Five Essential Tips To Consider When Setting Up A New Business In The UAE

From navigating UAE's free zones, to marketing strategies, Emford Global's Tony Matthew gives a quick rundown on what you need to start a business in the UAE.

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By Tony Mathew


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1. Pick the right jurisdiction

There are more than 45 free zones in the UAE with over 20 of them based in Dubai alone. Each free zone abides by geographic boundaries and regulations, and each of them provides a favorable environment for specific business activities. For instance, Jebel Ali Free Zone enjoys direct access to a seaport, which is ideal for distributors and logistics companies. Low cost jurisdictions such as Ajman are ideal for smaller, startup companies. A common feature of all free zones that is particularly attractive to foreign investors is that they can be 100% foreign-owned.

2. Understand your trade license

It is illegal to conduct business in the UAE without registering for a proper license first. The most common form of corporate vehicles in the UAE are Limited Liability Company (LLC) and Joint Stock Company (public and private). LLC is the more commonly used vehicle for international investors establishing joint venture operations. In terms of costs, it can vary. For instance, an LLC would range from AED30,000 to AED60,000. To save time and legwork, a consulting company can advise you on the type of trade license that is ideal for your nature of business in the UAE.

3. Shop around for the right PRO

Almost all businesses can apply for visas for their employees. However, their number depends on several factors and criteria such as the size of the office, type of business, the category of the employee or the investor. It is crucial for you to keep note of the number of employees that you can retain and sponsor with a work visa. One must also keep in mind that most government paperwork in the UAE is in Arabic, so hiring the right PRO, with an in-house translation and efficient turnaround times can also save you many hurdles when setting up in the UAE. Additionally, ensure that your company provider can offer a one-stop shop when it comes to opening a bank account and other administrative tasks.

4. Define your expectations and work accordingly

Timeliness is critical when starting a new business. However, one must not forget that delays are often part of the setting up process between unexpected paperwork and dealing with multiple suppliers. Make sure to expect delays in setting up and to have a Plan B that you can fall back on to avoid the financial implications of delays as much as possible.

5. Ensure that your marketing plan includes your customer base

Dubai enjoys a unique stance amongst regional cities in that its business landscape is rich with cultures, languages and professional practice areas. You need to ensure that you are reaching your target customer base by choosing your media according to your customers' preferance and interests. Starting a business in Dubai means that your advertising budget, PR plan, and all other marketing activities, must include the right channels.

Related: The Do's And Don't's Of Doing Business In Dubai

Tony Mathew

Director, Emford Global

Tony Mathew is a Director at leading company formations experts Emford Global.

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