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Unfolding Opportunities for Associations in the Gulf Region


Thousands of association professionals and industry partners came together to exchange resources, strategies, and solutions at ASAE Annual Meeting & Exposition in Salt Lake City, UT, USA last August (read more about it here).

Ajay Bhojwani, Managing Director MCI Middle East led an education session exploring the challenges and opportunities associations encounter when growing their business in the Gulf and MENA regions. The session focussed on the potential of the region and what it could offer associations as well as looking at some real examples of how international associations have built their business in the region and the challenges they had to overcome to build their business.

1.Economic potential in the region

The sessions kicked off with looking at the potential of the region and how the economies especially in the Gulf – UAE, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia are gearing towards major infrastructure development as well as a future which is going to be less and less oil dependent. Each economy has defined a 5 and a 10 year vision on how they will grow their business outlook and support not only large corporate houses and multinational companies but also small business enterprises which constitute a significant share to their GDP. It also bought forward the top focus industries for each of these economies, which include:

  • Healthcare
  • Education
  • Manufacturing
  • Construction

2. Common challenges & Global membership strategies

The second part of the session was centred on establishing and understanding the common challenges associations face in those markets. Members of the panel who represented a global public transport association and a hospitality and convention association shared their journey, their motivation behind the geographical expansion, the different support received from the public and private sectors as well as their experience in further moving their business in the region focusing on their global membership strategies, products and events.

The most common challenges both these associations shared revolved around:

  • The definition of volunteerism in the region
  • The support that had to be extended to them to get the objectives and goals achieved

A big focus was placed on the support from the public sector to move forward that also helps in eliminating other risks of understanding the local business and cultural environment as well as reducing the financial risk on the organisation. It was important that offering from them was customised to the local requirements and with the support / help of some of their members and professional service providers they got the formula right and working for them.

3. Business models & the right strategic intent

In the third and last part of the session, Bhojwani re-emphasised on what the above two, as well as many more associations, have looked at or need to in order to define a right business plan, which brings forward a right offering at a right price with key stakeholders and industry bodies backing them up and supporting when required.

Here are the steps an association needs to follow in order to make all this work:

  1. Define the right strategic intent on why you want to expand in the region
  2. Devise a well thought and defined business plan on how you will implement that expansion. The plan needs to cover:
    • Products
    • Pricing strategy
    • Strategy on how to build and promote you brand (and not just the products)
  3. The implementation needs to really ensure that public and private sector are both involved and supporting this move – financially as well as through market knowledge and relevance to localise your offering.

Partnerships are key to success in today’s world and especially in these emerging markets that help having a right business model to grow and expand the business and have a success story.

For more information about the growth opportunities in the MENA region contact Ajay Bhojwani
Our association experts can help you solve your challenges and unlock opportunities, visit us at:

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