What the Ukraine Crisis Could do to Business in the Middle East
The eyes of the world have been firmly fixed Ukraine following the absorption of Crimea into Russia and the galling plane crash of MH17 which saw 289 people lose their lives.
Such events has seen increasing pressure for the powers of Europe and the United States to impose stronger sanctions on supposed Russian intimidation.
In the midst of political turmoil the West imposed an asset ban and travel freeze on selected Russian officials, and ramped this up to include sanctions on the oil, defence and technology sectors. Further sanctions will continue to isolate the Eastern European nation from the global economy.
The potential impact of this on business in the Middle East is massive.
Many Gulf States including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the UAE rely hugely on selling hydrocarbons, so restrictions on Russian imports of oil could see a sizeable price hike for exporters in the Middle East.
This, according to economic and legal expert Sarosh Zaiwalla, may seem like an initial positive as higher prices deliver higher incomes, but this positive is off-set by the fact that the US must remain sensitive to the Iraqi economy. Fluctuating oil prices are likely to destabilise the Iraqi economy even further.
In the agriculture sector, Russian and Ukrainian wheat exports are crucial to many countries in the Middle East, a region even more dependent on agricultural imports than Sub-Saharan Africa. More than 50 percent of Russian wheat exports find their way to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Yemen.
If sanctions limit Russian ability to export wheat, the Middle East may well be subjected to higher prices as the region is forced to seek alternative sources.
And with ongoing political and military tensions in Iraq and Syria, it is becoming ever more apparent that Western efforts to encourage stability will require the support of Vladimir Putin, one of Syria’s most noteworthy allies.
Despite the obvious dangers to Middle East business brought by imposing sanctions on Russia, it may in fact turn out that the EU and the United States can ill afford to isolate the country any further.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.