A Canadian coffee shop in Kandahar, Chinese internet junkies go cold Turkey, and Jordan gets wired.
By Rachel Morarjee
There is a corner of Kandahar that is forever Canada – the Tim Hortons coffee shop on the main US airbase. The red logo draws in Canadian troops serving in southern Afghanistan for a taste of home.
While Canadians go to many international chains for most of their products, overwhelmingly they buy their coffee from Tim’s. “Tim Hortons is the largest quick-service restaurant in Canada. The company has one of the most recognised brands in the country,” said UBS in a recent report.
Founded in 1964, Tim Hortons was not the first place to sell coffee as a fast food staple in Canada, with McDonald’s opening restaurants at the same time. But what the firm did, it did well, offering a low-cost, high-quality product and building up an 80 per cent share of Canada’s coffee and baked goods market. Starbucks and other rivals share the remaining 20 per cent.
Tim Hortons also serves doughnuts, cakes, croissants and sandwiches at its restaurants, many of which are drive-through. Tim’s merged with burger chain Wendy’s in 1995 as part of a drive drive to penetrate the US market.
But it’s the coffee that inspired customers’ loyalty.
People find a taste they like and keep going back, with more than 40 per cent of Tim’s customers visiting four times a week or more.
The rocky crags of Jordan may be better known for Petra and the Dead Sea than they are for technology start-ups, but Amman, Jordan’s capital, is on the edge of a tech boom as the internet takes off in the Middle East.
“Jordan is ripe with talent, as its entrepreneurs are tech-savvy, cutting edge, and are blessed to be forced to focus on competing in regional and global markets as the local market is small,” says Emile Cubeisy, managing director of IV Holdings, a venture capital firm.
The greatest success so far for Jordan has been Yahoo!’s acquisition, this summer, of theAmman-based internet firm maktoob.com. The high profile buy-out is expected to lead the way for a wave of western investment in the city’s nascent internet industry.
Jordan began investing in ICT (information and communication technologies) 10 years ago and it’s gone from having virtually zero internet access in 1999, to having one of the region’s highest internet penetration rates today, at 26 per cent, according to the Jordanian Ministry of ICT. Funds have been pumped into universities, a corporate park and a start-up incubator and Princess Sumaya University for Technology, in Amman, is now the Middle East’s leading technical university.
The ICT sector is also contributing meaningfully to Jordan’s economy, with revenues of $2.1bn (€1.4bn) in 2008. Nowhere in the Arab world does ICT contribute so significantly to economic growth as it does in Jordan.
It’s a case of having decided to make the best of its lot. Located between “Iraq and a hard place”, as King Abdullah II puts it, the country has one of the smallest populations in the region (6.3 million) and one of the lowest GDPs per capita ($5,100/€3,470). By no stretch of the imagination is Jordan a wealthy Arab nation. But its strategy of making up in brainpower for what it lacks in hydrocarbon reserves is just beginning to pay off. Watch this space.
The financial meltdown has kick-started much soul-searching among banks, and a small savings institution in Pamplona, northern Spain, is proving that an ethical alternative it calls “civic banking” really works.
Caja Navarra (CAN) customers choose how the bank invests their savings and have a say in what the bank does with its profits. In addition, staff bonuses are slashed by 30 per cent if they score less than seven out of 10 in a twice-yearly customer survey. Customers can use the bank as a space to hold meetings, to surf the internet or just read a book.
CAN, which started civic banking four years ago, made a net profit last year of $190m (€130m) and is planning to open branches in the US.
“If all banks adopted CAN’s practices, we would be much better off today,” says Mauro Guillen, professor at Wharton business school, University of Pennsylvania.
The small island is moving fast to become the “Silicon Valley of the Indian Ocean”. It came 17th in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” ranking this year, from 27th two years ago and 39th five years ago.