Entrepreneurs around the globe look to the UAE as a centre for business activity; a region boasting everything from online services such as digital content creation and comparison sites through to manufacturing and technology firms.
Many existing business owners will already be thinking about their plans for expansion this year and if you are considering the emirates, here are a few of the important cultural, legal and economic factors to take into account before you proceed.
Before growing your business overseas, it is advisable to decide whether you will continue to work out of your home country or whether you will need to relocate in order to succeed. In countries of the Middle East, relationships tend to work better if you are known and trusted, so you should either identify a key person to carry out deals on your behalf, or you should relocate for a period of time. Although often not a primary factor for businessmen in the US or the UK, the Arab world relies greatly on a system of loyalty, personal friendships and respect.
Communication style is another key factor in conducting your business activities. Generally there are multiple meanings of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ that may differ from western practices.
What’s more, time is much more flexible, so be aware of the fact that meetings can be cancelled at short notice and the hours within the working day tend to be a bit more relaxed.
Researching the Market
Spending time in the UAE is also important when it comes to researching the market with care. If you want to gain competitive advantage over those offering similar products and services, you will need to put together a fully-fledged business plan, identifying your primary objectives, projections for the future and of course potential for profit, plus a strategy for entering the market. The best way to really get an idea of the full picture is to see it for yourself.
Legalities & Finance
No matter which emirate you are deliberating, it is worth checking out the legalities of setting up a business there. Dubai, for example, has some strict regulations, from licensing to ownership requirements, business structures and local involvement.
Before you make any firm commitments, make sure that you are entitled to do so and if you can demonstrate the benefits your company will bring to a local area this may be invaluable information.
Many international banks are available in the UAE so that you can potentially use your existing bank for corporate credit cards and accessing your financial assets if you do decide to relocate or even visit for a period of time.
Religion is a central part of life within the UAE and Muslim practices should be respected even in the business environment. Take some time to learn a little about the religion so that you are aware of the dos and don’ts.
Living with a partner is illegal unless you are married and although this does still happen, if you are relocating you should be wary of breaking the law. In addition even living with a roommate of the opposite sex can be a problem so do your homework before you sort out accommodation.
Overall, those who do some research in advance will fare best when it comes to learning about the market you are entering, fitting in with cultural norms and of course ultimately making a profit!