What does Ramadan mean for your business?
If your company deals with multilingual vendors in the Middle East or has recently started localizing content for Arab customers in North Africa, you should know what Ramadan means to your colleagues, friends, and business partners.
The Meaning of Ramadan
Ramadan is when Muslims from around the world fast from dawn till sunset. It is celebrated as the month when the Quran descended on Prophet Muhammad. In every country around the world, and especially in the Middle East, almost every Muslim takes part in celebrating the month in some shape or form.
Corporations and Ramadan Corporations and government entities in most of the Middle East and North Africa shorten the working hours every day. For example, in KSA, normal working hours are 40 hours/week, but during Ramadan they decrease to 30 hours/week.
Corporations from every industry start planning for Ramadan early. There are actually heavy advertising campaigns around this holy month, especially in Egypt.
Heavy Advertising Campaigns
Corporations from the service industry, FMCG industries, and others begin launching advertising campaigns on television and radio, as most of their target audience are in front of the TV after the iftar. The best TV shows and episodes are aired during this holy month. Promotional materials such as Ramadan calendars are distributed ahead to customers with the corporation’s logo and the timings for prayers during Ramadan.
Business Lunches Replaced by Iftars and Sohours
Corporations commonly organize Iftars (breaking the fast - which is usually around 6 or 7pm, depending on when the sun sets in each country) and Sohours (eating the last meal before the start of fasting again the next day – which is around 1:00 to 3:00 am) for their customers and staff. Yes, people can start going out at 1:00am during Ramadan.
Hotels and restaurants organize sponsorship campaigns for corporations to host their events and promote their products and services.
In cosmopolitan Cairo and Beirut, most hotels and some trendy restaurants take advantage of this tradition and get the most out of the late Ramadan hours, putting up large tents where families gather and corporations host these traditional gatherings and invite their customers, staff, partners, and also government officials.
Working and Behavior During Ramadan
Many Muslims feel that their main priority in the coming period is to focus on spiritual practices; reading and reciting the Quran, late nights spent in prayer at home or at the local mosque, daytime hours spent in fasting. The combination of devotion and celebration turns the Arab World into a juggling act as people keep up religious rituals along with the TV marathon of soap operas and entertaining family and friends. Ultimately, Ramadan just isn't the right time for business.
It is even more frustrating when your business involves the public sector and government employees. The working day is extremely short for them, and sometimes alsts only four hours — and male employees are most likely to be in a bad-tempered mood brought on by lack of tea, coffee, cigarettes, and sleep. Women are likely to be totally distracted by managing to courageously face the traffic to pick up her children from school and simultaneously having the warm Iftar meal ready for the family by 6 pm, when the daily fast ends. She will usually leave work early!
The Other Side of the Coin
Despite the heavy advertising campaigns, the marketing events, and the promotional programs, Ramadan remains a “no fun time” for foreign business people trying to work deals in the Arab world.
Ramadan in some countries means lower productivity, lower performance, higher consumption, and higher demands for goods and services, which results in higher prices, higher profit margins for sellers in the retail industry, restaurants, and cafés.
The higher consumption equates to higher economic growth, although this is generally only short-term phenomenon. Sellers and individuals witness a decline in their purchasing power after Ramadan as a result of the higher prices against their fixed income.
Charities also tend to get a boost during Ramadan as mosques collect donations and people are encouraged to donate online.
After Ramadan, the Muslim world celebrates with feasting for days; all businesses are closed and all hotels and resorts are fully booked!
Happy Ramadan to everyone and may it bring prosperity and higher productivity and demand to your business.
Yasmina Raouf is a Senior Marketing specialist in Saudisoft Co. She has 11 years' experience in the marketing field spent in the manufacturing sector, banking sector and finally language sector. She is currently responsible for marketing and works on the business development team of Saudisoft. NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of GALA.