Ahmad Younis AICC Secretary General and CEO speaks to the Irish Independent about the Arab-Irish Business Forum on October 3 at the Mansion House in Dublin.
Minister for Agriculture, Michael Creed meets with two Arab buyers at last year's Gulfood trade show in Dubai, along with Jens Gloeckner of Ornua and Tara McCarthy, Bord Bia's CEO.
The Arab world is open for business and the opportunities for Irish companies in this largely untapped market are significant.
Ireland's exports to Arab markets topped €4.3bn in 2016 and are forecast to exceed €9bn in the next 10 years.
The Arab region is therefore an important trading bloc for Irish companies who are serious about growing their businesses and exploiting new opportunities.
Arab business leaders and Irish companies which have experience of the region will share their knowledge when they address the 2018 Arab-Irish Business Forum on October 3 at the Mansion House in Dublin.
The conference will offer a unique insight to businesses looking beyond Europe and the US for growth, covering a wide range of topics including risk, red tape, route to market and cultural norms.
There is no real mystery to the culture. Arab business people like having face-to-face meetings.
You therefore need to be prepared to spend time in the region, commit to the market and establish strong relationships by being on the ground.
It's quite common to be invited to "drop by for a coffee", which can suddenly evolve and become a lucrative business meeting.
For this, you need to have a physical presence in the market, even if that means flying there once a month.
Haggling is a cultural norm so be prepared to negotiate and expect a lot of bargaining.
A tense or confrontational atmosphere in a meeting is not a bad sign and, in fact, can often mean that the deal is on the verge of being signed.
While there are many differences between Irish and Arab cultures, there are as many cultural similarities.
There is a huge emphasis on family - Arabs are very sociable and a meeting extending to lunch or dinner is not uncommon. Humour plays a big part both in business and outside.
Trust is paramount and not only has it to be earned, but it also has to be retained. A personal guarantee is worth its weight in gold to an Arab business person.
Arabs like doing business with the Irish, whom they hold in high regard. In a region of vast and growing populations, there is a constant need for new products and innovations from the western world. But quality is king and it must be matched by value.
Get these two things right and you'll be pushing against an open door.
Link in with Enterprise Ireland, which has specialist teams across the region to specifically support Irish firms in getting established.
Ask them for advice on the different business models that operate out there.
Do your research and avoid wasting time, money and effort surging ahead with a business model that is not right for you - or the market.
Many people make the mistake of not speaking to industry peers trading with the Arab world, but this is a fundamental starting point.
Take advantage of the many expat networking groups for unrivalled insight and first-hand experiences that you are unlikely to find elsewhere.
Finally, don't make the mistake of seeing the Arab world as one region.
There are several different economic landscapes, languages, local laws and political influences that mark out the various countries, so make sure you understand what is relevant to those you are targeting.
Doing business with the Arab states has never been easier, with organisations such as Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia providing support in areas including identifying routes to market, finding distribution partners and identifying potential customers.
Emirates offers a twice-daily service from Dublin to countries across the region via Dubai, carrying up to 50 tons of Irish exports east every day.
Ahmad Younis is the chief executive of the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce and will speak to conference delegates on doing business in the Arab World.
Click the link below to download and view the Arab-Irish Business Forum Powerpoint presentation.