UAE’s Tryst With Entrepreneurship

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UAE: A strategic hub and land of gross opportunity.

The UAE has been recognized time and again as being one of the most entrepreneur-friendly hubs in MENA, being recently ranked fourth in the Global Entrepreneurship Index (GEI) 2020 by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM – NECI). Below, Contributing Editor Athwifa Saleem investigates the opportunities that the UAE economy has to offer and UAE-based companies that have navigated environmental and economic changes during the Pandemic.

Dubai in particular has become one of the most sought-after places for doing business, all thanks to its tax-friendly policies, impeccable social and economic infrastructure, and a central location; that easily facilitates any entrepreneur’s mission and vision. The country’s leadership was also highly praised recently for being one of the most resilient when it came to the effective responses and actions taken during the COVID-19 lockdown

The commercial and tourism sectors of the UAE had recently disclosed incentive packages worth Dh7.1 billion ($1.93bn) to mitigate the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy as well as support businesses and individuals. In 2021, the seasonally adjusted IHS Markit Dubai Purchasing Managers’ Index has seen a rise of 53.5 in April from 51 in March, the highest level since November 2019, which suggests the economy is moving in the right direction, getting closer to its pre-Covid growth trajectory. A reading above 50 indicates economic expansion while one below points to a contraction. 

As the economic trajectory of the UAE is set for the right direction and growth, according to DMCC, the below  sectors in particular have proven to deliver promising entrepreneurial opportunities in the coming years: 


The UAE healthcare sector has seen tremendous growth since the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic and is anticipated to generate AED 39.4 billion by 2025, and according to the Dubai Industrial Strategy 2030, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment are listed as one of the six priority sub-sectors for the city. There are three main areas that healthcare investors/entrepreneurs should consider when entering the Dubai market: Health-Tech Innovation, Health Tourism, Growing Local Demand.

Information Technology

Dubai has been attracted by international tech-based businesses over the years, with the Dubai government continuing to initiate policies to drive tech innovation and attract tech entrepreneurs to become the world’s smartest city by 2021. Dubai’s free zones have attracted many tech start-ups, such as the Middle East’s first Google for Entrepreneurs Global Tech Hub, AstroLabs


According to The Khaleej Times, Dubai’s e-commerce market is set to reach Dh12 billion of local GDP by 2023 making it the fastest-growing e-commerce market in the MENA region. Dubai’s adoption of ‘smart government’ initiatives and programs has played a pivotal role in the growth of the city’s e-commerce sector. Improved logistics, trust in digital payments, and increased security are all contributing factors that have helped drive the development of the e-commerce industry in Dubai. And the best part is that there are loads of shoppers to target! It’s even possible to establish your e-commerce business in Dubai and then run it from another location remotely while benefiting from low taxation laws. 

Real Estate

With most of UAE’s population being foreigners, it’s no wonder that the nation is considered as one of the top ex-pat hubs worldwide. With over 16 million tourists last year in Dubai alone, it keeps its ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world for the fourth consecutive year, making the property market in Dubai so lucrative. The real estate market in Dubai has a huge scope of opportunities, including real estate development, property management, and brokerage. 

Photo by Maria Charizani from Pexels
Photo by Maria Charizani from Pexels

While many entrepreneurs have flourished in many capacities upon instilling their businesses in the UAE, we take a look at a few of the most resilient and empowering entrepreneurs who have risen to the occasion and have successfully mitigated the effects of the pandemic:

Tony Jashanmal – Group Director, Jashanmal Group

The Jashanmal business association was established in the Middle East a century ago, with Tony Jashanmal’s grandfather inaugurating a general store in Basra, Iraq. The International expansion for the company was initiated in 1934 when his grandfather set up shop in Kuwait’s Safaat Square, and later on in Dubai’s Al Nasr Square in 1956. Three generations and counting, and the expansions continue for the esteemed company. Tony Jashanmal, who is known to speak seven languages, now serves under the capacity of Group Director of the expansive retail and distribution empire. The group now has over 150 retails stores in the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, and Bahrain, and a distribution network of over 1,000 outlets. Tony recently disclosed to the Dubai Media Office how the company made substantial operational changes to meet the demands of their consumers and ensure top-notch customer service during the unprecedented times whilst keeping in mind the safety of stakeholders, customers, & staff. Being in the UAE for almost a century, the company’s adaptability and quick action to ensure stability amongst its consumer and employee roster make The Jashanmal Group a shining entrepreneurial model. 

Vidya Chhabria – Chairperson –

Jumbo was established by Manu Chhabria as one of the first tech retail and distribution businesses in the UAE, shortly after the country was formed. Vidya Chhabria, currently the chairperson of the multi-billion dollar group, governed the company in 2002 and has since molded it to become one of the largest consumer electronic distributors in the region whilst ensuring all the ethical practices are strictly followed. The group enlists over 2,000 employees and has expanded to include an enterprise division that has partnered with IBM, Microsoft, Huawei, and Cisco, among others, as well as a 3D-manufacturing division spread across a 60,000 sq ft facility. From being a brick-and-mortar retailer, Jumbo has grown into an OmniChannel Retailer, providing the most seamless shopping experience, be it online or in-store. According to The Gulf News, The Jumbo Group was no stranger to market cycles – and in knowing how to emerge out of the downtimes. The group started on the group-wide digital transformation in the middle of 2019 – during COVID-19, the company made sure to expedite the same to meet their consumer demands by completely transforming the services business for both enterprise clients and consumers. 

Barbara Paladus – Founder of Codex Beauty Labs

Upon realizing the potential of natural ingredients, Barbara Paldus, a scientist with a Ph.D. in electrical engineering and decades spent at the forefront of research and innovation at spectroscopy and biotechnology companies, began to use unique extraction techniques that would enable natural ingredients to be used in ways never seen before, resulting in the birth of Codex Beauty Labs. Founded in 2018, the biotech-based beauty brand is built on science, organic and vegan ingredients, plant-based preservatives, pharmaceutical-grade processes, safety and efficacy trials, innovative and sustainable packaging and third-party certification. With the onset of COVID-19 however came the challenges of maintaining product development and clinical testing plans, but Paldus took it as a challenge and made sure to evolve the brand into a flexible, digital organisation with a full disaster recovery plan that will allow operations to run smoothly despite pandemics, natural disasters and social upheaval. Codex was launched in the UAE in a partnership with Al Futtaim in 2020 and has since played a pivotal role in being one of the most sought out sustainable and data-driven skincare brands amongst the UAE community. 

About The Editor

Athwifa is a business graduate of Sikkim Manipal University and has been on the pursuit of enhancing her career as a content writer, in the past contributing to coveted publications in the region such as Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. Athwifa is passionate about culture, food, hospitality and wellness as well as scouting the latest trends.