Qatar is one of the richest countries in the world. Qatar’s per capita income for the year 2014 was $93,714, which is almost twice that of the US per capita income. The population of Qatar is only 1.9 million and 80% of its residents are foreign nationals. Here’s what you should know about doing business in Qatar.
Clearly, Qatar is an extremely rich country, with a small population and a large expat population. It is clearly advantageous to expand your business to Qatar and take advantage of what this super rich economy has to offer to you. But there are a few things to be kept in mind before doing business in Qatar.
It is critical to hire a local business partner to do the running for you and to negotiate with the local government officials on your behalf. Forming a business partnership with a reputable Qatari firm is very beneficial. A good business partner in Qatar is worth his weight in gold, and will have a wealth of contacts in the nation which you can use for your benefit. Networking and relationships are critical to how business operates in Qatar.
It is beneficial to be acquainted with Islam and the Islamic culture, as that would help tremendously considering Qatar is an Islamic nation. Islam is central to how business is conducted. Although business here is conducted in a similar manner as that in the West, Islam is the constant running thread that influences how things are done in Qatar.
You don’t need to learn the national language, Arabic, because English is the language of choice in business negotiations with Qatar. Since a majority of businessmen, politicians and government officials have a very good command over English in the country; it is not even required to hire a translator.
It’s important to keep in mind that nothing gets decided in an initial business meeting in Qatar, business negotiations stretch for several weeks here and you will be required to make several visits. Being on the spot and meeting your business partners face-to-face is important. You cannot hold meetings over Skype in Qatar, this is frowned upon and not taken seriously by the local businessmen.
A business meeting should be scheduled well ahead of its time, preferably a week in advance. A short phone call about the contours of the meeting should be done beforehand as Qatari businessmen don’t like to be surprised during a business negotiation. You should always arrive on time, and be prepared for your Qatari business partners to arrive late for the meeting.
It’s important to dress very modestly, not to wear revealing clothes, if you are a Western businesswoman. Men should be dressed in suits, even in the hottest of summers.
Foreigners are not expected to wear an Arab costume when in Qatar, doing so is strictly frowned at.
Hierarchy is very important in a business meeting in Qatar. You should show the right respect and deference to Qatari business executives in the order of their seniority. And address them by their Arabic titles such as Haji or Sheikh.
Business in Qatar is distinctly personal, so you should be prepared when your business partners in Qatar as you personal questions about your life and family. They don’t mean any disrespect, they are just trying to be polite and form a connection with you.
Meetings go on for hours, and it takes long for your Qatari business partners to arrive at the core point of the meeting, but you shouldn’t at any stage show any impatience. Also, you shouldn’t appear as being too eager or too aggressive in a business meeting – this is not taken kindly in Qatar.
You should be very careful about making verbal commitments in a business negotiation with a business partner in Qatar as once a word is given here, it is more sacrosanct than even a written document and you cannot go back on it.
This article is a part of our ongoing series on “Doing Business in the Middle East and North Africa.” Our goal is to inform people about the right way to form a business partnership with local business partners in the region, and to offer a better understanding of the business culture and etiquette followed in that part of the world. The intention is to ensure that you are comfortable and know what to expect during a business negotiation with a business partner in the Middle East or North Africa. Please send us your suggestions on how we may help to serve you better. Ciao!