I recently received a request for some information about a possible business venture here in KSA that I'm not really sure how to address, so I thought I would open this up to the readers to answer. A young woman from Thailand needs information about the possibility of marketing cosmetics to Saudi women over the phone. My instincts tell me that this type of business venture wouldn't fly here, but maybe I'm wrong.
She has some questions that I have no idea how to answer. Here's her request:
"The Managing Director I work for is very eager to start his business in a Middle Eastern country and I'm responsible for doing some research on those countries. KSA happened to be the first place I picked up from the lucky draw.
After reading a lot of articles and of course, your blog, I'm not so sure now if my business model can be run in KSA, as it relates to cosmetics and skin care for both men and mostly for women.
Since women there are not supposed to be beautiful because it leads to men's attention, they do not have to apply any skin care to keep themselves beautiful anyway, although Saudi men take beauty as the most important thing to live a life with one woman... what a conflict!
My business requires girls to sell these products via telephones. Under the religious rules, I don't think any girls can be employed for this position - or is selling through telephones exceptional?
Can you let me know if Saudi women can spend money of their own free will? Or do they need to have permission from their husbands? In general, do most Saudi women possess a Credit Card or ATM card to use freely?
It would be really nice to have your advice about this as it would be difficult to get this kind of info from the internet."
First of all, the assumption that Saudi women don't need or want cosmetics or skin care products is totally wrong. Outer beauty and skin care is as important to women here as it is to women everywhere. Because Saudi women don't expose their skin to the harsh elements here, most Saudi women have beautiful and flawless skin. They use products to keep their skin soft and supple. They use cosmetics for private affairs like weddings. I know that cosmetics is a big business here.
Saudi women generally have their own money and if they want to spend it on cosmetics, that is their business. I cannot vouch for whether they have credit cards or ATM cards to make purchases with, however.
Whether or not women would be inclined to purchase cosmetics over the phone is a completely different issue. Not being able to see the product would be a factor. Personally I would rather purchase cosmetics in person rather than over the phone, sight unseen.
As far as telemarketing itself here in KSA, I honestly have no clue. I know that we don't receive sales calls at home here in Saudi Arabia. The difference between the states and here is like night and day. We used to get so many telemarketing calls in the states that it was quite annoying. Although I have noticed that I receive many pesky text messages here in KSA that are sales oriented. I do know that I've heard many women here say that if they don't recognize the phone number on their caller ID, they do not answer the phone, so would this be a problem? And could women be employed doing telemarketing here? A good question to which I have no answer. If anyone out there has any information to contribute, please be my guest.