Five entrepreneurship lessons from the UAE

In just 46 years, the UAE has grown to become a world-leader across a variety of sectors through shrewd strategic planning

TOPSHOT - Mercedes' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas steers his car during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina circuit on November 26, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Andrej ISAKOVIC
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As we celebrated the UAE’s 46th National Day over the weekend, I could not help but state again, as I do every year, that if there were a role model that I look up to, if there was anything that inspires me, then the UAE and our leadership will always top my list.

The strategies the Government has adopted to build a world-class global hub can teach entrepreneurs valuable lessons that can be applied in managing their businesses.

Although the country has a surplus of oil that should secure its future for years to come, the government has opted for diversification from day one, as well as adapting itself to the continuous market and technological changes.

In addition, the UAE appreciates the importance of planning ahead, and that is evident when Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice-President, Prime Minister and the Ruler of Dubai, announced the UAE Centennial Plan 2071, to make the UAE the best country in the world.

So what valuable lessons can entrepreneurs learn from the UAE’s 46 years of success?

1) Diversify your income stream

What is admirable in the UAE’s case is how it depends on different sources of revenue, with Dubai as a leading example. The country became a centre for regional and international conferences and exhibitions, a leader in regional arts and cultural events and hubs with the establishment of Dubai Design District, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, Dubai’s Opera, Sharjah Art Foundation, and the soon to be opened Guggenheim Museum.

In addition, the country encourages international start-ups and small businesses to set up through free zones such as in Abu Dhabi's Twofour54, home to The National, Dubai's Jebel Ali Free Zone, and Ras Al Khaima's Free Trade Zone.

2) Adapt to change

In a fast-changing world, if your business does not adapt, and embrace changes you will fall behind. The UAE not only knows that, but also has adapted it in its government strategies. The country embraces the latest technological advancements such as incorporating drones in government services, appointing a Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, as well investing in infrastructure, while providing a tolerant community that is home to more than 200 nationalities who reside here. The UAE has also embraced social media, and its large influence in our lives, and now hosts an annual Social Media Summit in Dubai. The beauty about it is that it is done without jeopardising the country’s identity, culture, or traditions.

3) Building a brand

When you mention the UAE to someone, many would point out the luxurious hotels, high-end fashion, Formula 1, Burj Al Arab, and police who drive Bentleys and Bugattis. The UAE has thus become a brand associated with modernity, luxury, comfort, and high technology.  When it comes to 5-star hospitality, shopping, and a luxurious comfortable lifestyle, few in the world can compare to the UAE.


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Over the past 46 years, the country has slowly laid a foundation for this from emphasising tourism, embracing unique architecture, constructing the world’s largest shopping malls, indoor skiing facility, and hosting world-class conventions and events such as the Etihad Formula 1 Grand Prix and the Red Bull Air Race, building mega theme parks such as LegoLand and Ferarri World and attracting world-class chefs and operators to open their restaurants here such as Zuma, Coya, and La Petite Maison.

4) Set a clear goal with a strict deadline

If there is anyone who gets things done when he says he will, then it would be Sheikh Mohammed with his vision to become “a leader in the global economy, enhancing the wellbeing of our people and creating an environment that attracts business and individuals”. The UAE is now synonymous with punctuality, and getting things done efficiently without jeopardising quality. This has increased investors’ trust and attracted people to establish businesses in the country where they know that the Government is just as passionate as them about sustaining a thriving business environment.

5) Make everybody part of your plan

While the country is effective at initiating and achieving goals, it ensures that it includes its people and residents in the process. For instance, when coming up with the logo for Dubai’s Expo 2020, the competition was open to everyone in the UAE to submit his or her designs. In addition, to celebrate Abu Dhabi’s Golden Jubilee, the Government of Abu Dhabi initiated a campaign “Imagine Abu Dhabi” that encourages residents and citizens to send ideas and development suggestions concerning the emirate.

In the past, we may have looked at developed countries and learned from them, but the UAE has established itself as a world-class developed country itself in an exceptionally short-time, attracting people to learn from its success.