Why are we seeing more UAE homegrown business?

Why are we seeing more UAE homegrown business?

The UAE has a long history of trading, primarily because of its desirable geographical position between Europe and the Far East. The region became an attractive place for global merchants to meet and trade, with Indian and Chinese merchants meeting their European counterparts to trade in exotic spices, herbs, jewels and textiles.

We all know the history of the pearl industry and the oil and gas industry in the UAE, and how our forefathers worked so hard to develop our nation. Their industriousness has allowed the country to thrive.

Today, the UAE is widely considered an excellent place for businesses to grow, and the rich trading history means we have a great reputation globally as a nation of merchants and entrepreneurs.

And since the formation of the modern nation as we know it today in 1971, great leaps have been taken in terms of infrastructure, regulations, laws, taxation and visas to ensure the UAE remains an attractive place for people all over the world to conduct business. Let’s not forget that the vision of our leaders in creating the UAE, was to retain a strong sense of cultural identity, by remaining mindful of tradition while building a solid, future-proof administrative structure.

Attracting foreign companies to the UAE was relatively straightforward in the early days of the nation. A youthful nation, with vast energy income and a desire to rapidly develop world class infrastructure and facilities saw a flood of interest from foreign business concerns. Mindful of the need to protect national interests and income, the sponsorship model meant any foreign concern wishing to begin operating in the UAE had to seek a local partner.

This model ensured solid economic benefits for everyone concerned and boosted the national GDP. Yet today, that model has changed, with a plethora of free zones and cutting-edge business set-up models to suit all stages of business.

Governments, private business set-up companies, lawyers and accountants are all on hand to help create new businesses, supporting an increasingly international urban, savvy population.

Time to diversify

While oil and gas revenues helped build and develop the UAE, we are now moving towards an economic model which is diversifying away from reliance on the ever-depleting fossil fuels. And that national model must be underpinned by a number of factors, including a laissez-faire economy, entrepreneurs and creativity.

At a time when global economies are still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, impartial analysts at FocusEconomics still forecast the UAE’s GDP to expand by 3.0% in 2021, and by 3.6% in 2022.

And the latest figures available from the same analysts suggest in 2019, the UAE exported goods to the value of US$316 billion, a clear indication of a powerful economy.

An attractive proposition

Given the historical perspective, geography, infrastructure and legal and regulatory framework, it’s easy to see why business finds the UAE an attractive proposition.

And now, as a further indicator of a maturing economy, we are seeing a number of homegrown brands – across all sectors – going from start-ups to scale-ups to eyeing international markets.

Innovation is a key government strategy, codified within the exciting raft of sustainable development plans, including the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, Environment Vision 2030 (Abu Dhabi), Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, Abu Dhabi Transportation Mobility Management Strategy, Surface Transport Master Plan (Abu Dhabi), Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy, Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, Dubai 3D Printing Strategy and the UN’s 2030 Agenda.

The UAE is increasingly considered an active test bed for new business ideas, given the size of market, the international population and the business breaks now offered.

Taking Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030 as an example, this plan, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed, Ruler of Dubai, in June 2016, aims to elevate Dubai into a global platform for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation-focused businesses.

The strategy revolves around five key objectives: to increase total output and value-addition of the manufacturing sector, enhance depth of knowledge and innovation, make Dubai a preferred manufacturing platform for global businesses, promote environmentally friendly and energy-efficient manufacturing and make Dubai a centre for the global Islamic products market.

These ambitious aims centre upon six sub-sectors – maritime, aluminium and fabricated metals, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment, food and beverages and machinery and equipment.

Whether entrepreneurs choose to invest time and effort into these recommended sectors remains to be seen, but Dubai Industrial Strategy is projected to generate an additional AED160 billion by 2030.

We can all understand, therefore, why the UAE is not only a fertile ground for new business, attracting global talent, but also why these businesses, on achieving great success at home, are increasingly looking to expand further afield.

And our task must surely be to support these businesses, not only to benefit ourselves and our national economy, but to help them carry the flag globally and remind other countries of the success of our visionary leaders’ drive to instigate business success, both at home and abroad.

The future of tourism and how this lends itself to budding entrepreneurs

The future of tourism and how this lends itself to budding entrepreneurs

Tourism is changing, whether it’s a pandemic-induced inclination to take domestic breaks or the rising awareness of eco-tourism.

