How about Azerbaijan?

| February 4, 2011

Why SMEs need to think about emerging markets.

People who are experts would say there’s no way a SME can operate in Azerbaijan or Kurdistan, or in any centralized economy where a pseudo-dictator is controlling. They would say these are just pipe dreams.

I disagree.

My argument is these people want their economies to grow. Like Dubai, Qatar and the Emirates they see value in slowly bringing in know-how and growing their economies. And they would rather foreigners brought in that know-how, people they don’t feel threatened by politically rather than their own people who might become a counterbalance.

In places like Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and extended to the lesser but still developing Euro economies like Romania, Kosovo, Bulgaria and Albania, there is a huge need for SMEs. The corruption in these countries prevents SMEs coming in, and that’s why these economies don’t grow.

But they need the know-how of SMEs.

What’s on offer?

What would the advantage be for an Australian SME?

Number one, these economies are broad. There’s a lot of opportunity. They are still learning how to do business, they want to learn how to do business. They need people who speak English. They need people with connections to different parts of Europe and Asia.

They are often filled with resources. They often don’t have the people, because their people are leaving to go to other countries, they are being poached. They need people to come in and help them.

The SMEs that come in and do it just have to calculate a longer time line than they might normally do to make a return on their investment.

Emerging market hot-spots

I speak from experience. I’ve invested in healthcare, training, venture capital and management training in emerging markets.

The areas I think SMEs can enter into include service and training. They need teachers and educators because they are losing people. There is an enormous amount of brain drain. So think about any areas that can keep people there. Training companies. Teaching people how to answer the phone or serve in restaurants. There are opportunities for lawyers who are medically oriented as many of these countries are looking to privatize parts of healthcare.

Australia like the United States, tends to ignore a great part of the world. It’s kind of colourblind because it is so focused on China. It’s jaundiced by this China, China, China stuff.

So why not take a different view?

And perhaps spare a thought for Azerbaijan.

Marc S. Ellenbogen is the Chairman of Global Panel Worldwide. Global Panel is a not-for-profit organisation that works primarily behind the scenes in support of governments, institutions and the private sector. Through its network of former ranking government, academic, and private sector personalities, Global Panel is has a strong track record of facilitating solutions in conflict areas around the world.