James Swallow

Top tips for starting a business in the UAE

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As many entrepreneurs and established businesses have discovered, setting up in the UAE is an extremely attractive business proposition. The UAE is one of the most globalised economies, offering access to all markets and therefore making it a successful trading hub.

James Swallow UAE startup smallIn addition to this, the support available for new start-ups and small businesses is extensive and encouraging for those considering launching a new business. There are also other factors, including the relative simplicity of starting up in some areas, and the tax breaks available that make starting a business in the UAE a popular decision.

It’s exactly this popularity that can mean a lot of competition in the sector of choice. Many people want to start a business in the UAE, and over the last 15 years in particular there has also been a rise in tech based start-ups. This discernible shift away from the more traditional sectors like steel and textiles, to high growth technology firms has further increased the popularity of the region for starting a business.

While the traditional sectors have a certain limit on growth, the tech sector allows for super-fast growth, something that will continue to spur the UAE economy on (as well as globally). The UAE is reacting to the huge growth in the US or UK in tech businesses and launching initiatives to follow suit.

Whichever sector you are looking to launch a business in, we have some tips to help you on your way.

  1. Understand the bureaucracy:

The government in the UAE works differently to the one you’re used to. Rules and regulations are different, and we’d always advise seeking professional advice to help you through the legalities and procedures in place in order to start a business in the UAE.

The process for forming a company can seem daunting and complex. At PRO Partner Group, we can help you every step of the way, while clearly explaining everything you need to do to achieve your aims. This includes the specifics of employee and family VISAs and advice on living in the UAE.

  1. Find reliable local partners:

One of the most vital aspects of setting up an Onshore LLC company in the UAE is to make sure your local partners are secure and reliable. It’s imperative that the local partners you select fully understand the requirements of your business and the needs of the partnership. It is also important that the local partner provides you operational support for licencing and visas as the local partner or agent will be the main point of contact for government liaison.  PRO Partner Group can act as your secure Local Partner or Local Service Agent (LSA/NSA) as required, whilst we ensure you have full management control and effective ownership of your business, brand and intellectual property.

  1. Learn about the UAE’s culture:

Research into how business is conducted locally within the UAE. This is extremely important for networking and building sound and successful business relationships. Taking the time to learn a few pertinent Arabic words is an excellent way to communicate the aims of your business, and that you are personally engaged in the project.

  1. Conduct market research into your sector:

As with starting a company anywhere in the world, it’s important to understand your competitors and your customers in the area you’ve chosen.

Part of this research will include the best way for you to incorporate your company in the UAE, and whether you need to set up as a branch office, in a free zone or as an Onshore LLC. At PRO Partner Group, we can advise you as to what will suit your company best.

The reason that professional advice at this juncture is advisable is to ensure that you can trade in the way you need to according to the licence you obtain. It’s not uncommon for businesses to only understand this when they are already set up, to their inevitable detriment.

  1. Understand working hours and closure dates:

In the UAE, there are two religious occasions that alter every year according to the lunar calendar. These are Eid Al-Adha and Eid Al-Fitr, and government ministries close during this time. Within the private sector, working hours can sometimes be split, with people working from 8am to 12.30pm and again from 4pm to 7.30pm.

  1. Choose the correct set up:

selecting the right type of business to set up in the UAE is the most important decision you can make. It can be expensive and logistically difficult to rectify mistakes in this area. You must make sure the right activities can be undertaken for the business aims you want to achieve. Consider whether your business needs to be in a free zone (and if so, which one) or onshore. If it’s onshore, should it be an LLC, a professional licence business, a representative office or a branch office?

Advice from PRO Partner Group will ensure that you can make an informed decision on the future of your business in the UAE.

James Swallow is Director of Middle East based PRO Partner Group, which specialises in company formation and support services in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, the wider UAE and Oman.

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