Business Lessons From A Refugee Camp

February 14, 2017 in Daily Bulletin

Richard Davies went to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan and talked about the business acumen there:

  • One successful store customizes bicycles by spray painting them and adding stripes. The bicycles are donated and originally all looked the same, which made refugees feel like they were losing their individual identity.
  • The bicycle business is a good one since buyers become customers for life as they come to the same store for ongoing maintenance.
  • Other businesses – such as carpentry – are less successful. Refugees take careful care of their belongings, meaning that there is little repeat business.
  • Some respond to this by updating their product lines month after month to add features and make them look different – much like in the smartphone world today.
  • Location matters. The most successful stores are on a road the locals call the Champs-Elysées. Nearby aid workers and new refugees all take that road giving the stores a broad customer base.
  • Having established themselves selling basic products, some stores are now moving upmarket to sell luxuries like jeans.
  • But refugee businesses must deal with unique problems. As a bloody peace begins to flicker in parts of Syria, some refugees are returning home – a problem for businesses looking to expand.

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