Some Business Suggestions

In my humble opinion, it is a time for entrepreneurship, starting SMEs, creating jobs and output.

For example, we could decide to volunteer to clean the streets and paint the walls (a scenario where we don’t go to work and nobody makes money). Or we could decide to start a small company that does that, go to our own jobs, make money, hire previously unemployed young men and women, pay them salaries to do the work. In both cases the streets get cleaned, yet in the second scenario, their wages now create a purchasing power, consumption, spending, their spending becomes income to other people and the cycle continues.

Accordingly, I’m tossing together some suggested business ideas for those of you with time, energy or liquidity:

  • Home-based mini-agri-businesses. I realise that home economics is not the first thing that comes to mind when searching for a start-up idea. Yet the current situation is the follows: Egypt’s soil produces some of the best fruits and vegetables. Given recent political changes annual exports of agricultural produce took a dive due to obstacles in distribution and logistics. These volumes of produce are now in the market risking perish as many of the larger hypermarkets have been vandalised and hence are not procuring new merchandise; and the average Egyptian consumer has reduced his spending in anticipation of the future and due to challenges to liquidity.
  • The suggestion is for housewives, those still looking for jobs or even students to start small home based manufacturing facilities. Purchase the fresh fruits and vegetables from the market (start by buying from the little guy, his cash flow cycle is a lot more unforgiving) at ridiculously cheap prices these days. Then start making gourmet jams, preserves, pickles, juices, frozen cut and cleaned vegetables or  pre-washed pre-cut salads. This way the produce lasts longer in its refrigerated processed state. These items can be branded and sold through a facebook group to end-users or to retailers.
  • Go into the security business. Citizens these days have a heightened sense of their need for security. Utilise the network of dependable unemployed young men you met during “elligan elsha3beya” to start a security men provision service. Or even better, provide a more capital-intensive solution, hire individuals to build security systems and market them. These would be partially software code and partially metal grills/cages/bars that can be used to lock down stores in the case the glass is broken to hold the merchandise and the robbers in while the cops are alerted to the emergency.
  • Clean. As outlined in the example I started the blogpost with, contemplate starting a cleaning service, this does not have to be exclusive to the streets and can extend to providing painting and reconstruction services to those who have suffered damages during the events of the past 10 days.
  • Manufacture and sell revolution memorabilia. We are all feeling very patriotic these days, someone should capitalise on that. There is a great opportunity for flag and Egyptian themed items, this includes but is not limited to clothing, car accessories, flags, key-chains and other trinkets, prints of photos from Tahrir. Most importantly, don’t design the product and have some factory in China manufacture it for you, manufacture here, hire Egyptian workers, use Egyptian factories and Egyptian raw materials.
  • Venture capital. For the slightly larger players amongst you, this is as good a time as ever, start a private equity / venture capital firm and offer funding to start-ups and SMEs with business ideas that have great potential but whom are lacking guidance and funding.

I realise that the post to some of you is redundant and to others the ideas would seem unusual. Yet kindly remember that these are merely suggestions, inspired by what is happening and which aim to serve the target of creating business and generating growth and employment in the Egyptian economy.

Good luck to you all and God bless.

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Guide to Economic Recovery

Kindly check your political views at the door.

Many of you have been calling and e-mailing asking for my “economic” view on what’s happening, forecasted impact on the economy and what can be done.

I would much prefer to focus on the last point because worrying and fretting about impact is a useless exercise while exploring what we can do might actually have some good.

1) Regarding the campaign to invest 100 LE in the Egyptian Stock Market. In my humble opinion this is a minimum impact exercise, the only ones who stand to really gain are those seeking to currently exit the market and the brokerage companies. The money you invest goes into the pockets of previous owners of that stock, the company itself (whose stock you are buying) does not benefit. This money will not result in production or job generation, let alone any impact on the real economy.

Having said that, if you have liquidity to spare, this is actually an excellent time to invest in the stock market, you can buy low in the hope of selling high a little down the line when the stock market revives. So I’m not saying don’t do it, just make sure you know why you are doing it.

2) Please, please, please, for the Love of God, don’t panic. Panic is bad. Read up on what happened to the Egyptian economy the last time there was a bank run. Moreover, the panic is unsubstantiated, the most respectable economist in the nation (I’m entitled to my opinion) Mr. Farouk El Okdah himself, assures you that your deposits are guaranteed. Your money isn’t going anywhere, no need to try to withdraw it all. Lets make sure there is enough liquidity to go around to guarantee normal business operations.