Consumers are savvier and more aware of the impact of travelling on the environment, which has seen the emergence of new trends such as long-haul flights carbon offsetting or the demand for eco-friendly in-room products.

These are just a few of many changes shaping the tourism sector, which is ripe with opportunities for keen entrepreneurs, who by their very nature, must do everything in their power to keep abreast – and if possible, be ahead of emerging trends.

Despite the tragic nature of COVID-19, there were opportunities, and these will continue as the sector’s entrepreneurs think-up creative new solutions to health, safety, hygiene and environmental issues.

A key driving factor is technology, now a crucial part of the tourism and travel industry. Technology solutions help businesses with day-to-day operations, while also improving the customer experience.

For this reason, it is important that hotels, airlines, F&B outlets and other companies keep-up with the latest technology trends within the travel industry.

So, what are the trends, and the opportunities that flow from them?

Firstly, the need to be always connected. Travellers, whether for leisure or business, expect to be ‘always on’, whether it’s to keep in touch with the family at home, or send a vital email.

Beyond simple communications, there’s the exciting developments surrounding 5G and Elon Musk’s Starlink global satellite internet service, which will be a game-changer.

Connectivity, by extension, leads us to the Internet of Things, or IoT as it’s known. IoT brings smart devices together in a highly interconnected web, allowing one device to talk to – and control – another.

Hotel guests will benefit from using a smart device (even one they may own, like a phone or watch) to gain access to their room, and control the temperature, lighting, TV and curtains, for example, as well as easily order and pay for food and beverages.

Guests are delighted by a smooth, seamless, intuitive approach to controlling their experience, while hotels will benefit from reduced costs and delighted guests.

And this space is wide open for eager entrepreneurs. IoT will even spread to journeys, with luggage tagging, airport check-in and purchasing all potentially handled via IoT-based technology.

Big data is increasingly being used in the tourism sector. Both have enormous advantages in predictive analysis of customer behaviour. Risk analysis is better understood with access to real-time data.

Drilling down to the granular level of mass data groups means we will see true personalisation. Information might just be the differentiator which wins customers over; from understanding customer needs to better management of staff shift patterns, and stock management.

Data can also be used to analyse and review business performance. Hotel owners, for example, can use big data tools for revenue management, using historic occupancy rates and other past trends to better anticipate levels of demand.

When demand is predictable, pricing and promotional strategies can be optimised.

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is making inroads in the sector too. Artificial ‘chatbots’ on websites are the new normal, and AI-driven learning can further help the sector deliver deep levels of personalisation and business performance analysis.

There’s also a host of tech like virtual reality, which has already forever altered leisure and entertainment, while voice- and biometric-activated solutions not only bring convenience but are helping people of determination navigate travel with greater independence.

Virtual tours and cultural experiences helped us all get through the pandemic lockdown, and the sector pivoted towards the virtual world with admirable speed.

Why not search for your next holiday using virtual reality?

There’s never been a better time to launch a tourism-related business, and with the rise in tech-based solutions, we are seeing a new raft of tech-related tourism solutions.

Entrepreneurs in this sector must clearly be technology experts, and that expertise does not come overnight.

What we will probably see is technology-based companies from other sectors pivoting to provide solutions in the tourism sector. And that’s to be welcomed!



Why an increasing number of young professionals are choosing entrepreneurship

We are seeing such growth in entrepreneurship right now. Of course, the UAE has always been a place that fosters the perfect conditions for new businesses, but the current global trend is towards younger and younger entrepreneurs.

A decade of Forbes’ magazine’s ‘30 Under 30’ underlines the growth and effect of this ever-expanding cohort of young, ambitious, business-savvy people, who are taking a different approach to life and work.

Perhaps it’s because they’ve watched parents and grandparents working hard, struggling financially and not really enjoying life, but it is also because technology has given rise to a plethora of exciting new roles that can be performed from anywhere, and provided everyone with access to the world’s greatest library of resources.

Traditional work ethics have shifted, just as the pandemic taught us all how we can’t rely on job security and working from home does actually work for most of us.

