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Will Startups Kill The “Wasta”? Yes, Well Maybe, Find Out!

For those who are not familiar with the idea of ‘wasta’, Urban Dictionary defines ‘wasta’ as “favoritism, which is an attempt to use the influence of relatives or acquaintances to achieve certain objectives”. That sounds all too familiar, right?

Traditionally and culturally, the concept of a ‘wasta’ is deeply embedded in the fabric of Arab societies. While it’s helpful for many, it also poses a harmful threat to others who are also trying to make ends meet.

“Wasta”, for many, means the securing of jobs and promotions, perhaps even acquiring or attaining certain possessions, a good car, a good plot of land, a good phone or car number, or even doing business that in a way that is restricted by default. In essence, it helps people cross lines that are not to be crossed red or too difficult to cross.

If the concept of “wasta” can pose a threat to individuals and organizations, what can pose a threat to the idea of the wasta?

Startups are changing the way we do things, they’re growing and spreading like wildfire into every aspect of our lives. From the way we shop to the way we commute, startups are coming after everything. Amazon is eating the world, literally. It’s growing so fast and on a magnificent scale that’s eating up everything before it. Software is also eating the world. The same software that powers the world’s biggest startups.

So, will startups eat up the concept of the wasta? Before we freak out, let’s explore that. Here is a couple of reasons why we think it’s possible for startups to push the “wasta” out of our lives:

  1. We know that 70% percent of jobs are not advertised, but what about startups? Startups are mostly online, they have a powerful online presence that is felt across the world. Being online entails that a lot of the traditional processes that defined how businesses work are not happening online as well. Startups can make sure that not posting jobs online is a thing of the past.
  2. Startups are agile, ambitious, and aim big. They usually play on the global playing field on day one. They are hungry for talented, young, and passionate people who are hungry for challenging work that speaks their language. To bridge between the two, going online is a must at this point. Sure, you might find the good people amongst friends and family by asking around, but to find the right people, you might need to pay a visit to OneGCC, Majra, or Nabbesh.
  3. There is a growing trend amongst global startups to reduce workplace biases and increase transparency and accountability. For example, Buffer, social media management tool, strives as a company for transparency. They decided to make all their workers’ salaries public through a spreadsheet. This is meant to build trust and commitment to honesty and productivity. This mentality surely does not help the concept of ‘wasta’ grow.
  4. Employees who are hired as the result of the ‘wasta’ are usually stereotyped to have less of a drive and less passion than those who pull up their bootstraps and work hard to make a living and build their career. This can pose a fatal threat to startups when they’re looking for highly motivated individuals who are willing and committed enough to work the extra hours and put in the extra effort to change the world.
  5. Startups talk, and people talk about startups. That’s not going to change. Startups are the talk of the town, the global business media have been talking about startups day and night the past couple of years. When the spotlight is on you, your flaws are amplified. “Wasta” thrives and grows, and wins in darkness, not in the light.

Considering all of this, do you think the good ol’ ‘wasta’ can still fuel the way we do things in our region or will startups push it out, in the same way, it’s pushing the incumbents and their ideas out of the picture?

Zainab Al-Haddad