Business ideas and opportunities in Dubai


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Thousands of entrepreneurs flock to Dubai to do business every year. The emirate is home to a broad range of thriving industries – everything from jewellery trading to marketing and healthcare.

Of course, many are attracted to this part of the world due to the country’s 0% tax rate on both personal and corporate income. Many are also lured by the UAE’s free zones which offer 100% customs tax exemption, repatriation benefits and zero currency restrictions.

In truth, the list of reasons to do business here goes on and on. The country’s rulers also add to the UAE’s welcoming business environment. As well as supportive regulation to help businesses get up and running, the Emirates is home to numerous government bodies offering grafts to startups and SMEs, as well as privately funded incubators for new businesses.

Finally, the country’s easy incorporation procedure is a major pull. With the right support, starting a business here is both fast and affordable.

If you’re thinking of setting up here and looking for inspiration, here are several business ideas with the potential to see success in Dubai and the UAE.


What business can I start in Dubai

Dubai welcomes businesses of all kinds, both in its mainland and in its free zones. Here are just three potentially lucrative business ideas.

  1. Tourism

Tourism is big business in Dubai. The emirate welcomed almost 17m visitors to its shores in 2019, up from 15.9m in 2018. Next, thanks in large part to Expo 2020, that figure is expected to exceed 20m. There are plenty of opportunities in this space, from travel agency to tour guides and everything in between.

  1. Real estate

After a slow few years, Dubai’s real estate market is now moving in the right direction, with rental yields outstripping those in London and New York. If you don’t have the money to invest in property, you could always set up a property management business, a real estate consultancy or a lettings agent.

  1. Recruitment

With so many thriving businesses in the emirate, Dubai’s recruitment market is busy to say the least. And there’s never been a better time to enter this market than right now. Last year saw a 42% year-on-year increase in online job postings.


Which is the best business in UAE?

The best business to start in the UAE depends on your skillset, experience, qualifications – and not least your passion and interests.

If you’re looking to start a business with minimal overheads, service-based businesses are often a good option. Offering marketing or consultancy services, for example, requires little upfront capital. Provided you have the necessary skills, a laptop and an internet connection, you’re ready to go.

Many free zones offer use of co-working spaces as part of the licensing package, meaning there is no need to taking on expensive office space.


How to start a business in Dubai with no money

Starting a business anywhere in the world with no money is far from easy. Some may even say it’s impossible. The same is true in Dubai.

Having said that, it is certainly possible to set up here with a limited budget. The key is to start a business that requires minimal upfront capital, such as a service business, and make use of Dubai’s many co-working spaces to keep costs low.

When you start a business like this, your only real outgoing in the early stages is the cost of your license package. This will vary depending on where you choose to set up. If cost is a major factor, you may wish to set up at a free zone outside of Dubai. Smaller emirates such as Fujairah often offer lower cost license packages.


How to start a business in Dubai

There are several simple steps to starting a business in Dubai. The first is to engage with a company setup expert who can guide you through the entire process.


Step 1: Free zone or mainland setup?

The first major consideration when starting a business in Dubai is whether to set up in a free zone or in the mainland.

There are many advantages to both. Free zones such as Fujairah Creative City offer benefits such as a quick and easy incorporation process, ongoing business support and financial incentives such as tax exemptions and zero currency restrictions.

There are several types of free zone licences available. Many free zones offer a range of license types including industrial, commercial and e-commerce and professional services.

You’ll also find a range of licenses available on the mainland. Mainland businesses can trade directly with the UAE market and take on potentially lucrative government contracts.

The setup that’s right for you will depend on the nature of your business. An expert in company formation can help you make this decision, advising on the best option for your specific requirements.


Step 2: Selecting your business activities

Next up, you’ll need to decide on your business activities. The important thing here is that your chosen activities are in line with those on the official Department of Economic Development (DED) list. Chances are, they will be – the list covers every industry imaginable, from potato trading to consultancy.


Step 3: Choosing your company name

The third step is equally important: choosing a company name. There are a few key things to keep in mind at this stage – many that would not apply to anywhere else in the world.

Be aware that you must abide by a strict set of naming conventions. In short, you should avoid any offensive or blasphemous language. Avoid names of well-known organisations and avoid abbreviations if naming your company after yourself – i.e. Dave Mann Consulting, rather than D Mann Consulting. You must also check that your chosen name is available to register.


Step 4: Making your license application

With the major admin out of the way, the next step is to apply for your trade license.

There are several license types to choose from. If your business activities fall into the category of industrial or manufacturing, then you will require an industrial license. If you are in the commercial sector – i.e. the buying and selling of goods – then you will require a commercial license. Similarly, those offering professional services will require a professional license.

Whether applying to form a company in the mainland or in a free zone, you are usually only required to provide a few details and some basic documentation, including:

  • Completed application form
  • Passport copy of the proposed owner or owners
  • Two colour passport size photos.


Step 5: Making your visa applications
Finally, to trade in the UAE, you’ll require a visa, as will your employees, should you have any.

Again, with the right guidance, the visa application process can be incredibly straightforward. Most company formation agents can help you with this step as well as with your license application.

As the holder of a UAE business license, you can also sponsor others for their visas too. This could be a spouse, parent or child, or a domestic worker such as a housekeeper.

The maximum number of visas you can apply for will depend on the size of your company, your chosen setup and, for dependant visas, your personal earnings.


Are you ready to start a new business in Dubai?

Hopefully this guide has made clear that if you’re armed with the right knowledge, setting up a business in Dubai doesn’t have to be overly complex or expensive.

That being said, it does require a level of prior knowledge of the process. What’s more, it is important to note that the application process is only straightforward if your license application is complete at the time of submission and free from errors.

To help you to ensure that this is the case, it’s a good idea to work with a company formation specialist such as Set Hub when establishing a new company in the UAE.

We are a team of company registration professionals who are passionate about bringing the dreams of aspiring entrepreneurs and SMEs to life.

As well as handling your license application, Set Hub can also assist with the opening of corporate bank accounts and advise on the most appropriate financial institution to suit your specific needs.

We also offer visa and immigration services and can handle all government formalities, permissions, work permits and visas applications that are required to trade in the UAE.

In short, our experts can establish your company on your behalf, make your license and visa applications, and take care of all the necessary admin – leaving you free to get on with running your business.

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