People aren’t so inclined towards being tied to ‘the office’ anymore and working for yourself, in most cases, means you can work when you like and where you like. It, therefore, offers appealing freedom to the younger generations who are shunning many societal norms – like taking a mortgage, working the 9 to 5, ‘settling down’ and living for the weekend.

While the term ‘Millennipreneurs’ – Millennial entrepreneurs – hasn’t really caught on, research (*) shows that those under 35 are starting their own businesses at a phenomenal rate.

Of course, social media has a big influence on steering the economic Zeitgeist, and we are bombarded every day with positive thinking messages, images of alternative lifestyles from those eschewing the 9 to 5, and, of course, news and information regarding some of the world’s most famous entrepreneurs, from Elon Musk to Arianna Huffington.

Entrepreneurship is cool, co-working spaces occupy some of the hippest spots in most of the world’s cities, and everyone is looking to create or back the latest ‘killer app.’

Governments globally have played their hand, of course, encouraging and funding entrepreneurship programmes to help offset unemployment, boost their economies and reap the wider societal benefits – after all, entrepreneurs create jobs, increase innovation, raise competition and are responsive to changing economic opportunities and trends.

The OECD suggests that youth unemployment leads to health issues, and increases the likelihood of poorer wages and being without a job later life. So, clearly, there are wide benefits to encouraging entrepreneurship among the younger generations.

Research by Human Resources and Workforce Management News has revealed that Millennials – and certainly Gen Z – want meaningful work. Suggests that youth unemployment leads to health issues and increases the likelihood of poorer wages and being without a job later life. So, clearly, there are wide benefits to encouraging entrepreneurship among the younger generations.

Research has revealed that Millennials – and certainly Gen Z – want meaningful work. That might not be too radical a change from their parents, but what’s different is that they are more vocal in their needs, and more willing to pursue that meaningful work under their own steam. According to Forbes, “77 percent of millennials say that flexible work hours are a key to productivity in the workplace.”

Greater knowledge of entrepreneurship, greater access to technology, a desire to pursue meaningful work without the shackles of a large corporation, and a lack of trust in traditional work models and practices has led to a situation where one in three people under 35 have said they’d like to be an entrepreneur.

The world is changing, and young entrepreneurs are leading that change. We must not ignore this!


(*) Source: Super Founders: What Data Reveals About Billion-Dollar Startups by Ali Tamaseb


Becoming a successful entrepreneur – is it only about the big idea?

I’m taking a stand with all the young entrepreneurs out there who have come up against some pushback when introducing a new business idea.

It’s a daunting prospect taking those first steps into launching a new business; however, if you’ve had the lightbulb moment, you’re already halfway there. Hopefully, some of the advice below – which has stood me in good stead over the years – will provide guidance and food for thought for any budding entrepreneur starting his or her business journey.

Identify and plug the gap in the market

Although obvious, it’s one of the most important pieces of advice I can give. I identified a gap in the market when regularly visiting hangouts with friends. It became clear that some of these establishments required a Facilities Management (FM) company to look after the premises. I put a plan in place and was able to launch a company to bridge the gap.

There have been FM companies in this region for decades; however, it was about doing something different to fill that void. I analysed the competition and got an idea of what worked well for them and what didn’t. The result was to implement the best practices, combined with my own experiences, to create something different and unique.

A great example I recently read about was an Abu Dhabi-based start-up called The Concept. They have partnered with Etihad Airways to develop an IoT-based food tray that will help reduce food waste in the aviation industry. This is a fantastic idea that is unique and will have a long-lasting positive impact for the future.

The customer is king

The adage ‘the customer is always right’ is as relevant today as it’s ever been. However, for any budding entrepreneur, it’s essential first to identify who your customer or audience is. Many people will fall into the trap of thinking their product is for everyone and market it accordingly. This is a sure-fire way to failure.

Understanding your target audience, what it is they require and how your product or service will benefit them is key. So, do your market research. Social media can be a goldmine of information as people are far more likely to air their grievances when doing so behind a keyboard. Do your research, find out what people like and adhere to it.

Business plans

As an entrepreneur, I’m always thinking of the next big idea and how to achieve it so the thought of putting a business plan together is pretty low down on my priorities. But, it’s a necessity. Putting a plan in place can help you project results and stay on target. Having a solid business plan not only underscores your intent to make it work but will also make all the difference in getting your business off the ground.

