others continue to get the most out of cheap human resources and don't need any digital improvements to grow.

"There is a curious tech gap, so some domains are super-modern, and others are not digitized. So we were interested precisely in the tech, modern area. There, it's possible to do something that is in trend from the technology, digital development, and sales perspectives.


I paid attention to telecommunication. I was impressed with its development there. Trends are the same, but in Dubai, telecom is a driver because modern 5G and IoT are used in mining and online taxis. It's also about some industrial projects, logistics, etc.

Meanwhile, I was impressed by the significant amount of cheap human resources despite the financial capabilities of MENA. So if your products or services are focused on automatizing processes, your offer won't work in MENA.


Stores in the MENA market don't need self-service POS terminals. They have a lot of checkouts, and each place is taken by two or three persons who help you with everything. I cannot sell best-of-breed POS systems in that MENA retail reality, because waiting for high ROI is a time-consuming process there, merchants there can easily involve cheap human resources."

Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software


How to find clients in MENA?

Ukrainian IT businesses can find customers from the MENA regions using various options, starting with exhibitions like Gitex Global and ending with expanding their business network via LinkedIn. The way depends on business goals and strategy.

For example, Oleksii Scherbatenko, Business Development Partner at IT-Enterprise group, admits they didn't choose the region and were customer-focused when scaling their business.


"We were focused on a market based on clients' presence preferably. We opted for the high-priority niche, discovered where to find the clients, and tried to go there."

Oleksii Shcherbatenko

Business Development Partner @ IT-Enterprise


In turn, Evgeniy Aleksandrenko admitted that building a robust business network and communication via LinkedIn can also be helpful for business initially.

"If it's a B2B market, you should look for an individual with a solid network, somebody reliable and trusted. Exhibitions are not always a driver here. It all depends on the niche. It also can be local partners, you can use LinkedIn to find relevant contacts and keep in touch with people there. For B2B sales, only the on-site method works."


Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software



A fun fact is that the local Ukrainian community can also support you when going to the market. Speakers didn't advise making it a nuclear of your strategy, but you can consider this scenario as an extra one to make your diving into the MENA market easier.

"It's a pretty curious insight, we saw a lot of Ukrainians in this region and now it has become a national trend to support each other. So Ukrainians on site are open-minded. They sincerely want to help. At last, we're building an international community, a Ukrainian international network where everybody supports and helps each other. You can also count on it.


We found some contacts in this market by communicating in Ukrainian at the conference or with yellow-blue symbols on our wrists. People prefer to speak with somebody native, especially when you're abroad and you want to hear news from home or something like that. So, it's unlikely a go-to-market strategy, but you can also count on support among local Ukrainians so just know the market better."


Iryna Manukovska

Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer @ JEVERA Software


You may also like: By People For People or How the JEVERA Team Is Working on the United Nations Granted Project


How long does it take to sign a contract with a MENA company?

Engaging a client in the MENA region is a tricky task that requires significant effort and special behavior. Experts admit you should take your time here since local companies prefer to know everything, and they are attentive to each detail, starting with your speech and ending with paragraphs in a signed contract.


"I have no idea how Dubai signed its first contract with us. Because now we're analyzing other projects and seeing how clients say, "Guys, don't even come without experience." Therefore, we have been processing the first client for 2 years. It was time-consuming and costly, but this case required a relevant approach. It's necessary to understand certain peculiarities. The key here is a mentality. Regarding the product, I don't see any super-difference.

Don't expect you'll negotiate about something valuable after one dinner. It's better to understand that the contract will be signed not earlier than 6 months or even a year. But after making a first step, you'll get a reference and potentially it would be easier to achieve it."

Oleksii Shcherbatenko

Business Development Partner @ IT-Enterprise


Does a small business have a chance to sign a big-ticket client from the MENA region?

MENA society is always about strict hierarchy, so businesses there (as in any other location) prefer to work with similar companies regarding the size. Anyway, there are some exceptions.


"Enterprises are used to working with enterprises. Or you can make up for the size with deep expertise. If you have a solid experience with a narrow question, the size doesn't matter in this case. So here, you need to be big or smart."

Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software



Is it easy to organize a legal presence in MENA?

Not really. In some MENA countries, like Egypt, it might be pretty challenging, while in UAE, for example, it's easier because it's a sort of MENA tech hub. But the case is often foreign companies don't need to ensure a legal presence there to work with local clients. It's not the driving factor.


