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Cultural Challenges Of Operating In Qatar – Case Study Of International Clothing Companies (Dissertation Sample)


CULTURAL CHALLENGES OF OPERATING IN QATAR as a new firm in a new market industry.


I would like to express my gratitude and appreciation to my supervisor for providing me with the support and continuous feedback to complete this dissertation.

The study offered an in-depth examination of the current cultural challenges of operating in Qatar and attempted to ascertain the current cultural opportunities and trends conducive to the success of European clothing chains. The study also examined cultural factors acting as barriers to the European clothing companies already established in Qatar. Formulating a hypothesis from the data collected, the study used a combination of deductive and inductive approaches and qualitative and quantitative research methods; data were collected from primary sources, in the form of questionnaires and interviews, and from secondary sources. A total of 270 respondents were selected randomly for the study, comprising 120 staff from three target companies and 150 customers. The results indicated that culture plays a crucial role in consumers’ choice of clothing. The clothing industry in Qatar operates under strict Islamic laws and cultural traditions which have limited the market opportunities and expansion for various European fashion companies. Clothing is a significant aspect in Middle Eastern countries and is treated with much respect; hence everyone living in these countries is expected to adhere to the culture by dressing with respect and modesty. All females are expected to dress appropriately within Islamic principles and values; these conflict with Western clothing styles, in which females expose their bodies. These values and principles have restricted Western fashion clothing designs, making it hard for companies to sell such fashions in the Qatar clothing market. In conclusion, culture and Islamic traditions clearly play a big role in the Qatar clothing market. Western fashion designs are not currently popular, as most people prefer to abide by traditional Islamic values, principles and modes of dress.
Chapter 1 - Introduction
The dissertation studied the cultural challenges of international clothing companies in Qatar. In recent years, many foreign companies have expanded in to the Middle East as part of their global expansion strategy.
Background to the Study
Globalisation has put pressure on businesses to internationalize their operations and functions in order to survive and sustain in a competitive market. The increasing need to take business abroad and attract international customers, has made entrepreneurs and business owners to become innovative and find effective strategies to internationalize their businesses. The globalization and internationalization of businesses is a growing area in today’s economy as firms try to acquire a competitive edge in the market Robinson (1984). When expanding internationally a firm needs to consider its mode of entry, the mode of entry will be determined by the market attractiveness, which is determined by a high market growth, if it has a low political risk, the attitudes they have to foreign investment, and the favourable competitive market environment.
One such nation companies are seeking to venture into is Qatar, which has shown remarkable developments in economic, political, and social aspects. However, any international business seeking to succeed in this market has to deal with the social, cultural, political, economic, legal and environmental factors. It is evident that the Qatar social cultural practices have a strong influence on consumer market, advertising, and business practices, especially the clothing industry. Consumers are under the influence of social-cultural influences like Islamic culture, which influence the consumer to conduct their affairs with honesty, respect, peacefulness, kindness, modesty, community, and purity (Al-Buracy 2004). The consumer is also under the influence of the rules of the Qur’an and Sunnah (Gole 2002). The consumer is expected to respect laws where the Qur’an guides women and men on how to dress and conduct their affairs modestly and with respect (Rice and Al-Mossawi 2002).
Clothing is an important aspect since the choice of clothing a person wears indentifies their gender, social, and religious identities, as a means through which individuals place themselves in the society through established codes of behaviour (Gibson 2000). Clothing is an important element to the culture in Qatar in which modesty is required, especially of women who are expected to wear clothes that cover their bodies (Al-Qarawadi 1995). This requirement for modesty is an aspect that has affected the market entry mode for international clothing companies into Qatar and the Middle East in general (Boulanouar 2006). The requirement for modesty clothing is translated into different styles and forms of hair and body covering, like the black abaya in Qatar and the rest of the countries of the Gulf region for women, and the white thoub for men and head covering ghatra (Al-Qarawadi 1995).
The study of the clothing market in terms of marketing, consumer behaviour and cultural influences for an international clothing company is of importance for this study. The study of cultural influences and the challenges they pose to clothing companies is of importance since Qatar is a nation undergoing rapid economic, social, and political changes. It is one of the countries with the highest GDP per head in the world with rapidly expanding economy. The changes in Qatar are indicated in the shifts in discourse taking place in religion, beauty and modernity, in advertising, media and commercial imagery (Belk, Gressel and Sobh 2008). This study is of importance since the desire for leadership to have modernity and openness like the western countries has led to the embracing of western values and cultures, which has created a cultural and national challenges. It is evident that new clothing styles and modern adornments have been adopted by young Qatari women, leading to a form of conflict with traditional Islamic and Middle Eastern cultural practices (Boulanouar 2006; Gole 2002). The tension between cultures is due to the western culture of display of women’s beauty and sexuality to the public, with the modern Abaya, having haute couture garments (Belk, Gressel and Sobh 2008). Therefore, a clothing company in this market has to face the varying cultural influences that are reflected on the type of garments they have to sell. Businesses use marketing and advertisements approaches to communicate with their potential consumers, by identifying, anticipating and satisfying their needs. A clothing company therefore seeking to operate in Qatar faces serious and significant inherent cultural practices that influence the behaviour, preferences, and style of consumers.
This study identified that a clothing company in Qatar has to face challenges of adapting their business processes and products to the Islam code, which identifies Halal and Haram, which refer to what is lawful/permitted and forbidden/ prohibited, respectively. The research explores the fact that marketing strategies in Qatar are required to be founded on Islamic ethos. Where, the production processes of any good and service be innocent and pure from the beginning to the end, based on the Qur’an and Sunnah, (Al-Faruqi 1992) and must make use of value-maximization approach over the profit-maximization (Saeed et al. 2001). It is also noted that the marketing strategy of branding is not separated from the Islamic faith, where a company and its name must depict trade relations that are have sincere intentions, where business parties meet good deeds and are not just interested in material benefits. The expectation is that these values a reflected in the supply chain, distribution, marketing and advertising channels for all businesses. Therefore, Islamic principles and cultural practices guide the consumption patterns of consumers and should be applied to the core of many company’s marketing principles and business line (Alserhan 2010).
In the Middle East, companies can not have the same range of products linked to specific clothing lines and does not perform the standard services as in the West. If the correct product is not offered in the appropriate way, it can lead to negative consequences for the business. Product selection and promotion are two important factors reflecting the profitability of international clothing companies (Hollensen, 2007). The problem area for the present research refers to how to adapt these elements to a new market of the Middle East with particular focus on culture. To solve this problem, the study explores various cultural factors in Qatar that may affect and present challenges to clothing companies.
Problem Statement
The identifies that two factors from the promotion and product factors of marketing mix method and marketing strategy approach of consumer behaviour, are affected by cultural restrictions. The product mix and consumer tastes area affected by Qatar cultural practices, like the requirement for women to wear clothing that elicits modesty and completely covers their bodies. This is a marketing challenge as European clothing companies with traditional western marketing strategies cannot censor their clothing lines and follow these Islamic strategies. Qatar is under the influence of cultural practices and Islamic religious beliefs directed by the Qur’an and Sunnah, where the latter is the recorded sayings and writings of Prophet Mohammed. The challenge of many clothing companies is the great influence these laws have on the conduct, behaviour, tastes, and preferences of consumers. This is because, under these teachings, the consumer is influenced by Shariah law that enforces r...
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