Identifies common practices to be aware of when selling in this market, e.g., whether all sales material need to be in the local language.
The traditional approach to selling in Pakistan has been through personal contact with a major wholesaler which serves a network of retailers throughout the country. However, this trend is changing. Advertising is now a growing industry and some of the large consumer manufacturers extensively promote their products through print and electronic media as well as the internet. Some of the banks regularly contact their potential customers through direct marketing. Nonetheless, personal relationships are very important, especially when selling non-consumer items to the government or large corporations. Since personal relationships take time to nurture, U.S. firms are advised to invest time in the market preferably with a local presence or at least very frequent trips to the area. Face-to-face contact is the business norm, however under the current environment, this poses a significant challenge. U.S. business travelers may face delays in acquiring a Pakistani visa. Some U.S. corporations strictly adhere to the State Department Travel Advisory recommending that U.S. citizens reconsider travel to Pakistan, and this may also pose a challenge for U.S. business visitors to the country. To overcome this challenge, at times U.S. firms meet with their Pakistani counterparts in a nearby third country, such as the United Arab Emirates.
In addition to personal relationships, price generally remains the dominant buying factor. Government procurement also places heavy emphasis on selection of the lowest bidder, provided the bidder meets the technical specifications and has relevant industry experience. Some foreign companies have mastered the art of providing initial lower bids and revising them later to a more realistic level, usually in connivance with “consenting” officials. Some U.S. firms have expressed their frustration in dealing with government contracts, especially in situations when they were technically qualified and submitted the lowest bids, yet were not awarded the contract or were asked to re-bid for a re-advertised contract.
U.S. products and services enjoy an excellent reputation in the local market, especially for their quality and durability. However, U.S. companies face tough competition from Chinese, Japanese, and Korean companies, which generally have a larger presence in the country and are able to offer their products and services at competitive prices. Providing after-sales services is also essential and U.S. firms are advised to establish this service either through a local/agent distributor or through their own presence in the local market.