Mistakes will be made

I’m fortunate to have grown up around incredibly successful entrepreneurs. Listening to their advice has undoubtedly shaped my business acumen and whetted my appetite to become an entrepreneur in my own right. I can look to my family for guidance and mentorship; however, numerous sites can provide you with the help and direction you need.

Growthmentor, ThinkBold, Score, and Micromentor are just a few of the online platforms across a range of industries that provide access to handpicked mentors and experts in their field.

Don’t forget, mistakes will be made. It happens to the best in the world, so don’t be put off.

Utilise your network

I’ve previously spoken about the importance of your network. With a start-up, it is crucial. Their combined experience and insight alone are invaluable.

Maximise your networking opportunities, put yourself out there at events, business seminars, and social gatherings – a professional working relationship could potentially develop at any time.

My final piece of advice, or rather statement, is that starting a business and making it work isn’t easy. Seasoned entrepreneurs and billionaires such as Richard Branson, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t have it all their way. Yes, they built global superstar companies, but it wasn’t all plain sailing.

Gates’ first product didn’t make enough money to cover the Microsoft overheads. The first Apple product was built in Jobs’ family garage with money from selling his Volkswagen minibus and Steve Wozniak’s programmable calculator.  Branson, I’m sure, would be the first to admit he faced several challenges and endured many failures in the early years. But one thing they had in common was they never gave up, and neither should you.

I’m certainly not suggesting that sticking to the above points is a foolproof plan to success. There’s so much involved in getting an idea off the ground. Hopefully, they give you a solid grounding and the confidence to take your business idea to the next level.

As ever, get in touch and let me know if these words of advice helped. It’s always good to hear about your success stories.

Gen Z

150,000 reasons why more than 50% of Gen Z in the US want to be entrepreneurs and why the workplace will need them

According to research carried out by Nielsen last year, over half of Gen Z who were interviewed – 54% to be precise – indicated that they wanted to start their own company.

So, what made one-in-two of this demographic want to start their own business?

Well, if they are living and studying in the US, here are 150,000 reasons to begin with. The cost of studying for a four-year undergraduate degree works out at $150,000 ($37,500 per annum).

The costs in the UK and the EU are similar depending on where you study. Even though it only takes three years to gain a degree from a UK university, the average cost is still around $100,000 and if you have enrolled at a university in London or another big city, living expenses can increase significantly.

So, little wonder that Gen Z students are thinking twice before going to university, given the amount of debt that they will be saddled with once they have graduated. During the Nielsen survey, budding Gen Z entrepreneurs identified taking control of their futures, having a purposeful life, being a good environmentalist and wait for it… a debt-free start to adult life, as the key drivers to pursuing life as an entrepreneur.

Most universities and colleges are also looking ahead to graduates of the future and their role in the job market. In 2018, the Institute for the Future predicted that 85% of the jobs that students would take on in 2030 did not exist. That looks highly probable. We only need to think of technological advances such as AI and IoT and the talent that is now required to operate in those fields. Think about the jobs for digital nomads.

So, it is little wonder that a significant portion of the Gen Z demographic is having second thoughts about whether college or university is absolutely necessary for them to achieve their career goals. Therefore, an idea that is gathering increased momentum is periods of study, work and then further study that will prepare Gen Z for their future careers.

According to Forbes, a study by TD Ameritrade in 2018 surveyed 3,000 US teens and adults, with around one in five Gen Z admitting that they may not go to college. And in some ways, they would welcome an unorthodox direction through their education.

In addition, more than 30% of Gen Z said they had considered taking a gap year between high school and college. Moreover, 89% of Gen Z had considered alternatives to a four-year degree course, after high school. To fill the void, companies are now moving into the role of educator to train people for the specific jobs they will need to be doing and keeping their skills relevant.

Firms like Google, Adobe, Hubspot, Microsoft and others offer students inexpensive or free certifications that provide job skill training. Gen Z students are asking corporate recruiters whether companies will help them acquire new skills to do their job. With Generation Z in mind, AT&T, Apple, Adobe and others are making job and skill training a priority.

Whether a gap year or work experience, tertiary education is a viable option. And it cannot be a coincidence that in 2018, about 7.6 million students were 25 years old and over. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, that accounts for more than 30% of all college students in the US.

