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Setting Up a Business in Dubai?



Hi, Sunil here to talk about setting up a business in Dubai

I had looked into this option real hard when I was contemplating a move to Dubai.

If I do move someday, I will definitely consider setting up my own business in Dubai (I just can’t branch away from my entrepreneurial roots).

In all the hype surrounding Dubai, all we hear about are the beautiful buildings, hotels, the man-made islands, careers, the nightlife, clubs and bars, etc.

One thing that consistently gets left out of the mix is a discussion around setting up a business in Dubai.

Why? Maybe because there is a widely held perception that it can be tough and expensive to do this. And while that has been historically true, things have changed dramatically (2008 to 2012) in Dubai’s rules and regulations around allowing expats to set up local businesses.

Traditionally, if you wanted to set up your own business in Dubai, you had to find a local “partner”. This would be a local National (citizen) that you would make a 51% owner on paper and pay them a cut of your monthly profits. What a set up for them isn’t it?

So what if the partner turns around and “screws you over”? Yes that is always a possibility. It is a risk you would have taken and it’s just part of business. And even with that sort of an arrangement, many have made fortunes by doing business here.

I personally know some multi-millionaires who have been settled in Dubai for some time and they all have their own businesses. When I went to Dubai in 2007 for a friend’s wedding (not the last time I was there), he told me the previous year his father had paid over $3 million to their partners.

That is a ton of cash! And we are talking US Dollars. But then again, if his father is making north of $6 million in profits, giving away around half of it would still leave $3 million in his personal coffers. Not bad for a not so stressful business that is run mostly by their employees.

That Was Then This Is Now

Dubai now has designated free zones set up specifically for someone interested in starting a business in Dubai. These zones come with a lot of benefits, mainly no taxation on income.

The Dubai government wants business development to occur in Dubai and is making concessions and enacting favorable laws for the entrepreneur interested in doing business in Dubai.

You can also have an upper hand if your business idea is one that is not as common in Dubai as of yet. This is because Dubai is aiming to diversify its economy as much as possible. They will certainly go the extra length to accommodate your business if such is the case.

How to Get Started

To get started with setting up your own business in Dubai, you will need a license to operate. All businesses, big or small, need this certificate from the government. Depending on your business, you may be granted a commercial, trading, industrial or professional services license.

Most business applicants are screened by the Economic Department. This part of the government issues most business licenses in Dubai. However, there are special licensing authorities set up for certain kinds of businesses such as medical and investment related.

If your business involves either, you can start with the Economic Development department and have them redirect you if needed to the appropriate authority in your industry.

Professional Help & Advice

If you are truly serious about setting up a business in Dubai, I strongly recommend you engage a professional to consult with your plans. They don’t have to be very expensive and are well worth the fees you pay them.

There are firms set up in Dubai dedicated only to this purpose. These firms will help you materialize your ideas while staying in compliance with all local laws, rules and regulations.

I am usually all about doing things on my own and recommend the same for others. But when it comes to a new environment, it is usually best to seek professional guidance.

Now I am not saying don’t take initiative to learn. In fact I am a big advocate of learning as much as you can about what you are about to do even if you hire someone else to do it.

I like the idea of hiring a reputable business advisor because they are essentially entrepreneurs who help other entrepreneurs. They will help you set up your business from cradle to grave (obtaining a license, establishing a location, employment, sourcing capital all the way to day to day operations).

Coming from a 100% business background, I can certainly appreciate this and I recommend that you take advantage of it as well.

But before you do that I highly recommend you read the Dubai Secrets guide to setting up a business in Dubai. This guide is compiled by investors and entrepreneurs with first hand experience in Dubai.

If you have read enough of this website you probably already know that I am a big advocate of learning as much as you can on your own before getting professional help.


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