Sunday, July 10, 2005

Not The Competition

I have just received a bit of spam from a 'reputed' web design company, offering to design pages for as little as Dhs 75 each. This probably means nothing to you, but to me it means they will not last ten minutes in the business. In fact, given the quality of their 'copywriting', I think maybe three minutes would be a better guess. This is the headline of the email: Outdated Websites Creates Bad Impression For Your Reputed Organization. It's ungrammatical and they misused the 'r' word - reputed instead of reputable - why does it seem that nobody from the subContinent gets the difference?.

I had a look at their 'website'. They claim to have branches in Dubai and Sharjah, and a 'web division'. The link to the Sharjah branch is a '404 nope, never seen that page, doesn't exist' error. The link to the web division shows a pretty boring bit of Flash, and nothing else. No links, no information, no nuffink.

What I object to in spam like this is that thousands of potential clients will also get it and will think 'aha, a web page costs Dhs 75. So I can get a 30-page site for 2250 dirhams.' Then they contact a bunch of real web design companies, and we might well be one of them, and they fall off their chair when our price is 10 times what they thought it might be. So it wastes everybody's time.

This market is intensely price-conscious, and we have a hard time winning jobs at a decent price. We never compromise on price, though, because we never compromise on quality: we are not remotely interested in chucking out any old rubbish. Over the last year I have had two long-established clients (both Arab, haha) berating me for what they perceive as being high fees (heck, they should hire a local legal advocate sometime). I have suggested to both of these guys that while I love them to bits, I cannot afford to work for them anymore, please go elsewhere. They both did, and honestly, I was relieved, I really cannot spend all of my time arguing about money. But they both came back with their tails between their wossnames, having had bad experiences with other folks, and realised the truth of the thing about peanuts, monkeys, typewriters and the Compleat Workes of Shakspear.

A few months ago I got a similar bit of spam from an outfit in Jebel Ali, promising miraculous results for almost no money. I decided to string them along a bit, and responded to the email. I had a few calls from their sales guy and was really hoping to squeeze in a meeting. In the end I just couldn't do it because of pressure of real work. But I asked the guy if he'd ever read the signature block on my emails to find out what we do. No, he hadn't. I asked him to do so now. 'Oh', he says, 'web designers and developers!' 'Yes' I said, 'and I want you to know that your marketing drags the business down and reduces it to the level of a low-level thing. So kindly desist'.

Now I'm going to get comments from a bunch of folks telling me that pricing of professional services should obey the same rules as pricing of commodities like tea or copper. C'mon then, I have my gloves on...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: "..why does nobody from the subContinent get the difference?"
From what I can perceive, this is a clearly racist comment, mate. I'd rather you removed the line. The thing is, I've met quite a few people from the Sub Continent with excellent English speaking and writing skills and I think your statement might attract some unflattering comments. Blame the companies to the fullest extent, but I don't think you should descend to a level whereby you hold their creed responsible for a few individuals' grammatical errors. No hard feelings, mate.

11:33 am  
Blogger Keefieboy said...

I disagree, of course. Racism means that you treat people differently (better or worse) because of their racial origins. I don't believe I do that.

It was possibly a bit extreme to include the entire subContinental population in this statement, so I have changed it but I will not remove it.

In my experience, we are not talking about a mistake made by a few individuals. In the case of the misuse of 'reputed/reputable', practically every CV I receive contains this error. Even 'reputed' journallists on local English-language newspapers make this mistake. If we had the time, we could probably track it down to the author of a textbook on how to write a truly obsequious job application.

The real point of this story, however, is that the author of the email is attempting to persuade companies that he/she can do a competent job of communicating in English, while the evidence suggests otherwise.

3:11 pm  
Blogger Duffy said...

Bottome line: Something is worth what people will pay for it. Ever seen some of the stuff on Ebay? I cannot fathom buying much of that krep for several hundred dollars. People must be crazy.

As for web development: You are dead right to keep the price line where it is. If you do quality work, you get your money's worth. If not, I suspect you won't be in business long. Methinks the two clients coming back after trying to go with the cheapo keyboard mashers proves the point.

nb: Racism is the belief that one racial group is inherently superior to others. Bigotry is dislike or ill treatment of people based on racial groups. The above example may be a generalization, but not bigotry and certainly not racism.

5:32 pm  
Blogger Dave Banana said...

I sympathise entirely.

Not only is there a valid point in the poor work produced by such firms, it is the general commoditisation of your business that does long term damage.

Local buyers of these services think they are being clever when they cut margins and reduce costs, but often they get crap services like this one you mention and decent firsm struggle.

I work in PR and we suffer from this commoditisation, not least because the local market sees the PRO as someone who queues in Etisalat rather than a highly regarded consultant.

3:05 pm  
Blogger secretdubai said...

There are basically two economies working here. There is a local/regional one, where you can expect low prices, appalling English, and generally crappy standards.

Then there is the international economy, which most of us work in, where you have professional companies with high standards. If you're a little grocery shop you'd be fine with Dh75/page web sites. If you're Spinneys, you damn well shouldn't be.

5:29 am  
Anonymous snow white said...

Of course, while those of us who work for companies with international rates, we'd love to say that people understand what makes us worth more than AN Other Dodge New Start-Up company. But they don't.

12:56 am  
Blogger secretdubai said...

The easy difference is that the "local" economy will baulk at paying five thousand for a job - assuming you mean dirhams - when actually you mean dollars.

Once you work out whether the currency discussed is dirhams or dollars, you can quickly decide whether it's appropriate for your company or not.

5:52 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey $ecret0ubai,

Kudos on the excellent blog... too bad we cant read it anymore! Got a mirror up somewhere? Let us know. Yours is the only one that meant something.


10:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Keefie,

'Not berry nice to generalize and bring down reputed race' just cause you're getting some price pressure(Are you a Republican?).

Lets face it, what's wealth for one person is peanuts for another. We're living in a global economy (albeit Dub-ai still has ways to go) so competition is a given!

Look at it this way, if one of the subcontinental languages was the lingo of the globe, you'd probably get Dhs 2/page!


11:02 am  
Anonymous Osama said...

Coming from the 'reputed' Subcontinental demography, i really dont take offence at Keefieboy's comments. However, I do think are web designers & developers ( such as the ones I work with) who do know their grammar and possess good writing skills. Unfortunately, they've constantly had to 'right-size' because of the constant pressure from clients to cut down their fees. In such a scenario, a tanned skin doesnt help either. What people dont seem to get is that yoou can never buy a Merc with money barely enough for a corolla.

1:00 pm  
Blogger Ashish Gorde said...

I think, it's necessary to point out that bad grammar knows no nationality, and hence, it is needless to generalise the entire subcontinent for the errors of a few cowboys. However, I understand what you're talking about as far as the pricing structure of these cowboy outfits is concerned. One of them asked me if I could write a film script for 25 dinars (roughly 250 dirhams) and I told him to take a hike. Sad thing is that there are people who are willing to work at such rates and spoil the market for those of us who, at least, believe in quality.

1:35 pm  

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