Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Inshallah: An Expatirate Challenge

Academic journal article Journal of the International Academy for Case Studies

Inshallah: An Expatirate Challenge

Article excerpt


The primary subject matter of this case concerns how lack of understanding and appreciation of cultural differences can undermine potentially beneficial joint ventures. Secondary issues examined include awareness of cultural differences, the role they play in crafting international alliances, the consequences of violating cultural norms, and the steps expatriates should follow to form successful interpersonal relations with foreign counterparts. Students also become more aware of their own readiness for assignments in foreign cultures through assessments of their empathy, flexibility, and analytical skills as they identify with the American expatriate and assess what actions he should take. The case has a difficulty level of five, appropriate for first year graduate level. The case is designed to be taught in one hour and is expected to require one hour of outside preparation by students.


Bladeco is a United States company that has recently undertook an international joint venture with a Saudi Arabian company in the precision steel products market. The newly appointed Middle Eastern Manager is eager to apply his international relations skills to enhance the sales of Bladeco products in Saudi Arabia. He enthusiastically accepts the overseas assignment as an opportunity for gaining international experience and advance his career with Bladeco. But as an American expatriate, he immediately meets intense cross-cultural obstacles. What the Middle East Manager must determine is how to effectively communicate with his Saudi counterparts in order convince them to honor their commitments to aggressively market Bladeco products in order to reverse declining sales.


Sweat trickled down Jack Adams neck as he lay on his bed and watched the ancient fan go around. His mind drifted off to the lull of the buzzing fan. For the past six weeks he had been trying to convince his business partner, Mustafa Al Amin, that immediate action was needed to save his parent company's Middle-Eastern Division from an imminent demise. His efforts had been as successful as the fan fighting off the Riyadh heat.

Over the past five years the Bladeco Corporation, an American manufacturer of precision steel products, had been very successful in exporting razors and fine cutting blades to Saudi Arabia. Bladeco had decided to enter the uncertain precision steel market in Saudi Arabia as opposed to the highly competitive European markets because of the lack of competition and potential future market growth if the Islamic culture became more westernized. This venture was definitely risky but paid off handsomely as more liberal Saudis began wearing Levis and adopting a more Westernized styles.

Bladeco marketers had been able to create strong distribution channels within the local markets of most major cities that resulted in significant sales increases every year. Jack's predecessor had contracted with several small Saudi manufacturers to produce standard blades to supplement Bladeco's imports of more sophisticated cutting instruments, which lowered costs and increased supply to meet the growing Saudi demand. Bladeco's manufacturing and import business in Saudi over the last five years had produced an outstanding average return on investment of 65 percent, making Bladeco the leading precision steel product supplier in the country.


A large part of Bladeco's success could be attributed to an aggressive marketing approach unique to Saudi business practices. No time or money was spared to gain awareness of Bladeco's products within the newly developing razor blade and precision cutting instrument market. The use of an integrated marketing communications mix contributed to the rapid spread of brand awareness throughout the country. Bladeco utilized television advertisements, sales promotions, public relations, personal selling and direct marketing communications in an effort to enhance market awareness and surpass the small number of fledgling local competitors. …

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