"To be honest, for me, it's a pain point. I can't share a successful experience here. So we have a company in Egypt. We faced enormous challenges when opening a bank account there and transferring resources from Egypt. When it comes to Dubai, it is okay; at least we can predict the circumstances.

It's not compulsory to show a legal presence there, just work, find clients there and create a network. The more extensive network you have, the higher possibility that somebody will recommend you."

Oleksii Shcherbatenko

Business Development Partner @ IT-Enterprise


What are the cultural differences between MENA and the US and European markets?

The MENA market differs from the one Ukrainian IT companies are used to. Its customs are totally different from European and the US ones. Meanwhile, respectful behavior and attention to speakers can help you catch the basics and become a part of this world.

"They don't rush either during the negotiation process or during the contract fulfillment. So negotiated time and actual time might be different. It's because they approach business slowly. Therefore you should keep it in mind when dealing with time and budget.


Moreover, they used to communicate with people on an appropriate level. So if you're a sales manager and want to speak with the CEO, most likely, it won't happen. Therefore, it would be better if you had a high position. It's an advantage for this market which helps you to be on the same level as your potential customer. It's not a European style of business for sure. A significant part of meetings, except official, are held in restaurants.

The other thing is we're more business-oriented, while they start negotiations with some life philosophy, principles, hobby, traveling. This way, they understand you and want to do business with you as an individual. You can cover the business questions you have during the last 20-30 minutes of the meeting."

Oleksii Shcherbatenko

Business Development Partner @ IT-Enterprise



"Another thing I noticed is a multicultural community so that you can be surrounded by people from Europe, America, Asia, etc. So this is what you also should consider. So there are some cultural peculiarities of the MENA region. Meanwhile, you also have multiculturalism and should be flexible enough to switch from one behavior to another."

Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software



"When talking about the business culture of this region, it is quite conservative. It's reflected in the dress code partially. There are some ceremonial things that are not usual in Europe — starting with the fact that in Europe you can come to a business meeting in semi-casual clothes. Here, as I noticed, following a traditional business etiquette is required. I. This peculiarity seems not so important, but it defines people into friends and foes."

Iryna Manukovska

Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer @ JEVERA Software



Is it possible to hold a project with a MENA company remotely?

Despite the new post-pandemic normal regarding remote cooperation, the MENA region requires foreign companies to have an on-site presence at least to show that processes are in progress and everything is stable.


«It's crucial to be present on-site, personal cooperation really matters. This way you can demonstrate your attitude and responsibility regarding this project. In reverse, if there's no personal touch, people might think you don't care about the project. Therefore, I highly recommend ensuring the presence of one or two representatives at least if your team is about 20 people. This way, you can show the activities and presence.»

Oleksii Shcherbatenko

Business Development Partner @ IT-Enterprise


«I got the same impression that it's impossible to do business with this region remotely. It's impossible to find clients remotely as well. And regarding the sales, you should be ready to get the final approval of an agreement during face-to-face meetings. It's not about working with the US or Europe. We're used to cooperating remotely because of COVID-19. But the final approval you'll get only when sitting at the table with customers.»

Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software


Who is the main competitor for Ukrainian IT companies in the MENA market?

The MENA market is not easy to master, and another reason is the availability of at least one highly experienced and skilled competitor there. We'll become your myth busters when saying that Indian IT companies are the force you should fight with.


«There are a lot of proven and mature Indian companies, and many people from India are involved in IT when it comes to MENA. They are decision-makers. Moreover, Hindus are always about local networks and support of each other. So India is a serious competitor there.»

Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software


Wrap Up

Consequently, mastering the MENA market is a time-consuming task that requires significant effort from foreign companies. Meanwhile, this initiative is worth it because the reward will be higher than you can gain when working with other markets. So, 2023 is a great time to start your go-to-market journey and create a strong business community of Ukrainian IT companies in the MENA region.


"If you're ready for challenges from the reward perspective, yes, it's really promising compared with usual for Ukrainian IT businesses markets, such as the US and Europe, since their companies experience smaller challenges and get a smaller reward. It's smaller but stable. In this region, it is a completely different proportion."

Evgeniy Aleksandrenko

Head of Digital Transformation @ JEVERA Software



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