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Business opportunities in Dubai: Which industries are booming?

May 22, 2018 | UAE Company Setup

If you’re searching for attractive business opportunities in a region that has the potential to reach more consumers, then Dubai should be top of your list.

Entrepreneurs set to profit from big business in Dubai

Businesses situated here have the potential to reach over one billion people from neighbouring countries within the Middle East, Abu Dhabi, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia.

In the United Arab Emirates, the recent shift in focus away from oil and gas as the primary economic drivers has allowed small businesses to boom. Dubai is an investor-friendly city and its cost of living is lower than in most developed cities. It also boasts 0% personal and corporate tax.

So, it’s these reasons and more that make business opportunities in Dubai so appealing with huge potential for success.

If you want some inspiration for business ideas in Dubai, read on for our top 10 business ideas.

Dubai industries with lucrative business opportunities

A few sectors in Dubai and the UAE are worth looking into as a prospective business owner.

Many of these industries are flourishing in response to the vast population rise from recent years. Sectors like real estate, IT and eCommerce are set to soar as profitable investment opportunities. Yet, there are some other industries that are equally worthwhile that are often overlooked.

What about a modest career as a cleaner or bookkeeper, for instance? Or, have you ever considered starting a travel agency or retail business? Servicing the needs of business giants in the region can establish you and your business for years to come. 

In truth, successful business ideas are practically endless for anyone willing to put in the effort. Eventually, it’s possible to turn a side hustle or part-time gig into a fully fledged and rewarding business operation.

Let’s check out some of the most interesting business ideas in Dubai. Have you considered one of these for your upcoming career move?

Advertising and marketing brands-2

1. Advertising and Media

The advertising industry, especially digital media, continues to show signs of exponential growth. Here in the UAE, this is especially true.

The United Arab Emirates was recently revealed as the top country for advertising in the GCC, accounting for USD 410m in the first quarter of 2017 alone. Within this vast market are many home-grown success stories, including the fast-growing agency DDB Dubai which counts Porsche, McDonald’s and Versace among its clients.

How to get involved

There are several avenues to consider when looking to get into the advertising industry. These include brand development, consultancy, media buying, events, social selling and more. As networking is such an integral part of success in this industry, setting up in a free zone like Dubai Media City for instance is a great business decision for entrepreneurs. Establish yourself among industry peers to build an advertising or marketing empire of your own in Dubai.

2. Information Technology

Dubai has become the world’s smartest city by 2021, and the region has become an international magnet for tech-based businesses.

According to the latest Smart Cities Index Dubai is now one of the world’s top five cities using tech to improve residents’ lives.

How to get involved

Almost every sector offers business opportunities based on new technologies, and there are currently over 1200 tech startups here. There are several hubs for tech-based industries, including Dubai Internet City and the Dubai Silicon Oasis, an integrated technology park with state-of-the-art smart infrastructure, business services and housing.

Fashion and Apparel business in Dubai

3. Apparel and Retail

Dubai is a popular retail destination, with millions of customers from around the globe converging here to shop. So much so that apparel and footwear is the emirate’s largest retail sector, valued at USD 11.5bn. Local designers sit alongside the world’s most prestigious fashion brands. Clearly, this is one of several very lucrative business ideas in Dubai.

How to get involved

The first step to getting involved in such a vast industry is to determine your business activity. There are plenty to choose from including tailoring, clothes design, costume rental, as well as import/export. Next, choose a location that is suited to your business, such as Dubai Design District which caters exclusively for designers, artists and creative thinkers.

Bookkeeper calculating annual expenses of Dubai business-2

4. Bookkeeping 

When thinking of business opportunities in Dubai, this field of work may not be the most obvious choice. With the sheer number of businesses in Dubai and the UAE, it’s natural there is a huge demand for professionals and firms that offer bookkeeping services. Although Dubai is home to many large international bookkeeping companies, there is also a thriving community of smaller companies catering largely to the emirate’s SMEs and startups.

How to get involved

If you have a background in finance or accounting, then this is almost certainly an opportunity here. And since the 2018 introduction of VAT, there is an even greater demand for your services. Providing you have a relevant qualification in accounting or a related subject then you need almost zero capital to start a bookkeeping firm. A business license, some accountancy software and your expertise is all it takes.

5. eCommerce

eCommerce is a growing sector with worldwide revenues expected to reach USD 4.5tr by 2021. While the market here is gaining traction, it has a way to go compared to the US or China. However, Dubai is certainly home to a keen market of online shoppers. Research from 2017 found that 62% of the country’s internet users now shop online – spending an average of USD 332 per purchase. Of course, in the wake of the global pandemic, the eCommerce sector has boomed to cater to more people residing at home.

