As local medical device companies look for new growth opportunities, they may do well to consider serving the burgeoning market in the Middle East, specifically Dubai.
That’s the word from Don Beery, director of the two-dozen-member West Michigan Medical Device Consortium, who attended Arab Health 2013 in Dubai in late January.
Beery said the experience left him eager to help his member companies find ways to do business in a country that spent $559 million last year alone on medical devices, a 10-percent increase from the year before.
The upside potential for medical device sales there is enormous, Beery said, citing one local report that projected spending of $133 billion on health care within the region over the next five years. Other reports show Saudi Arabia alone is planning to build 100 new hospitals.
Beery said what appears to be happening in that region is a dramatic population growth. Now the oil-rich kingdoms are trying to play catch-up by providing modern health care services. He said Dubai is rapidly building hospitals to accommodate its affluent citizens who have the best private health insurance coverage and can easily afford the best health care to go with it.
“They’re now trying to back fill with products and services to fill this huge demand,” Beery said.
He did not come back with a specific opportunity to present to his members, but rather, he has the message that there is tremendous business potential for medical device makers in Dubai.
“I met with a consulting firm there owned by an American woman who helps businesses penetrate that market for a fee,” Beery said. “Each company has to make an individual decision on whether that market makes sense to them. But the West Michigan Medical Device Consortium can help remove the fear of the unknown.”
For American companies interested in pursuing business in Dubai, resources are ready to help them engage, he said. Those include the U.S. Department of Commerce, Commercial Services, the U.S. Consulate in Dubai and the U.S. Embassy in Abu Dhabi.
Dubai is a city-state in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), located within the emirate of the same name. The emirate of Dubai is located southeast of the Persian Gulf on the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the seven emirates that make up the country.
“What I learned from my first trip is there is an appetite for American-made products and services,” Beery said. “Made in USA has value. And the market is accessible and approachable.”
Despite some of the regional instability resulting from the recent Arab spring, Beery said Dubai was a cosmopolitan city of approximately 2 million people, of which fewer than 20 percent are native Emirati. Most are foreign nationals doing business in one market sector or another.
“The city of Dubai is the New York of the Middle East,” he said. “Clearly, it’s the business center for the entire region. What I heard from people there is if an American company wants to have a presence in that region, they should set up an office in Dubai.”
There are cultural considerations to take into account as well, he said. First among them is to build trust with Arab business counterparts.
“Arabs here want to know that you are prepared to invest in the region: time, resources, and people,” he said. “Also, for many Americans, the pace of business is bit slower than we are used to. And Arab business people do not share the same affinity for rapid streams of electronic communication, email, texting and the like. They prefer instead personal interactions — phone calls, and especially face-to-face meetings over tea or a meal.”