The time is right for Gen Z to lead the corporate world and become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs and if any inspiration was required, they can take a leaf out of Mikaila Ulmer’s book.

After being stung twice by bees, she decided to do a bit of research and found out that the bees needed her help. She’d started selling her grandma’s flaxseed lemonade outside her house at the age of four, but added honey to the recipe. She was soon supplying to a local pizza parlour.

In 2015, the business took a leap when Ulmer started supplying Whole Foods with Me & The Bees Lemonade in an $11 million deal. Now in high school, Ulmer’s business has branched out into lip balms and she’s even served lemonade to former US president Barack Obama. Ulmer continues to invest 10% of her profits in bee conservation projects.

So, this is a classic lesson for all would-be Gen Z entrepreneurs from a 15-year-old – with no debt, complete control, purpose, and she is a good environmentalist!

I rest my case…

Generation Z

Generation Z, the art of conversation and networking

A message for Team Gen Z.

If like me, you were born anywhere between 1995 and 2015 chances are you have already been labeled – we are Generation Z, which is ironic because we all know how much we hate labels, it stifles our individual expression.

But anyway, who cares really, we know who we are, right?

Well that maybe so, but the older generations particularly Generation X, people over 40 years of age are likely to be our future bosses or seed investors. So, we not only need them to understand who we really are and what we stand for, we are going to have to reach out to them.

Now, being digital natives, open conversation doesn’t exactly come naturally to us. We were the first generation to grow up with technology and social media. To put that into perspective, the first iPhone was only released in 2007, imagine that iPhone 1!!!!

Facebook was founded in 2004 and LinkedIn was only formed in 2002! Instagram and Snapchat are both over a decade old, so they’re not exactly new kids on the block either.

The point I’m making here is that many of us are more comfortable socialising in a virtual space than a physical one. When we do socialize in-person, we more often than not, prefer to do that with other members of our generation. Now there’s nothing unusual about that, but what we need to do is to learn how to network effectively with older generations.

That’s of particular importance if you’re about to graduate or you are preparing to enter the workforce. So, I thought that I would offer you three tips that I hope will help you in the future – especially when we are actually allowed to network again without any restrictions!

  1. Take it one step at a time

Many people have a love hate relationship with networking. If you choose to dive in at the deep end, it can be very intimidating – walking into a room at a job fair or exhibition and engaging with complete strangers.

So, to prepare for this what you can do is to connect with a small group of people online before you go, that way at least you’ll have ‘broken the ice’ with a number of them and you can practice how you want to present yourself. You can also do this with one-on-one meetings of course, which is an ideal way to get quality time with career influencers.

If the thought of all that is still too much, try practicing with some of your friends, family or peers, it will help to build your confidence and iron out any awkward issues you might be facing.

  1. If at first you don’t succeed…

Don’t bombard people with messages and emails and keep your language plain, clear and concise. Give them time to respond to your first outreach and if you haven’t received a reply after a reasonable amount of time, a simple and polite follow up message or email is perfectly acceptable.

However, if that still draws a blank, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone. Older generations are quite often more receptive over the phone, particularly if they have heavy email traffic and don’t forget your mail might have gone into their junk folder.

Another unobtrusive way to draw attention to yourself is posting commentary or sharing other posts for your network to read. Again, don’t be overbearing, two posts per week is ample, but make sure they are engaging, if you really have nothing newsworthy to say, be quiet!

And of course, it goes without saying that we do not share our private life on our work platforms – keep them separate at all times.

  1. Focus on the types of people and organisations you want to connect with

Try and build an ideal profile of the people and organisations (products and services) you’d like to connect with. Make sure they share your values, whether they are ethical, sustainable, inclusive, respectful, community minded and socially responsible.

Ask yourself, are they passionate about what they do? Would you want to work for this person and or this company or organisation? Speak to somebody who used to work there and get an impartial reference from them.

Also don’t forget to speak their language, you’re approaching them, you need to engage so write or speak (and dress) in a professional manner, talk about real issues and factual anecdotes, don’t chatter and put your phone away!!!

Well, that’s about it, I’d like to wish you all every success and please do let me know how you get on. Sharing examples of your endeavours can really act as inspiration to others.

Good luck!