As we’ve learned in the class, while there are many challenges to doing business in emerging markets, there are some very interesting success stories – and Egypt certainly has a few!
Given my Retail industry background, I was especially interested in the Consumer Goods & Textiles companies that we visited on the trip. I did my MBA summer internship at Levi’s, which has a factory in Egypt, so it was exciting for me to get to see first-hand some factories in the market.
Initially I was surprised to see that Procter & Gamble was on our itinerary, as it’s a big international corporation and I didn’t know what would be so special about visiting the Cairo office. To my surprise, the Cairo Plant meeting was actually very fascinating. The Plant had a really amazing turnaround story. In November 2016 there was a 120% currency devaluation in Egypt and P&G reports everything in USD. So, management needed to implement a plan just to survive in this crisis market. They did a remarkable job and today business at the Cairo Plant is absolutely thriving! This was a truly inspirational presentation to kick off our trip.
The most interesting visit for me was Oriental Weavers. The sheer scale of their operations is incredible! They produce 250,000 square meters of carpets and other woven home goods every day and are the biggest manufacture of woven carpets globally. I was really intrigued by this business because it seemed like the native Egyptian company we visited that had achieved the largest international scale, exporting to 130 countries.
They were also really relatable because one of their largest customer bases is in the USA and they even have an office outside Atlanta, GA. I knew I recognized some of their designs from US retail stores like HomeGoods. Like the P+G factory visit, what surprised me was how much of the manufacturing process is automated. These Egyptian factories are large scale and command large, specialized machines that can produce products quickly, with minimal error, and at great volumes. I was also impressed with their efforts to keep the work environments safe, clean, and eco-friendly.
Victoria Harman is a 2020 MBA Candidate at Columbia Business School.