3) Only buy dollars if they are essential for your business operations. I understand your fears, I do. You are forecasting a major appreciation of the dollar vis-a-vie the pound and double-digit inflation in Egypt. Regarding the first point, the central bank is using its reserves to maintain the exchange rate as much as possible, while I too am forecasting some appreciation in the coming period, it won’t be the mega jumps you are expecting or possibly hoping for. A stable exchange rate reflects very positively in the global arena and will make recovery much faster once things are settled.

Meanwhile, for those fearing that their assets in the bank will lose value as the inflation rate continues to rise diminishing their purchasing power, you have some alternatives, if your current cash flow and liquidity levels allow it, you are looking for a hedge. Hedge funds are not prevalent in Egypt, you could opt to invest in the stock market (see the first bullet), you could opt to invest in commodities (this includes but is not limited to Gold and other metals), for the larger players you could opt to buy out business owners whom are trying to exit the market.

4) Support the small guy (hat-tip to Inji El Abd). For example, the fruits and vegetables in the market are very perishable, when you buy, buy from the small guy with the wooden carts on street corners rather than the hypermarkets of the world. For one, he needs the money more to sustain his family through the transitional phase. Second, they have better storage and refrigeration options and can bear the wait for a little longer.

5) Go local (those of you who have known me long are already bored with the request). Some of the non-Egyptian players in the market have temporarily relocated, some have withdrawn their funds and business for good. This has created an opportunity in the market (I realise that’s an incredibly cup-half-full way to look at it). Yet the opportunities exist, this capacity can be taken over by players still in the market or by investors such as yourself. Support the local players, support those still in the market, buy their products, work at their establishment, make sure they churn a profit and pay wages and generate spending and further economic growth as the multiplier effect comes into play.

Some suggestions on local products here.

6) Be fuel-efficient. Limit the use of your motor vehicle, car pool, walk or bike.

7) Spend your vacations in Egypt. Tourism sector may have been hit for a while, but there is absolutely no reason why we Egyptians shouldn’t take the opportunity to get to know our country better. Take a weekend at a city you’ve never been to, head to the coasts, go to the Red Sea, live it up, stay at the fancy hotels or the little ones, all of them could use the business and you would have a good time.

8 ) Plan your spending in the coming period, don’t hoard food and other products, ensure equitable distribution of available produce until the logistics and retail sectors recover. Contemplate diverting some of your current savings into investments. If you are a business owner don’t close your business, stay open, pay wages, bear a temporary loss, work on generating new business, confidence will create more confidence and spending will result in greater spending and will God’s willing expedite economic recovery.

Good luck to us all.

الطرق المثلى للخروج من الأزمة إقتصاديا بشكل يفيد الأشخاص ولا يضر الإقتصاد العام

١- إستثمار كميات قليلة (رمزية) من النقود في البورصة قد لا يؤدي النتيجة المرجوة من إنقاذ الإقتصاد.. ولكن بشكل عام البورصة الأن تعتبر فرصة قيمة للإستثمار حيث أن الأسهم ستكون في أقل المعدلات الأن وسوف تتزايد تدريجيا.

٢- لا داعي للهلع والتوتر فهو لا يجدي أبدا ولا مبرر له. كل مودعات المستثمرين والمدخرين مكفولة ومحفوظة ولن تضار. حافظ على وجود كم كافي من السيولة في النظام المصرفي في مصر لإدارة الأعمال.

٣- لا تقم بشراء الدولار إلا عند الضرورة. قد تكون قيمة الجنيه في إنخفاض الأن في مقابل الدولار إلا أن هذا لن يكون بالقدر الذي يتوقعه العامة. وإذا كنت تريد ضمان القيمة الشرائية لمدخراتك فقد تحقق هذا (بل وبعض المكاسب) إذا أستثمرت في البورصة أو أسواق الذهب والفضة.

٤- أدعم صغار التجار.. الراجل بتاع الخيار اللي عالناصية. لأسباب عدة منها أن كبار التجار لديهم طرق أوسع للحفظ والتخزين وإحتياطي نقدي يسمح لهم بتحمل تأخر البيع و الربح.. بينما صغار التجار يكونون أكثر سرعة في التأثر ولا إحتياطي لهم.

٥- أشتري المنتج المحلي. المنتج العالمي مدعم بإقتصاد شركته أما المحلي فيعتمد كليا على قوة الشراء المحلية.. وحقيقة الأمر أن الكثير من المنتجات العالمية قد تقلل من تواجدها في مصر في الفترة المقبلة مما يتيح فرصة للمنتج المحلي الجيد للإستيلاء على قسط أكبر من السوق المصري.

٦- وفر في إستهلاك الوقود.

٧- إعمل على تنمية السياحة الداخلية.. بلاش إيبيزا السنة دي.

