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Cisco has rapidly boosted sales in emerging markets like Saudi Arabia and is trying to maintain strong growth even in the face of the current economic crisis
WIN THE GOVERNMENT, BUSINESS WILL FOLLOW
Cisco CEO Chambers and emerging-markets chief Mountford focus on selling "country transformation" plans to heads of state and top ministers. Since governments often drive these massive investment initiatives, success there converts into equipment sales at companies building the nation's infrastructure.
SELL MORE THAN TECHNOLOGY
Rather than just peddle its wide array of products, Cisco focuses on working with governments on broad issues. In Saudi Arabia, for example, the government had trouble managing the many pilgrims who visit Mecca. Cisco brought in consultants and partners to build an online system that allows travelers to secure a visa and hotel room in hours rather than weeks.
Chambers and Cisco have won big points in the Middle East and elsewhere by getting involved in philanthropic efforts. In Jordan, the company helped launch training programs to boost the skills of the poverty-stricken. It is also giving away its high-end videoconferencing systems, which can cost up to $300,000 per location, to all Middle Eastern heads of state, including Israel's Prime Minister.
HIRE WELL-CONNECTED LOCALS
Cisco doesn't just hire locals: It recruits top power brokers. In Turkey, it recently brought in the former chairman of Türk Telekom, the dominant phone carrier in the country. In Saudi Arabia, Mountford hired as the country's chief Badr Al Badr, a well-known entrepreneur and son of a leading adviser to the king.
With half of its population under 21, Saudi Arabia needs to create millions of jobs to absorb those entering the labor force and build a modern economy. Cisco has agreed to invest $265 million in the country over five years. Most of that is going to establish Networking Academy training centers where locals learn everything from repairing routers to network design. The Saudi centers have had 13,700 students so far.
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