A colleague of mine and I were invited in Ramallah by a HP partner in Palestine to give presentations about the latest HP technology in servers and storage. This was an amazing four-days experience from which I learned a lot.
After I had seen the invitation for this event, my first reaction was to check on both the French and German ministry of foreign affairs to see if it was really safe to go there. Fortunately, both of them made clear that there was no risk of going to the West Bank, but that we should take to behave appropriately.
We arrived right from Istanbul after the HP Enterprise Technology & Solutions Summit at the Tel-Aviv Ben Gourion airport and were driven by our contacts directly to Ramallah.
The first thing I learnt from this visit is how hard the environment is for Palestinian businesses. Due to political reasons, there is a lack of support that hinders the development of the Palestinian economy. Freedom of movement to enter Israel from the Palestinian territories is restricted, and there are checks along the roads, either from Palestinian security forces or from Tsahal. Furthermore, the state of the roads is poor and increases the time spent to drive even a few kilometers to hours. The electricity delivery was, however, impeccable , as were the cell phone network coverage and the Internet connectivity in hotels.
From what I could experience during these four days, the Palestinian people have a lot of courage to develop new businesses in these tough conditions. Although the situation is calm in the West Bank, the feeling remains that everything could change from one day to another. There is a saying in Palestine “Anyone who succeeds to open a business in Palestine can do that anywhere in the world”. It seems to be quite true.
From a technology perspective, we were expecting to present rather lower-end solutions, such as ProLiant – x86_64 based – rack-mount servers, c-Class ProLiant blades and P4000 iSCSI solutions. We were astonished to see that some Palestinian customers were using high-end servers, such as Integrity or even NonStop servers !
We visited the headquarters of top customers to discuss their IT and business strategies, their projects and to visit their datacenters. Again, the technology used in their datacenters was top-notch (HP c-Class blade systems, HP Virtual Connect, NonStop servers, etc.) as were the datacenter layout and facilities. We were really impressed by how advanced these datacenters were and how well organized and clean the setup was.
Finally, a very interesting aspect of this customer visit was the cultural aspect of meeting customers and partners. The relationship network is an essential part of the business life. To do business, people need to be friends, or at least know each other.
Also, unlike in Germany, for instance, where touching people without their consent is a no-go, it is absolutely normal to do so in Palestine. Men kiss each other on the cheeks when they are friends and frequently backslap each other. People also have a very strong forward-looking mentality. They tend to avoid talking about the general situation of their country when they are not asked directly and rather focus on what is next going to happen to them in the future.
To conclude, this visit in Palestine was a great experience. Though the business environment is extremely tough, people are still focused on creating opportunities and succeeding in making money. The road infrastructure seems to be a pain point for the economy but others, such as the mobile phone or Internet connectivity are impressive. The technology used by customers and their datacenters we visited were good as their European counterparts and the cultural environment was extremely interesting.
I am looking forward to following up with opportunities in this country and doing business with people from Palestine !