Times are, indeed, changing across the Middle East and North Africa. The uprisings show some key socio-economic trends emerging. Trends which are important for organisations, across industries, to recognise to move ahead. Without being aware of these important changes and not taking it into account in operational strategy would be akin to rushing in where fools dare to tread!
What are these changes?
Two key articles (from the region) provide an insight into the socio-economic mood on the ground.
1. The first article titled—“What Progress Has Islamic Finance Made” focuses on Bahrain and the effects of the Islamic Finance industry to the country’s growth given that Islamic finance is a key industry there. This article goes on to highlight how the industry is operating without a direct benefit to the country’s populace.
2. The second article titled—“TDIC defends labour rights record on Saadiyat Island” highlights how the Abu Dhabi Tourism Development company has moved ahead to ensure that the rights of the workers (building the $800m Guggenheim museum) with regards to their wages and working conditions etc are taken care of. (Workers’ rights in that region i.e. part of basic human rights! Amazing! But true. It’s happening).
But is it amazing? Is this change unexpected?
Not really when you look at two critical elements responsible for it: YOUTH & SOCIAL MEDIA!
- Youth: 60% of the region’s population is under 30. These youths have basic aspirations. They want to be treated as citizens! A recent survey of Middle Eastern youth (in Time) showed that the #1 wish of the youth( in nine countries of the region) was to live in a free country with well-run, modern societies and to have jobs.
- Social Media: Today’s global youth is a highly aware, informed and connected community. A generation with common yet distinct preferences, needs and wants. A generation that’s commonly referred to as“Gen C”—Connected Generation. Connected thanks to social media. A connectivity that’s given rise to increasing empowerment as individuals and as consumers.
More importantly, social media is THE medium of communication, interaction, connectivity that is increasingly influencing behaviour (and attitudes).
So what does this mean, in the long run, for businesses operating there?
It means having to take their consumers voice (or say) on social media into account and starting to have a “dialogue” to ensure long-term sustainability (and profitability).
- Across industries (and the industry verticals) social media will be increasingly affecting product innovation, development & delivery.
- The connectivity, and common interest-sharing, of the consumers will affect large, medium and entrepreneurial business in a way that unless and until the consumers’ needs are satisfied in the product or service offering, the life-span of that product/service would be extremely short-lived.
- In order to get the desired satisfaction level, trials and repeat purchases would have to be encouraged by the companies. This can only happen when there is an open dialogue which is transparent, and leads to establishment of trust.
In terms of business planning, rethinking strategic approach becomes a must. It’s necessary to realise that for years to come this youth generation would utilise the advantage of connectivity and sharing and adapt new technologies (at a faster pace) thus affecting a brand through W.O.M amongst their peer group.Such an attitudinal trend, directly, affects a brand in terms of its reputation, identity and preference if it is not taken into account (at the business planning stage) and tactically managed.