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How UAE Facilitates Access To Clients For Entrepreneurs Entrepreneurs planning to start an enterprise in the UAE can rest assured that an extensive client base will almost certainly be here– ready and waiting.

By George Hojeige

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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The UAE is one of the best places in the world to locate a startup due to its healthy economy, attractive finance options, impressive infrastructure and extensive government support. But the icing on the cake for many entrepreneurs is the exciting mix of potential clients– right on your doorstep. So, let's break down why the UAE has such a strong pool of potential clients for any entrepreneur looking to set up shop here.

Ready-made client bases
What makes the Emirates particularly enticing for startups is the opportunity to access ready-made client bases in a huge array of markets– from real estate, technology, retail and manufacturing, engineering, to oil and gas. This means well-prepared startups in the UAE can hit the ground running while knowing they can target potential clients in virtually any sector. Not only are these "client pools' well-established here in the UAE, they are rich in companies from overseas with global reach. This can be a huge benefit for entrepreneurs looking to grow quickly and branch out internationally.

Multiple benefits
There are also a multitude of opportunities on the domestic front. Setting up an enterprise in the UAE provides access to:

  • Like-minded entrepreneurs– the UAE attracts a large number of new business owners, especially in fast-growing markets such as digital technology;
  • A myriad of different nationalities and business types providing excellent opportunities for targeting clients in specific sectors;
  • A large number of high net worth individuals (HNWIs), providing a ready market for high end startups;
  • Industries that thrive in the UAE's transient economy;
  • Extensive support from governments and other agencies for SMEs and startups, including 45 free zones enabling 100% business ownership for foreign investors.

Entrepreneurial culture
An astonishing 95% of all enterprises in the UAE are startups and SMEs. This demonstrates the entrepreneurial nature of the economy here in the Emirates, and the ready-made client pool of SME business owners, some of whom are earmarked to be hugely influential on the world stage. Here's the evidence: Of the 100 startups pinpointed by the World Economic Forum to shape the fourth industrial revolution, 27 are from the UAE.

Diverse markets
Ready-made client clusters exist throughout the Emirates. In a guide entitled Doing Business in the UAE, the Ministry of Economy for the UAE highlights the importance of Abu Dhabi for aerospace, defence, information technology (micro-processing), photochemical and clean tech industries. Whilst Dubai has diversified into tourism, re-export and financial sectors, its free trade zones are attracting manufacturing and service industries. Ras Al-Khaimah Economic Zone (RAKEZ) has launched an innovative industry zone creating clusters of manufacturing facilities in sectors including plastics and rubber, minerals, metals, electrical equipment, transportation and logistics, chemicals and food. Similarly, Fujairah has created the first virtual free zone in the UAE to assist small companies and individuals in knowledge-based industries such as media, marketing, advertising and consulting to open a new business from a home or office in the UAE in less than an hour. Offering a plethora of diverse markets creates a wealth of benefits to entrepreneurs and startups looking to locate themselves within the UAE.

High net worth individuals
For entrepreneurs aiming to target wealthy individuals, there are approximately 410,000 HNWIs living in the Middle East, with combined wealth holdings of US$2.1 trillion, and the UAE is the largest wealth management centre, according to the Middle East Wealth Report 2017, published by New World Wealth. Making the UAE the perfect location for companies wanting to focus on individuals of high net worth.

Transient advantage
Entrepreneurs looking within the UAE can expect to benefit from what is known as "transient advantage'. In today's world of globalization and digital disruption, Columbia Business School Professor Rita Gunther McGrath argues businesses "need to seize opportunities, exploit them, and then move on quickly when they've exhausted the opportunity.' This is where agile startups in the UAE can gain an advantage over more established, less adaptable competitors focused on long-term strategy.

Next steps– set up a company, and reach those potential clients
So what's next? Well, setting up a company can be remarkably quick and easy in the UAE. Here are some options:

Explore free zones
This doesn't just mean getting to grips with the basics of the application process, visas and so forth, it means understanding the unique startup landscape here in the Emirates and deciding on the right free zone for your needs. A free zone, also known as a free trade zone or free economic zone, is a designated geographical area where certain taxes, restrictions on business/trade, and employment do not apply as they do in the country as a whole. So, for example, at Dubai Multi Commodities Centre (DMCC), a free zone commodities marketplace, the benefits include 0% corporate and personal tax for 50 years, 100% foreign ownership, simple setup, and assistance with government-related services. Voted Global Free Trade Zone of the Year by the Financial Times, DMCC attracts businesses involved in precious commodities, energy, steel and base metals, and soft agricultural commodities.

What you need to get your startup off the ground
The UAE government states that setting up a business in a free zone is relatively easy and involves minimum paperwork but it is important to remember you need to determine the type of legal entity, create a trade name, apply for a business licence, get pre-approvals, register your business and obtain a licence. There are other administrative elements also to consider when starting a business in the UAE such as preparing legal documents, opening a corporate bank account, and starting the visa process. Seeking advice from a company formation specialist will ensure this whole process is simple and straightforward and your company gets the best possible start in the UAE.

Opportunities ahead: Meet your client base
Entrepreneurs planning to start an enterprise in the Emirates can rest assured that an extensive client base will almost certainly be here– ready and waiting. The challenge is to make sure you set up your company in the best way possible to take advantage from the start. Taking expert guidance in setting up a business in the UAE is vital­ to equipping you with the right tools needed when forming your company. Leading to exciting opportunities that lie ahead to enable you to build a successful venture.

Related: What To Expect From The UAE's New Business Ownership Rules

George Hojeige

CEO at Virtuzone

George Hojeige is CEO at Virtuzone. As CEO, Hojeige ensures the company maintains its position as one of the fastest growing business setup operators in the region. Born in Beirut, his family emigrated to Canada in 1986 where he grew up in the English-speaking suburbs of Montreal. A natural communicator and networker, Hojeige held sales positions in the telecoms industry and medical field in North America before moving to Dubai to run the family business in construction. Since then, he has taken on high-profile sales roles – including as Group Commercial Director at ITP Media Group, working on prestigious titles such as Arabian Business and Esquire Magazine. Hojeige graduated from Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering.

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