Beating The Odds: How To Build A Successful Startup In Dubai

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Let’s face it! Dubai is a challenging business environment for startups and small and medium businesses (SMB): from finances, to entrenched attitudes that favor big established names over admittedly unknown business organizations, the heavy competition, market selection bias, government regulations, and all the trimmings of a new business entity can leave the business owner in anxiety-ridden doubt, worry, and feeling demotivated.

Financial support for startups and new SMBs in Dubai is a known issue. It is, for most prospective entrepreneurs, the biggest concern, and the hardest nut to crack, especially if the planned business is a single proprietorship with no investor contribution. Some entrepreneurs throw in the towel even before a business idea is penned down, because the lack of funding and institutional financial support for startups, and the thought of relying on personal savings to fund the trying first phase of a company is rightly considered too big a risk, especially if the entrepreneur is the sole breadwinner for the family.

Competing with renowned organizations or giants in the field of business that a startup is hoping to operate in, is another challenge that can initially demotivate the entrepreneur. The number of resources that bigger organizations have at their disposal, and their brand identity and recognition are definite obstacles to be surmounted by a startup. Related to this, is an apparent market selection bias that prefers big names instead of startups and SMBs, regardless of cost, and opportunities in the market.

These are some of the external challenges that an entrepreneur faces. Internally, there are administrative and human resource practices, polices, and procedures to initiate and maintain. In fact, new practices, policies, and procedures need initiating and enacting right across the board- building an organizational culture is a time-consuming and difficult task, regardless of personal professional experience. In addition to these, there is the actual product or service to worry about. To compete in the hard-external environment the product or service needs to be of high quality, and more importantly, it must fulfill the claims the entrepreneur makes.

Disheartened yet? Sounds like too much work? It is disheartening and it is a lot of work, and that is the truth- but it is the pursuit of a personal dream, and even glory, that makes it all worthwhile. While the aforementioned challenges may seem insurmountable, here are some tips that can help entrepreneurs to deal with the harsh business environment:

1. Be prepared

Ignorance is not bliss. It is imperative to know what government regulations will affect the planned business venture. Whether it is the application for a license to operate, or abiding by labor laws, the onus is on the entrepreneur to know and make provisions for these. A second avenue to prepare for is the market. Understanding what and how the market is currently behaving, what it is lacking, and what its requirements are will help in the development of business plans for targeting the product or service, and in the development of the product or service too.

Related: Five Skills Every Dubai Entrepreneur Needs To Develop

2. Differentiate, differentiate, differentiate 

It is important that the product or service that the entrepreneur wants to offer to the market is different from what is currently available, but not so very different that prospective clients of the preferred target audience think of it as a splurge or supplementary item. The product or service that the entrepreneur brings to the market must communicate why it is necessary and how it is different to the similar products and services in the market. Entrepreneurs need to spend ample time developing the business’ product or service. Care must be taken to fill a gap in the market, or to target a segment of the market that has been ignored previously.

Unless the product can create need by its innovativeness, it is hard to create need amongst a market segment that believes the best offerings are from established companies. Focus should be directed on communicating the product or services features to the target audience, but it is also important to make the product or service accessible either by location or price. However, when competing on price, care should be taken to not price too low as this could have various disadvantages, such as unwittingly communicating to prospective clients, low brand-value, low-quality, or lack of belief in the product or service; and too low a price could only draw unfavorable clients, and hurt the company bottom-line in the long run.

3. Transparency is key

Thirdly, prime client management is an absolute necessity and this begins with transparency. While it may seem difficult to deal with selection bias, being honest about the age of the company and sticking to core competencies will reap benefits in the long run because the startup or SMB will attract clientele truly interested in the company’s product or service, which in the long run will help in its development. 

4. Invest in your business

It may seem hard, but the secret to success is investing in the best possible talent, and infrastructure applicable for the business. Of course, these should be done within the limitations afforded by the financial situation of the business, but it is an important step that some entrepreneurs delay or ignore, and doing this increases the risk the new business faces.

5. Keep on moving ahead

The financial support may be lacking, the competition stiff, but the correct mentality and planning for these eventualities will help farther the business journey on the long road to success. Adjusting attitudes to take calculated risks, accepting change and especially those that require a course correction, and learning from failure are tough tasks. To get through these, the entrepreneur should be build a good support system consisting of reliable staff to delegate the work load, and manage a healthy personal lifestyle.

Success is not easy, but it is certain if smartly worked towards! 

Related: Four Things To Do After Incorporating Your Dubai Business

Bahaa Fatairy

Written By

Bahaa Fatairy is the founder and Managing Director of BR Communications.