By Steven Mayne / Entrepreneur ME
I have witnessed all kinds of business cycles during my 15 years in the UAE. Those were the days when prices of commercial properties and offices were skyrocketing. Areas around Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road crossed AED350 per square foot. The cost of setting up businesses was high when compared to other leading economies, especially for startups, and on top of that, the long circuitous, and hence bureaucratic procedures, tested the patience of entrepreneurs.
However, things have changed dramatically within a decade. Today, I say with utmost confidence that it now takes less than a day to start a company in the UAE. All you need are requisite documents, and a reasonable budget to get started. You don’t even have to be in the country to get it completed.
As a business that is involved in the early stages of a startup’s incorporation, I can see first-hand how business sentiment is changing for the better for entrepreneurs– with the ease of establishing a company today being the easiest and the least difficult thing an entrepreneur has to deal with.
Today, the UAE ranks 21st in the ease of doing business by the World Bank– a number that has been going up year on year. Regionally, the UAE has always been one of the most favored countries for entrepreneurs as well as for international companies looking to spread their wings across the region. The country provides an ideal business environment and address for many reasons.
It is in a geographical location connecting major business destinations and markets within few hours of flying distance. The country has two of the best international airlines, which can take us to literally any part of the world. Then there is the top-class infrastructure that any business could dream of. So, distances, logistics, transportation, and security are not a nightmare for those operating in the UAE.
There are no corporate taxes. So, whatever your company earns is all yours. This is an ideal situation in a world where taxation could be a major impediment to business and growth. More importantly, all of this could start as simply as ordering your meal- literally just a click away. With increased digitization of complex manual processes, setting up a trade license is so much easier. That takes away the hassle of running around agents, and queuing up in offices.
In May 2018, the UAE announced that it will allow full foreign ownership in companies and grant long-term visas to select investors and professionals. This is an extremely timely intervention, which will have positive ramifications for the startup and entrepreneurial climate in the UAE. Once in place, this law will not only attract more global entrepreneurs to start their businesses in the country but will also be a welcome signal to most of the “wantrepreneurs” in the UAE- these are professionals, home makers, or recently unemployed professionals who have always dreamt of starting their own business.
The new law will not only encourage entrepreneurship as a career path to pursue for graduates to be their own boss and start their own businesses, but they will also reinforce the UAE’s position as a land of opportunities. Despite all the benefits of globalization, it is still rare to find countries like the UAE where setting up a business is easy, and where a level playing field exists alongside meritocracy. The reaction to the new laws was immediate– as soon as the series of laws were announced, we have been experiencing a steady rise in the number of calls from expatriates already in the UAE inquiring about establishing a business.