٨- إقتصد في الإستهلاك: لا تخزن أكثر من حاجتك.. عدد منافذ إستثمارك.. إستمر في إدارة أعمالك ودفع الرواتب وإن تحملت خسارة صغيرة مؤقتة ففي هذا المنفعة الإقتصادية الأكبر لك

Translation courtesy of Hazem Shoirah.

Going Local – Facebook Edition

Dear going locallers,

Seeing as this idea has grown, it is time to let it go. Since it can’t continue to live on this blog and needs a room of it’s own.

As a first step, we have moved to facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/groups.php?ref=sb#/group.php?gid=51852282115

Please check out the group, join it and let us know what you think.

During the upcoming week, the initiative will also have a blog to call it’s own, hence the delay in posting success stories.

Also, another housekeeping note, I’d love to hear all your input on the initiative, logo, slogans, ideas, actual experiences with local products you’d like to share, etc.

Kindly e-mail us at buyegypt@gmail.com

Also if you were kind enough to blog about it, e-mail us the link so it may be featured in the upcoming blog.

Take care y’all!

Salam!

Going Local – Take Off Revisited

Given the sheer amount of positive feedback (you all know you rock) here’s formalizing the initiative.

I give thee “Going Local – Masna3na 2awla Beena”

Going Local

Proposed way this will work:

1) It is an invitation to one and all to start going local (Arab) in all their purchase decisions.

2) On a weekly basis in this outlet I will post either an Egyptian/Arab success story or a customer complaint directed to a local company. Feel free to start e-mailing me those.

3) Once we are all settled and happy with logo and slogan we can move this to venues with higher traffic.

Hope you all had a splendid weekend and may you have a work week that’s nothing short of extraordinary.

P.S. I realize how hideous the msn Arabic in the circle is but photoshop is being difficult, would highly welcome assistance.

Buying Back Egypt

Ok ladies and gents who have warmed up to my idea of boycotting the boycotts and going local rather than global.

I’ve gone through my daily routine all weekend and have discovered the following:

1) It is extremely difficult to implement this with regard to hygiene products, if any of you are familiar of any truly local brands for soaps, shampoos, toothpaste or detergents I’d love to get acquainted.

2) With regard to clothing, local options do exist and are quite decent (albeit overpriced) at times. Must just make the conscious decision to tailor more and be less brand oriented. Wearing an Egyptian suit today and perfectly fine with it.

3) With regard to shoes and bags, once again, leather here is quite decent, give the local brands a try.

4) Breakfast options, for those of you who cook their own breakfasts you will find an abundance of local poultry, bean and dairy manufacturers. These really should be the least of our problems. I’ve checked with my mom regarding our cheese buying habits (Denmark and Holland being at the top of the boycotting list) and she said she makes it a point to buy the local brands. So to this end go Masreyeen or Domty or whatever it is you can buy. For processed meats she says some of the Arab brands are quite decent, I’ll settle for Arab.

5) To get to work, unless you are a CCC (and even in that case your bike is probably imported) you are taking a non-local car (even if assembled locally), I strongly doubt this will change in our lifetimes.

6) All the technology items at our office are American, the PCs the phones etc… Only the cables are manufactured locally. If anyone knows of a local manufacturer (not assembler) of PCs and phones kindly bring them to our attention.

7) All the furniture is local (elhamdollelah), basic wood and metal work and a little glass work for the partitions.

8) For delivery options at work you shouldn’t find a problem going local, there is quite a few chains coming out.

9) All our office printed material is being done locally, so stationary is not the issue.

This was a tour through my day, not sure about the rest of yours. Lets focus on the bright spots and lets work on identifying pioneers in the dark ones.

The post title is a working title, I like the innuendo of it. Still working on that logo, trying to avoid going cliche.

Cheers!

Buy Egypt

Every other day my phone goes off and it’s an sms to the effect of “Boycott Danish goods” or “Show solidarity to Palestine, boycott US products”. This has held true for Dutch products and of course products coming from the occupied territories. Now I’m all for it. I’m sure the 3 mobile operators are making a killing. Yet that’s not my concern. EU manufacturers have started to label goods as “Made in the EU”, them Europeans stick together and I applaud that, 3o2balna ya 3arab. So now your options are, being a devout concerned Arab citizen and all, is to boycott all US and EU products. So basically your options currently is to buy Asian.

I have a different proposition for you. Lets buy Egypt! Lets buy Arab products. Even better lets produce Arab products. Walk into your local supermarket and tally up what percentage of the products you’ve bought were manufactured locally. Then think to your purchase decision mechanism, did you automatically dismiss the local substitute for the global brand?

I know it’s a lot to ask, and that yes you’ll miss your gourmet coffees, teas and meals. Yet for a change. Lets be proactive. Lets BUY EGYPT!