Khalifa Fund chief calls for global vision among Emirati entrepreneurs

Ten fund-supported projects are expanding through the franchise model as part of a dedicated programme.

A Heritage for Henna model shows off her Henna art in Dubai.  Victor Besa for The National.
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The chief executive of the Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development yesterday called on young Emirati entrepreneurs to come up with creative and innovative business ideas that can be taken global.

Speaking on the sidelines of a franchise expo in Dubai, Abdullah Al Darmaki said that 10 fund-supported projects were expanding through the franchise model as part of a dedicated programme, started in 2013, to help Emirati-owned businesses take advantage of growing consumer demand for more retail concepts in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).

“What distinguishes these projects are ideas, products and services [that] are completely Emirati,” said Mr Al Darmaki.

One Khalifa Fund-supported business that has started down the franchise route is Heritage for Henna.

Established in 2002, it now has 35 outlets across the country and five in the UK on a franchise basis.

“We have a thriving business here in the UAE,” said Fathiya Ahmed, the chief executive of Heritage for Henna, recognised as Franchise Woman of the Year at the expo. “We have updated the traditional designs of henna craft and with tattoos so popular across the world I see this as an easier, less dramatic, artistic expression. We are targeting beach hotels and tourist areas so that people can enjoy the art while they are on holiday in the knowledge you don’t have to live with it forever and it can be a very lucrative trade.”

The franchising sector in Mena is worth US$30 billion, according to data from Dubai Chamber.

Omar Al Haza’a, vice president of the Middle East & North Africa Franchise Association (Menafa), organiser of the expo, said: “The region’s youthful, well-travelled and connected population fuels the desire for international brands across a variety of sectors.”

The retailer Alshaya group, which manages more than 3,000 outlets and 70 brands across the region including H&M, Shake Shack and Starbucks, typically looks to franchise brands that can easily be scaleable and work across multiple markets.

“We opened 400 outlets across different sectors in the past year and we intend to match that again,” said Hilary Baker, a spokeswoman for M H Alshaya. “We look at what is popular in more mature markets and see if it is appropriate for the region. Fast food and F&B in general is very popular in the region.”

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