New way to make that engine purr

The UAE's love affair with the automobile has taken a new step with the launch of a spa for cars.

Ali bin Yousuf al Khamis started the Imperial Touch car wash through the funding scheme. Pawan Singh / The National
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In a country where residents love to be pampered as much as they love their vehicles, a Dubai man has sensed a business opportunity: a spa for cars.

Ali bin Yousuf al Khamis is one of two entrepreneurs who have received funding through the Al Tomooh initiative to fund small and medium-sized enterprises for UAE nationals.

Mr al Khamis received Dh475,000 (US$129,316) from the scheme, which offers Emiratis interest-free financing, to start a car wash he calls Imperial Touch.

"When you come here your car gets to relax," he said of his business. "We never wash cars that are just brought in. We cool them down and open the bonnet."

Another business, a Lebanese pastry shop called Downtown Bakes, received a Dh450,000 loan through Al Tomooh. Both businesses were officially inaugurated yesterday.

Al Tomooh has so far provided Dh45 million of finance to 119 projects across the Emirates, said Ahmed Humaid al Tayer, the chairman of the initiative and of Emirates NBD.

Mr al Tayer said there had been a remarkable increase in the number of UAE nationals starting their own businesses.

HSBC yesterday launched a $100m fund as part of an agreement with the Ministry of Economy to target entrepreneurialism as the country seeks to accelerate the diversification of the local economy.

It is the second such initiative by the bank.

"The first fund was fully allocated by July 2010. That gave us a good capacity to observe its performance," said Nick Levitt, the head of commercial banking for HSBC in the UAE. "We're going to target international customers and Emirati-owned businesses. That's a major focus for this year."

Mr al Khamis said he believed there was a market in the UAE for his car wash business, which uses a special steam-jet machine to wash away layers of dirt and even clean parts such as the radiator, air filters and battery. Other services offered include window tinting and dent removal.

Downtown Bakes, owned by Oubaida Marwan al Shadeed who lives in Dubai, plans to sell Lebanese pastries, manakeesh and other bakery goods from a shop near Mall of the Emirates.

"Young UAE nationals are increasingly aware of the importance of their participation in entrepreneurship," said Mr al Tayer.

"The Al Tomooh scheme plays an important role in highlighting and encouraging the finance of such sectors, which were limited to expatriates only."