How to get involved

The beauty of the eCommerce industry is the ease with which you can get involved. If you’re looking to become the next Awok – the UAE-based eCommerce platform that recently raised USD 30m in its first round of funding – all you need to get started is a laptop, an internet connection and something to sell.

It’s even possible to establish your eCommerce business in Dubai and then run it from wherever in the world you wish. Meanwhile, you can continue to have a permanent business base in the UAE and take advantage of the favourable tax environment. eCommerce is certainly a very attractive option, in terms of potential business opportunities in Dubai.

Agriculture and food trade business in Dubai

6. Food trading

The food industry in general is one to watch in the UAE and Dubai. Dubai handles over 70 per cent of UAE food imports, re-exporting to over 160 countries. Also, it produces its own food for export and for trading within the UAE, a home-grown sector thriving through agricultural innovation.  Dubai has become a leader in agro-tech, growing crops in the desert using indoor and vertical farming techniques.

So, does this sound like an interesting opportunity for economic growth? As far as business opportunities in Dubai are concerned, the food trade could be a booming success in years to come.

How to get involved

If your business is based in a free zone you can engage in B2B trade, while a Dubai Mainland license enables you to trade everywhere. There are many profitable areas, including indoor organic farms utilising the latest technological innovations. The halal food industry is booming too, in both home and international markets. A modern business avenue in which to partake could well be the food truck industry.

You will need a UAE foodstuff trading license in order to compete in the Dubai market. There are strict regulations regarding food trading, and different licenses for different niches, so a clear business plan is essential. In any case, entrepreneurs in this sector can enjoy a profitable return and flexible working hours, if you set up the business structure accordingly.

Cleaning services in hotel in Dubai -3

7. Cleaning Services

Sure, it may not be the most glamorous of professions. Yet, starting a cleaning company could indeed be a ‘diamond in the rough’ type of business venture in Dubai. With a seemingly endless supply of big buildings, including the famous Emirates Towers skyscrapers, there’s certainly a market for the cleaning service industry in Dubai. Let’s not forget retail businesses, restaurants, hotels, bars and cafes that all need regular maintenance and cleaning.

How to get involved

If you have a knack for immaculate cleaning and want to convert this skill into a lucrative business opportunity, you might like to consider starting a cleaning service venture in Dubai. Agencies that provide excellent cleaning services are in hot demand, with projections set to only increase in the future.

8. Recruitment Agency

The demand for skilled labour is ever rising. As the UAE economy continues to grow, a skilled workforce is required to drive various industries. Each year, there are many businesses setting up offices in Dubai. Sometimes, these companies face challenges finding the right skills.

And with 70% of UAE employers saying they are looking to hire in the next year, the demand for recruitment services is clearly there.

How to get involved

Apart from demand, what makes recruitment agencies such a lucrative opportunity is that they need minimal capital.

If you can solve a problem for Dubai’s businesses by connecting skilled job seekers from developing countries to companies in Dubai, then this is a potentially lucrative avenue for you. As well as a trade license, you’ll also need to register your recruitment company with the Ministry of Labor in Dubai.

9. Real Estate Development

The gains seen in this sector should come as no surprise to expats entering the country. Real estate is indeed big business in Dubai. In fact, the real estate market provides more than just investment and development opportunities. With more and more foreigners staying in Dubai and the UAE long-term, the demand for property management has soared correspondingly.

How to get involved

So, if real estate development or even property management is your thing, why not make your make here in Dubai? It could well be one of the most bankable business ideas in Dubai yet.

Aerial view of shipping containers at night docking in Dubai

10. Logistics & Transport

Dubai’s logistics industry benefits from world-class infrastructure, a progressive and supportive government, and the emirate’s strategic location between Asia and the West. The region is also a growing tourist destination, providing opportunities for tourist-based travel and transportation companies. To cope with the ever-expanding demands of travel, trade and tourism, it makes sense that Dubai’s infrastructure needs to keep up.

How to get involved

Dubai is an ever-growing hub for business opportunities. Companies offering supply-chain services mean that the need for logistics goes hand in hand with a growing economy. Expo 2020, expected to bring 20 million visitors to the UAE, will be a boom time. An estimated 26,000 companies will be involved in the event, all requiring the services of the local logistics and supply chain sector.

Virtuzone Sets Up Your Business For Success

If you’ve identified a potential business opportunity in Dubai among the industries listed above, setting up your own business has never been easier. Our company formation specialists are waiting to hear from you. It’s time to turn your business idea into a prosperous venture. We can help with your submission to the Department of Economic Development to make your business dreams become a reality.

Virtuzone takes care of it all so you can focus on what matters – building your business. For more information on the business setup process or any corporate activities in the United Arab Emirates, please call us on +971 4 457 8200, send an email to info@vz.ae.

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