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My top tips for gaining an edge in UAE

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Export Week, UAE

My company, WOW Internet Ltd, is a growing international digital marketing agency based in Birmingham. We’re always keen to keep a few steps ahead of the game and over the last two years we’ve been looking at expanding our business into global markets  -  UAE and Dubai in particular.  We see this region as fertile ground where we can establish an edge in this new and growing market.

We’ve taken an intelligent approach to this and made sure we’ve done our homework - and it’s paid off.  Our priority has been to build a solid sales pipeline before we fully committed time, energy and investment into setting up a new business.  With the help of the UKTI team, we carried out research and generated sales at the same time. In February this year, our hard work began to pay off.  We’ve just signed deals with several government agencies in Dubai for more than £75,000 worth of business to provide a range of digital marketing solutions with another £3 million to come for this financial year.

Hopefully from this blog, you can learn from our experience about how to effectively do business in one of the most exciting regions in the world...UAE.

Here’s my top 10 tips on doing great business in the UAE:

1. A great emphasis is placed on personal relationships, it’s not what you know or who you know, it’s how well they know you !!

2. Do your research on the type of companies you want to deal with. Having a target market focus will always ensure you have positive outcomes from each meeting.

3. Use the UKTI passport to export service and ensure you build a good relationship with your International Trade Adviser in the UK and in country - they have a wealth of knowledge, give fantastic insights  and have great contacts.

4. Make sure your travel itinerary is flexible, it’s always good to have contingency days, there will be times when meetings will be rescheduled or delayed.  Don’t get worked up about this, it’s just how things are.

5. Be prepared to invest in start up, legal and company formation cost, typical investment is around £10k.

6. Know exactly where you want to set up, i.e. in a Free Zone or outside. Both have major implications on your business structure. E.g. if you want to set up outside a Free Zone, you will need a local partner who will be required to have a 51% share holding.

7. Don’t try and sell from the outset, find out your prospect first, who they are, what their aspirations are, about their family and what makes them tick -  this will put you in a better position to do long term business.

8. UAE companies want the best, but be prepared to negotiate on your prices. Typically the first price you put in will not be the price the client will pay.

9. When dealing with government agencies, ensure you get a signed proposal/quote and a local purchase order or LPO – if you don’t have both it doesn’t constitute a confirmed order.

10. Respect the culture and be prepared to have a laid back approach to doing business.

Overall doing business in Dubai and UAE is fantastic, the people are wonderful and the culture is amazing . If done correctly you can build an extremely profitable business.

You can find out more about trading with High Growth markets in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world during UKTI's Export Week : High Growth Markets, (13th - 17th May), at more than eighty events across the UK. 

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  1. Comment by Ljubomir Gnatovic posted on

    We are looking to expand into Middle east , UAE in particular.

  2. Comment by The W posted on

    It is indeed true that it is very important to be well informed whether you want to set up in a Free Zone or on UAE mainland. The Watermill Consultants provides tailor made advice and guidance on that front. So Ljubomir Gnatovic if you haven't yet expanded in the UAE region, do contact us.