The year of recovery – the best Gulf-based business ideas for 2021 and beyond


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There’s no question that COVID-19 has impacted economies around the world. But while the pandemic has brought challenges, it has also uncovered new opportunities.

The race to a new way of doing business has given us a glimpse at the types of enterprises likely to succeed in the post-COVID world. These include:

  • Virtual learning
  • Online business support
  • Cleaning services
  • App development
  • Repairs


After a setback comes recovery. And with the UAE aiming to be the fastest recovering economy in the world, there’s no better place to start your business.

Five futureproof business ideas

Tomorrow’s businesses must be agile and adaptable, embracing digital and virtual technologies to avoid interruption wherever possible. With that in mind, here are five business ideas with the potential to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

1. Online teaching – offering virtual support to learners at all levels

Schools and universities have been among the worst hit by coronavirus, with exams cancelled and face-to-face lessons postponed, in some cases indefinitely.

The UAE was among several countries to implement mandated distance learning. As a result, students are relying on virtual classrooms and online teaching to continue their education.

A recent report by the European Commission found that:

  • 95% of higher education institutions have implemented online courses or distance learning
  • 83% have implemented online assessments


As students become more accustomed to virtual learning, there is a growing opportunity for those with the skills to supplement formal education through online tutoring and teaching.

And, with the right support, getting started is easy. All that’s required is a laptop, an internet connection, and proven qualifications in your chosen field.

2. Online consultancy – share your business knowledge screen-to-screen

Just as the education sector has had to switch from face-to-face to screen-so-screen, so too has much of the business world.

As early as March, the BBC reported that a quarter of the world’s population was under lockdown restrictions.

Almost overnight, businesses around the world were tasked with making the switch to virtual environments, with business owners, employees, suppliers and more working remotely. For many, this proved to be an eye-opening experience.

More businesses now realise what many already knew – that virtual working is just as productive, if not more so than the traditional office-based approach.

Knowledgeable consultants can capitalise on this newfound trust in virtual support by offering online services and consultations.

3. Cleaning services – a long-term opportunity

Cleaning companies have understandably seen an uptick in trade since the spread of coronavirus. Sanitation is now more important than ever as more and more of us venture out of lockdown to workplaces, cafes, and hotels.

The world’s largest hotel companies have all announced new comprehensive cleaning playbooks in response to coronavirus.

This rise in commercial-grade cleaning is unlikely to subside any time soon. Employees, travellers, consumers, and commuters are all now acutely aware of the presence of bacteria and the potential for viruses to spread.

For cafes, bars, employers, workspaces, hotels and holiday lets, the only way to rebuild trust is to guarantee the highest possible level of cleanliness. If you’re able to provide this level of sanitation, you’re likely to see demand for your services for many years to come.

4. App development – already rapid digital transformation is set to accelerate

The app industry is one of several to thrive during the coronavirus lockdown. And now consumers know what is possible, they are highly unlikely to want to return to the old way of doing things.

UAE residents have turned to apps to get their fix of everything from food and grocery delivery, to e-learning, health and fitness, remote working, and even mental health support.

Apps that have boomed in lockdown include:

  • Duolingo – language learning
  • Headspace – Mindfulness and meditation
  • Insta Shop – grocery home delivery service
  • Zoom – video conferencing
  • MyFitnessPal – health, fitness, and nutrition tracking

In response to a ‘new normal’, low code app development has also quickly risen in popularity in recent months. These apps, which can be designed with minimal coding knowledge, are here to stay and have lowered the barriers to entry for a new breed of developers.

5. Repairs – the throwaway generation is no more

The repair industry has been steadily growing over recent years, driven largely by environmental concerns. The throwaway generation is no more: today’s consumers are once again happy to repair rather than replace.

Lockdown measures have seen a further spike in the use of repair services as more of us look to make use of what we already have – whether it’s fixing a troublesome computer, a broken bike, or a faulty kayak.

On top of this, the auto repair market has remained relatively steady throughout the pandemic, with signs pointing to growth in 2021.

A recent McKinsey report suggests a decrease in new car sales, an increase in personal vehicle use over public transport, and lower fuel price could create greater opportunity for repair services in years to come.

‘On a more optimistic note, the crisis could also create some long-term tailwinds for aftermarket demand… if [the previous] pattern repeats during the COVID-19 crisis, the increase in older vehicles could boost the need for repairs.’

A look beyond recovery

Naturally, most current forecasts are focused on the immediate future – the year of recovery. However, the coronavirus pandemic is likely to have fundamentally changed the way we live and work in numerous ways.

The businesses that thrive in the immediate aftermath, tapping into this new normal, are likely to be the ones that last the distance.

Whatever your industry, remaining flexible and embracing digital technologies will be key. We may well be living through a once in a lifetime experience. But unprecedented times bring with them unprecedented lessons, and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow must seize the opportunity to learn.