The purpose of this paper is to broaden and deepen the understanding of buyer behavior in Arab industrial markets. Most Western exporters to the Arab world have experienced different kinds of challenges in their encounter with an unfamiliar and exotic culture. One may certainly observe what is going on, but is it possible to understand the underlying factors that explain what most Western businessmen not only would qualify as peculiar, but outright irregular? Is it possible to cast light on the apparently "irrational" behavior of Arab organizations in their dealings with Western sellers? In the wake of September 11 answers to these questions seem to be even more acute, as Arab stereotypes are easily getting entrenched in the inexperienced Westerner’s mind1. This paper endeavors to supplement traditional organizational buyer behavior literature with literature on Arab cultures and management practices and to study industrial buyer behavior in selected Arab countries. The emphasis will be on project deliveries where the differences between buyer behavior in the West and the Arab world are deemed to be most conspicuous. There are many cultural similarities among Arab countries. However, the differences are also discernible. One dividing line may be drawn between the Maghreb states of Northern Africa (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and the Machreq states of the Arab peninsula. In the latter, the pre-islamic Arab cultures seem to have preserved certain attributes that are distinct from the fundamental principles of Islam, whereas in Maghreb states the arabization process was brought about together with islamization. Therefore, the concepts of Arab and Islam are considered more intertwined in North Africa than on the Arab peninsula (Tank 1997). Furthermore, the political systems and international allegiances are widely different - ranging from military autocracies (Syria, Iraq) to what we may term moderate quasi-democracies (Egypt), from islamist rule (Libya, Saudi Arabia) to more western-like secular societies with tolerance for other religious groups (Egypt, Morroco), from populous states like Egypt (65 million inhabitants) to sparsely populated countries like Saudi Arabia (14 million) and United Arab Emirates (1,5 1 The research in this study was carried out before September 11 2001. 2
million), from politically stable countries (Emirates) to countries haunted by rebels and civil war (Algeria). In this study, we will concentrate on two countries on the Arab peninsula, and more specifically, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. The reason for this particular choice of countries lies primarily in the convenience through the assistance provided by the Norwegian Trade Council represented precisely in this region. Although the interviews are drawn from these two countries, we believe that some of the conclusions may be generalized to a broader spectrum of Machreq countries, and even Arab countries in general. The paper is divided into four parts. The next section gives a brief literature review of general industrial and project buyer behavior, and a somewhat more elaborate discussion on literature on Arab management culture. A brief presentation of the data collection procedure is followed by the presentation of results of the interviews with our informants. Finally some conclusions and recommendations are offered. Literature review
General industrial buyer behavior
The industrial buying behavior models that have had most impact in industrial buying behavior are the so-called buy-grid model (Robinson, Faris and Wind 1967) and buying center model (Webster and Wind 1972). The former describes the different phases that firms undergo in their buying process - from problem recognition to purchase and performance review, and different kinds of buy-classes: new task, modified rebuy and straight rebuy. The buying center model shows how various parts of the organization participate in the buying decisions. Generally speaking...