What is the future of homegrown businesses in the UAE?

What is the future of will homegrown businesses in the UAE

DIFC's Sculpture Park, Dubai. Ruel Pableo for The National
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Over the years, the UAE has perfected the recipe for success when it comes to creating an environment where homegrown businesses can not only set up shop, but also thrive. As such, it comes as no surprise that the UAE, home to a number of successful homegrown businesses, ranked first globally by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor’s 2022 report as the best ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurs .

Today, the UAE's economy is one of the most diversified among the GCC countries, due to its business-friendly environment that has continued to entice business owners and entrepreneurs across different sectors. But the real question is: will homegrown businesses remain important to the country’s progress in the years ahead? The short answer is yes.

In light of the recent global pandemic and geopolitical factors that are currently disrupting supply chains across the world, homegrown businesses now have a greater opportunity to take centrestage and boost self-sufficiency and localisation. From the well-established brands, such as Emirates Airlines to smaller local businesses, such as Makaw Chocolate and Have Cafe, homegrown businesses are flourishing and contributing to social and economic benefits.

UAE flags at the DIFC area on UAE's 51st National Day in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

Economically, the benefits are clear. The abundance of small and medium enterprises in the UAE is a clear sign of a diversifying economy, demonstrating that our regulatory frameworks, excellent infrastructure, new visa reforms and ease of doing business go beyond something that is talked about in the media and into actual on-the-ground benefits for the people of the UAE.

These reforms have built trust in the UAE economy and positioned it as a key market for investors from around the world with Foreign Direct Investment inflows reaching $22 billion this year, according to a recent report by the Institute of International Finance. Additionally, the International Monetary Fun is expecting the UAE’s non-oil economy to expand 4 per cent in 2023 and for it to continue to grow. This is mainly due to the ongoing business and investment reforms that make it possible for homegrown businesses to thrive.

On a societal level, the encouragement and amplification of homegrown businesses underlines the sense of pride and identity that we have here in the Emirates. Seeing homegrown businesses thrive provides citizens with role models and fosters aspiration in citizens as well as residents that they, too, can achieve their entrepreneurial dreams. A stronger economy also naturally means more jobs and a generally happier and more productive society.

Homegrown businesses also play a key role in supporting an innovation-based economy, which is key to the UAE’s long-term success. In the face of bigger, more well-known international brands that have larger resources, homegrown businesses must be innovative and agile in order to be competitive.

Entrepreneurs are always looking to find new, ground-breaking solutions to solve existing challenges, which could be as straightforward as bringing a unique product or service to the market, while larger companies’ operating models might not respond as quickly and effectively.

Moreover, from the point of view of sustainability, the economy and the planet benefit hugely from homegrown businesses. They tend to strengthen the local economy through their products and services from other local businesses, resulting in a mutual beneficial partnership. This also means that businesses sourcing local products typically require less transportation and less outsourcing, reducing its environmental impact.

Homegrown businesses also play an important role in building a strong community identity. Businesses that are born within a community serve their local community, provide jobs for local people, enabling local talent to be showcased, and inevitably become woven into the fabric of the local landscape. These businesses build an emotional connection with the local community through buying from and selling to friends and neighbours.

Smaller homegrown businesses in particular foster a strong emotional bond with their customers. These often customer-oriented businesses provide personalised experiences, which in turn inspire customer loyalty. Across the world, this loyalty supports local economies during tough times and periods of crises. During the pandemic, several customers favoured small local businesses with that patronage enabling the very survival of the business.

It is also the case that small homegrown businesses do not necessarily stay small, nor do they stay at home. Many homegrown businesses have gained international recognition, becoming major players on the international stage. These businesses become global ambassadors for their home country, boosting how the brand is perceived both at home and abroad. Burberry is a brand closely associated with the United Kingdom, BMW with Germany and Louis Vuitton with France. In the UAE, businesses such as Huda Beauty and Emirates Airlines wave the flag for the UAE and boost the country’s reputation as an incubator for successful businesses.

We have a large community of homegrown businesses within DIFC with 47 of them located in Gate Avenue, Gate District and Gate Village alone. Some of these enterprises include the Neem Lounge, that offers authentic Emirati cuisine; Sushi Fashion, for Japanese cuisine, and Bliss’d Juicery & Cafe, for healthy meals and drinks.

Homegrown businesses such as these are central to the UAE’s competitiveness and long-term growth, as they are a key driver of the economy.

Published: January 19, 2023, 9:00 AM