We talk to the founders of the pioneering marketing consultancy firm Foresight Consulting to find out how they've catapulted Egyptian brands to heights only previously reached by foreign products.
Towards the end of the 20th century, Egypt's economy went through extensive liberlisation efforts that opened the market to an unprecedented invasion by international products and brands. Amidst the waves of change, everyone producing local Egyptian goods got hit hard by the fierce international competition. So much so, that many local industries just couldn't keep up and gave in to closure or acquisitions by international conglomerates.
The main reason for the above was the lack of a real competitive edge. Why buy a local, seemingly unappealing product when you can buy a glossy, nicely packaged product that is made in France? It was quite an easy equation for the Egyptian customer.
The hard equation, however, was for the Egyptian manufacturers and brands to figure out how to step into the age of international competition with their local products; to stay relevant and appealing.; to survive. There was an obvious need for innovation and global market knowledge for local brands to be able compete.
Foresight Consulting came in to fill that very obvious gap between what the customer needs and what the manufacturer can offer. With a breakthrough vision and in-depth market knowledge, Foresight Consulting started offering its pioneering strategic and commercial advisory services to Egyptian and international businesses in 1997.
Everything from what to produce, how to package it, how to price it and who to distribute it to, are the questions Foresight Consulting was built to find an answer to. Today, two decades later, the business consulting firm has established itself within the market as a powerhouse and pioneer of its field, which has countless business success stories under its belt.
Foresight Consulting's commitment to providing distinguished services has established it as one of the leading firms of its field. With a varied client base in almost every line of business, including Carrier, BO Islands, Rich Bake,Abraaj Group, Regina, Ashgar City, Royal Herbs, Tiger,Midea Durables,Suzuki, Sahl Hashish, White Tissues,Samcrete, Pretzo, Beltone (bpe partners) and Brunch. The now-prestigious firm has positioned itself way ahead of the curve.
We talk to founder and CEO Hatem Zaazou and his partners Ahmed Farag, Hisham Shehab El-Din, and Khalid Ragab, and they share their inspiring entrepreneurial tale.
Why did the market need Foresight Consulting?
Zaazou: International brands were dominating the sphere at the time. They came in with better quality, market knowledge and financial power and they swoop local brands off their feet with fierce competition. We sought to offer an effective solution to that, and that's how Foresight Consulting came about.
What services do you offer?
Ragab: We provide five core services. The first is business strategy, which entails corporate growth and business unit strategy. Our second line of services is commercial advisory, including commercial due diligence services, which involves a full assessment and review of the target’s commercial infrastructure, activity, and performance. Commercial advisory also covers turn-around advisory services where we formulate the strategy aimed at returning distressed businesses to profitable entities. We also provide a variety of marketing services, which include positioning, brand strategies, product strategies, pricing strategies, distribution strategies and communications strategies. Another line of services we offer is market studies and insights, which encompasses all parameters relevant to general market trends, different players, market segmentation, geographic distribution, and consumer profiling. Finally, we offer a service where businesses are able to outsource their entire marketing function to us.
What was the biggest challenge you faced when launching?
Zaazou: It was mostly the fact that most people didn't know what marketing consultants actually do. For most Egyptian companies, the term marketing translated to sales, so they basically perceived us to be salespeople, which is a perception we had to work hard to overcome and clarify. The second challenge was that businesses were not willing to pay for services that don't yield immediate revenue, and for our work to be effective, we have to conduct extensive studies and analysis that need time, but no one was willing to wait. We were basically trying to sell the clients a service they really need but they don't know that they need it, so it was tough at first.
Who was your first big client and how did your services help their business?
Zaazou': That would be Rich Bake. They came to us in 1998 because they were looking to reinvent their business and they had enough vision to understand how valuable our services could be. We conducted our research and provided a thorough analysis into their market situation and advised accordingly. Within six months, Rich Bake became the market leader in their industry and they're getting even bigger every year. They are still our client until now.
What field or industry is Foresight Consulting's specialty?
Farag: We have a strong track record across a variety of industries, with proven success stories in F&B, real estate, automotive, investments, durables, medical and retail among many other sectors. This was shown when we were approached by Akef Pack Tec in 2013 to develop a strategy for a new brand to penetrate the Egyptian tissue market. This was a market that was dominated by two strong players; namely, Fine and Zeina. The category also witnessed stagnating communications, limited brand loyalty and absolutely no innovation what so ever. With that in mind we created a highly competitive strategy where the underlying platform was superior quality and functional innovation, thus, White Tissues was born. We work within all industries and with all different segments with one aim; making our clients the leaders of their markets.
After 20 successful years in the market, where does Foresight Consulting stand in the market today?
Shehab El-Din: We are growing at a very steady pace. We started off with one client and now have a prestigious portfolio of over a 100 brands we've served. Most of our clients stay with us for years and that is a testimony to our continuous success. Most importantly, we keep an eye on the business world to catch up with the newest trends and breakthroughs in our line of business, which keeps us at the top of our game at all times.
Hisham Shehab El-Din
How do you see the future for Foresight Consulting?
Zaazou: Our plan is to become the leading business, commercial and marketing consultancy in the Middle East, headquartered in Egypt.
Follow up with Foresight Consulting here.
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