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Four Ways Established Entities Can Support Small Businesses In The UAE Fostering SMB growth is essential to the economic, social, and cultural success of any country--check out global logistics provider UPS' recommendations and initiatives for established entities to help the growth of small businesses in the UAE.

By Abbas Panju

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.


In the world we live in today, there's no question about the fact that small and medium businesses (SMBs) are an engine for economic growth, and a vital contributor to global gross domestic product.

In the UAE, SMBs represent more than 94% of companies and account for 86% of private sector jobs. In Dubai alone, they contribute around 40% to the Emirate's GDP. The UAE government is investing significantly in the sector to support its growth; initiatives like the National SME Program, UAE SME Council, Operation 300bn, Khalifa Fund, and Dubai SME make this fact abundantly clear.

To understand the aspirations and challenges small businesses face, UPS commissioned a survey in nine countries, including the UAE. According to the findings, only a small percentage of SMBs (11%) engage in exporting, but all reported that exporting has gotten easier since the COVID-19 pandemic began. On the flipside, managing e-payments and taxes from international customers continues to be a challenge to exporting.

As a global logistics provider with headquarters in the country, UPS shares the vision and passion of the UAE government to support the growth of small businesses. We started a multi-billion dollar global corporation with two bicycles and a US$100 loan; a true testament of how the small business spirit is at the heart of UPS. As such, we believe that fostering SMB growth is essential to the economic, social, and cultural success of any country.

We thus used our aforementioned survey to develop recommendations and initiatives for established entities that wish to help small businesses tackle these challenges and support their growth in the UAE. Here are four of them:

> Enable knowledge-sharing through partnerships Small businesses are most effectively served through partnerships which connect them with opportunities to scale up and benefit from partners' capabilities and expertise. Businesses need clear and understandable information about processes, laws, and regulations. They also require support and financial incentives to help them grow their digital sales. The UPS survey revealed that online marketing and branding were top challenges faced by SMBs during COVID-19. Partnering with e-commerce marketplaces and small business associations can be used as a means to educate entrepreneurs about online marketing platforms, their benefits, and managing associated costs.

> Encourage innovation Innovation should be a core aspect of any business' growth strategy to effectively compete with larger players and develop in new markets. UPS recently hosted the third edition of the Smart Logistics Challenge, in partnership with Dubai Chamber of Commerce and DP World. We brought together logistics technology startups, giving them the opportunity to present solutions that could help solve critical challenges in the industry. Similar competitions have been held for healthcare and last-mile delivery, helping tackle challenges through disruptive solutions. Not only does this create an opportunity for innovation that benefits many, but it also allows young entrepreneurs to tap into the insight and expertise of UPS, as well as the many other partners of these initiatives.

> Empower underrepresented entrepreneurs Our survey also found that small businesses find access to information on international markets, trade compliance, and customs requirements a major challenge. Many entrepreneurs don't have access to the knowledge, capital, and networks they need to succeed. Established entities in the region can support small businesses by providing them with the resources and tools they need to flourish. Some keyways in which underrepresented entrepreneurs can be empowered include the provision of capital, online trainings, and business coaching.

> More support for women entrepreneurs Supporting women's advancement at the workplace is not just a moral obligation, it also makes economic sense. Research from McKinsey shows that company profits and share performance improve by up to 50% when women are well-represented at the top. Women in senior leadership also have a tremendous impact on a company's culture, and such companies are more likely to champion gender diversity. A culture where equity, transparency, and a sense of belonging should be pursued in our workplaces and in the businesses we support. Entities can specifically empower and enable the entry of women entrepreneurs into the market.

Related: Making Startup-Corporate Partnerships Succeed: The How-To

Abbas Panju

Middle East and Central Asia Managing Director, UPS

Abbas Panju is the Middle East and Central Asia Managing Director at UPS.

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