Anna Koryakovskaya is a 1Ci products expert and founder of the AnaSoft company that helps customers in the UAE and worldwide benefit from the 1Ci products.  In the first episode of our new podcast, Anna has shared her story and practical advice on launching a software business in the new country and attracting major customers as a female founder with only basic English.

Relocation, launching a business, attracting first customers

You can get to the UAE as a professional, even with basic English, but you have to be a professional in your space. Back in Russia, Anna was an expert in 1C development and implementation for 15 years. This vast experience allowed her to secure a job offer in an international company with an office in Dubai despite the necessary English.

After trying herself in a new country and the business environment, Anna launched her own venture in the UAE. Still, it was hard to sign up local customers, so the fastest way for taking off was finding international companies, especially with Eastern European background.

Another way to convince customers was by showing them the fast speed, something local businesses often lack in the UAE. The first b2b customer for AnaSoft was a legal services company lead by a British native, who was impressed by Anna's speed: she got the incoming request at 11 p.m. and immediately replied. That looked impressive compared to just normal business processes and helped to secure a contract. This company is still the customer of AnaSoft, and the two businesses achieved significant results together.

What can go wrong: language and local traditions

Language level may still be an issue initially, so Anna had to develop her English skills and use every opportunity to communicate and improve them. To maximize a chance for success during negotiations, she even started learning Arabic. It is crucial to deserve the potential customers' trust and respect, and learning the local language is the best way to do this.

Also, cultural differences may be a limiting factor as well. For example, in the UAE, it is hard to imagine a woman speaking up at an event or meeting with Arab men. Sometimes, people may cancel the meeting or turn the offer down when they find out that they will have to deal with a female founder. This may complicate the work, as Anna had to find customers ready to think outside of the local traditions and value the performance higher than other factors.

How to get a large project as a one-man-band

Vast experience, excellent performance, are crucial, but creativity and showing off great work maybe even more critical. Anna says that sometimes even she can't understand why the specific customer chooses her company where she is an only employee. For example, some time ago, she received an incoming request from a US-based company. This company decided to automate its business processes using the 1Ci product and needed someone to run a project.

This was a significant business working with oil and gas companies in 25 countries, so its representatives wanted to meet in AnaSoft's office. However, the company did not have one. Anna had to arrange a meeting in a business center lobby, which helped make the right impression. Also, the management team of the potential customer assessed publicly available materials and case studies. The owner later told Anna that the final decision was "based on Google."

The project included the automation for four business lines: Fishing and remedial, Manufacturing, Tubular rentals, and Inspection. The new system was aimed to integrate all the branches of CIS countries, taking into account multi-currency specifics and Tax accounts. Anasoft helped create 100+ positions for several months and is still working on scaling the system in new countries.

Final thoughts: 4 practical tips

For those, who are about to launch an international software business and thinking of starting in the UAE, several practical tips will help to get first customers and develop the business:

  • You need to be better than local competitors. This means a vast professional experience, higher performance, and speed.

  • Language can be a limiting factor. Basic language level should not be a stop factor, but the better your English is, the faster you will find international customers. Learning the local language may be a great idea as well.

  • It is faster to start working with customers from your home market. Many CIS-based companies want to expand their operations, and working with such customers is a great way to start in a new country.

Be creative and pay lots of attention to marketing. A high level of flexibility will help you solve issues and deal with local traditions. Having a well-documented success story and strong online profile will increase the conversions as well.