For an aspiring business person, there are serious perks when setting up in Dubai.
While we know nothing in life is guaranteed, when you start a business here you’ll have the best possible shot at achieving long-term success. Why? Because everything is geared towards encouraging your business to grow: Physical infrastructure, government policies, and the general attitude of everyone in the emirate.
Yes, economists on occasion may talk about oil prices dipping and slowdowns in growth, but the overall trend of this city is clearly unstoppable expansion. And while it is indeed a millionaire’s playground, it’s also highly attractive for new entrepreneurs and expats who come with energy, enthusiasm and a big idea that they want to make real.
Everything in Dubai is geared towards encouraging your business to grow: Physical infrastructure, government policies, and the general attitude of everyone in the emirate.
So let’s break down the top six awesome things about doing business in Dubai.
1. In Dubai you are always on vacation
Well, actually you’re working hard. But guess what – all those palm trees and that year-round sunshine just gives a holiday vibe. So when you do have some down-time, you can head off to one of the many beaches with picture-postcard white sands and warm sea.
They really are typical of the Dubai vibe, usually buzzing with sunbathers, picnic goers, thrill-seekers on jet skis all giving the scene a permanent holiday-mode type of feel. In fact, having so many great venues and tour companies catering for tourists is great for permanent residents and those doing business here as well.
Not a beach person? If you crave a different kind of experience, you can head into the surrounding stark beauty of the Arabian desert to enjoy the natural and serene desolation of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. There are many safari packages available to take you deep into the dune-crested landscape, combining camel trekking with a dune drive safari in 4x4s – taking in desert sunsets and Bedouin-style camping.
And there’s more: World class golf courses, artificial ski slopes, sand boarding, seaplane flights, F1 driving, catamaran cruises. Then after nightfall, legendary nightspots such as 360 (at the end of a pier) and clubs like Nasimi Beach and Trilogy really kick in to gear. If you’re more about dining than dancing, well Dubai has over 9,000 restaurants to choose from, covering a vast range of international cuisine.
2. The place just keeps growingTake a photo of the Dubai skyline today and then compare it in five years: You probably won’t recognise the city. Come to think of it, do the same experiment for just five months and you’ll be amazed at the rate of change.
Dubai has enjoyed an incredible speed of development and it always features either at or near the top of the fastest-growing city economies. And you really get a sense of that momentum when you live here, the metropolis expanding upward into the sky and outward into the desert.
This is not subtle, invisible development. This is a fast-paced expansion of buildings that you can see rise on a daily basis, with clusters of cranes literally pulling the city into the sky every day.
The fact that Dubai has created artificial islands such as Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island and Palm Jebel Ali is testament to the scale of construction and ambition for Dubai. Stepping out into the city streets and just looking up at the towering Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest skyscraper), the sail-like Burj Al Arab, or the looming Almas Tower, you can’t fail to be inspired by their symbolic power.
It makes you want to get to work on your own business.
3. The energy is non-stop
Dubai is the most populous city in the UAE with approximately 2.5 million residents and an active daytime population which adds about one million more. This daytime population includes tourists and temporary visitors as well as people who live outside the city but come in for work.
There is nothing slow and pedestrian in the Dubai way of life – the full-on energy is hard to describe and perfectly suits go-getters. You can feel the ambition in the air, in the people, in the conversations and the work ethic. Dubai has been referred to as everything from the Vegas of the Middle East to the Venice of the Middle East – but in the end, it no longer needs comparisons.
It is just Dubai. A place that is always on and where business dreams can come true.
You can feel the ambition in the air, in the people, in the conversations and the work ethic.
4. The entrepreneurialism is contagious
Dubai is a centre for business people where competition thrives, where consumers want to spend, and where innovation is championed. This is ideal for entrepreneurs looking for their new businesses to take root in fertile ground, where opportunities for sales are clear.
Whatever sector you specialise in, you’ll likely be tripping over other entrepreneurs who you can connect with, do business with or who may be an interesting competitor to study. Trade sectors are often clumped together in trading zones which makes it convenient to connect with other businesses.
Networking really is something that Dubai does well, with everything from industry-specific events to large conventions. People want to do business and want to know who is in town. This creates an environment that perfectly nurtures startups, providing every opportunity to shine and connect.
Business is so accessible in Dubai. With just a little perseverance you can find mentors and good templates for business models and opportunities you hadn’t considered. To achieve your dreams of success, it helps to be surrounded by experienced peers with that hunger to do good deals. You’ll find that ‘positivity’ and ‘can do’ is the business language of Dubai.
This entrepreneurial spirit and not giving up has been something that the ruler of Dubai, HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has been activity-sewing in the region. As he puts it himself: “Does running water stop when it reaches a rock? Of course not. It turns either left or right, and continues its way. Likewise, a positive person is confident that no challenge will stand in the way of achieving his or her goal.”
5. Paying no tax is like having a second salary
One of the big draws for Dubai is the fact that salaries and earnings are tax free, so it almost feels like having a second salary. This is a huge plus for entrepreneurs who want to make the most of their earnings. It means more disposable income and more money to invest back into the business to accelerate growth.
Many expats look at Dubai as the perfect place to generate savings – not something always so easy in other cities. For an entrepreneur, that extra money could mean being able to make a new hire, increase marketing, or expand premises or product lines. Everyone in business knows that making savings is as critical to success as making money – so this tax advantage could be the difference you need to really get your business off the ground.
One of the big draws for Dubai is the fact that salaries and earnings are tax free, so it almost feels like having a second salary.
And don’t forget: There are over 30 free trading zones in Dubai where there is no corporate income tax, no personal income tax, and no currency restrictions – plus there is full capital repatriation. In short, you can keep what you make.
6. You will grow as a person
Personal growth is inevitable in Dubai. There is such a mix of cultures, nationalities and characters that you’ll become accustomed to international diversity in a way that will teach you about other customs, etiquette and behaviour – all valuable lessons for anyone dealing in global business.
You’ll notice aspects of business culture in Dubai might be different. For instance, while work clothing tends to be formal, many companies dress casually on Thursdays. Also, during Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk so businesses (many Western ones too) shut down early in the afternoon and open after dark. There are networking meetings as well as food to be enjoyed in majlis (large tents) where you can meet and greet throughout the evening and night.
This kind of cultural knowledge can provide invaluable experience and advantage. Because by opening up to people with different customs, beliefs and ways of doing things, your knowledge and adaptability to other cultures will expand and serve you well in your business dealings.
A perfect blend
Dubai is a city that investment and trade is magnetically drawn to with its strategic position between Asia, Europe and Africa.
The emirate is one of the most investment-friendly places on Earth, with both the government and foreign companies consistently pouring large sums into the city to develop attractive locations and amenities.
Deciding to locate your company in Dubai means that you will be able to enjoy business and pleasure and sometimes blend the two. Whether you work to live or you live to work, it’s an awesome place to base your company and live life to the full.
Perfect lifestyle, perfect business location.
Neil Petch; Chairman at Virtugroup
With a history of business successes, Neil Petch is well known in the UAE and beyond as a visionary entrepreneur with a passion for helping others establish and grow their own businesses. Neil founded Virtuzone in 2009 and quickly established it as the region’s leading company formation expert, before launching Virtugroup, a holding company that has a wider mandate of supporting startups from establishment; to successful market entry; and all the way through to exit.