Five startup ideas to launch in the Middle East


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With the world reawakening in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the most innovative, digital-first economies that will shine brightest in the new working landscape. And there can be few better placed than those of the Middle East.

An economy once dominated by oil-related industries is now among the most vibrant and diverse in the world. From events and ecommerce to tech and tourism, there are so many sectors ready and waiting to welcome new entrepreneurs from around the world.

Whatever your field, when you start your business out here with Set Hub, you’ll be up and running, ready to take on the market in no time at all.

In this article, I’ll cover some of the most rewarding and fastest-emerging sectors in the Middle East right now.


The MENA region’s e-commerce market is both large and growing, valued at approximately USD 17bn.

Within this vast market there are numerous sectors. The Middle East’s entrepreneurs are selling everything from accessories, jewellery, and clothes to tools, technology, and all manner of services.

With the right support, starting an ecommerce business is incredibly straightforward. All you need is something to sell, a computer, and an internet connection. With the rise of services like dropshipping and outsourced payment gateways, you need little technical knowhow – and there’s no need to hold stock or fulfil orders.

Events & experiences

Events, exhibitions, immersive experiences. All are big businesses in the Middle East, particularly right now in Dubai thanks to the arrival of Expo 2020.

Expo 2020 finally set up shop in October, bringing with it participants from over 190 countries and up to 25 million visitors across its 12-month run. With the world’s eyes on the region, the Middle East’s events calendar is more packed than ever.

Food & beverage

There’s more than one way to cook an egg – and nowhere is that more evident than in the Middle East. The region’s food and beverage industry is as vast as it is varied.

Whether you want to trade in foodstuffs, open a restaurant or takeaway, or join the food truck revolution, this is the place to do it.

Taking the UAE as a snapshot, even pre-pandemic, the average resident went out for dinner or ordered takeaway two to three times a week. We can expect this number to be higher now, making it the perfect time to launch your culinary enterprise.


With many businesses thriving in the Middle East, the employment market is equally active.

As finding and onboarding new hires can be a little more specialist due to the large expatriate workforce, demand for skilled and knowledgeable recruiters is always high. And with the world’s top talent now free to relocate once more, now is a great time to gain a foothold in this large and growing industry.


Governments and tourist boards across the Middle East are always looking to attract more visitors to the region, and with many travel restrictions lifted, we can expect a considerable uplift in the near future.

Within the bustling tourism sector are a whole host of business activities. You set up a travel or tour guide agency, or a transport operator or bag drop service. The list goes on and on.

You can be sure, as much as the region’s economies may evolve in the future, tourism will always be high on the agenda.

How to start a business in Middle East

Step 1: Select your business activities

First, Set Hub will help you decide on your business activities. The important thing here is that your chosen activities are in line with those permitted in your chosen country. These will differ from place to place, but Set Hub will always make sure you are correctly licensed.

Step 2: Apply for your trade license

The next step is to apply for your trade license. The documentation required at this stage will differ from country to country. However, in most cases, 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 4: Secure your visa
Depending on your nationality, you may require a visa to live and work in the Middle East, as will your employees should you have any. Again, with the right guidance, the visa application process can be incredibly straightforward. Set Hub can also assist with this process.

In many Middle Eastern countries, you are also able to sponsor others for their visas too. This could be a spouse, parent or child, or a domestic worker such as a housekeeper.

Are you ready to launch your business in the Middle East?

Hopefully this guide has made clear that if you’re armed with the right knowledge, setting up a business in the Middle East 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 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.

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 visa applications that are required to trade in the Middle East.

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.