THE CASE FOR SELF RELIANCE IN THE LANDSCAPING INDUSTRY
The Landscaping industry has thus far been quite reliant on suppliers from countries other than the GCC for various products. These products have included some very ordinary products and often found within the region. These suppliers would typically hang the carrot of “you can have an exclusive agency”. These agencies come with various terms and condition prime among them being the carrying of stocks and some challenging sales targets. These terms and conditions are often driven with the threat of, if you do not deliver then there will be another who will take it. Often these supplies are made against stringent payment terms where cash is collected before deliveries are made.
So all these terms, conditions and relationships are based of-course to boost the supplying firm’s quarterly financial figures and irrespective of how conditions are playing out in this region, the pursuit is relentless and at times the subtlety of threats to move away on non-compliance is all but visible. There have been earlier instances where landscaping products not needed in this region have been aggressively pushed irrespective of the impact on the environment. That dear readers is the state of affairs most of us in the landscaping industry would have gone through at some point of time in our working lives.
Thus there has to be a better way to do business given how and where landscaping comes from and is going. Landscaping has been around much longer in the Middle East than in many western countries. The development of the Islamic gardens has been an inspiration to garden designers around the world. Now there is a young, well educated, well-travelled and growing population that is more tuned to experiences that satisfies our senses to see, smell and touch greenery. Governments are investing in infrastructure such as recycled water systems, and social infrastructure such as parks, gardens and urban greenery. The strategic location the Middle East countries as an important transportation hub, and tourist destination for leisure has been acting as one of the main drivers to the demand for high quality landscaping as well. Thus given the rising need for landscaping all stakeholders will have to ensure that this region gets more self-reliant on products that come from within this region and less dependent on products that involve carbon miles, additional costs and could be not so friendly to this environment.
However, there is a business case as well. Post the financial crisis landscaping companies are very careful on how cash is generated and conserved. Many a time businesses are left with unnecessary stocks either due to changing demand, a sudden pull out of the agency agreement, or a change in business direction of the supplying foreign company – all impacting stocks held and hence cash getting locked. Landscaping businesses have wisened up and are refusing to hold unnecessary stocks and are willing to forsake agencies due to new and prudent financial and business policies.
There is another reason as well. As landscaping companies shift towards adopting the principles of corporate governance as key to running successful companies, agreements that earlier were one sided towards the “agency” will move towards a win- win and equitable playing field. Most of these landscape product agencies will be forced to review existing agreements to bring equal benefit to both parties.
One has already seen a shift towards environmental protection and hence regulation. The landscape industry has quickly adapted to the new reality. Whilst earlier it was just about too easy to export fertilisers and pesticides into this region causing a negative impact on ground water and soil, better regulation and monitoring has forced companies within the region to innovate and be less reliant on foreign agencies. This will also force companies to consider organic products manufactured locally, again benefiting the region.
Thus given the latest trends companies operating within the landscaping industry are better placed to look at local solutions and create solutions that drive inclusiveness. This will not only have a positive impact and add to the financial strength of companies but create a sense of self confidence of our own capabilities within the region opening up avenues of education and innovation. A new phase is emerging in this part of the world.