By Neil King
Essa Al Zaabi, senior vice-president, institutional support sector, Dubai Chamber and general coordinator of Tejar Dubai, explains how the chamber’s entrepreneurship programme is helping build a nation of business people.
The impact of entrepreneurship programmes cannot be underestimated.
Across the world, budding businessmen and women are mentored, trained, advised, and given the extra skills they need in order to develop their natural ability.
Tejar Dubai is one such programme, run by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry to boost entrepreneurship among UAE nationals.
Arabian Business StartUp spoke with Essa Al Zaabi, senior vice-president, institutional support sector, Dubai Chamber and general coordinator of Tejar Dubai, to find out more about the work of the programme and how it is driving entrepreneurship in the UAE.
Why was Tejar devised and how did it come to fruition?
“Tejar Dubai came into existence to identify and develop entrepreneurs amongst UAE nationals and their promising business ideas which are economically feasible and able to withstand the tests of the marketplace.
“Set up in 2013, with the aim of promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, Tejar Dubai offers a customised experience, tailored to the needs of a particular entrepreneur and has been instrumental in filling this gap of providing guidance and support to Emirati entrepreneurs.
“Under our three key pillars of assess, assist and attain, the Tejar Dubai initiative provides youth with access to an extensive development programme, including classroom learning, on-site training, mentoring and business advice, as well as networking opportunities with local and international business leaders and access to investment capital.
How do you expect the candidates to develop during the programme?
“We are very selective in who qualifies for the programme and have a panel comprising of experts from the private as well as the government sector. We are very transparent with our candidates and give them feedback at every step.
“Our targeted participants are the young Emiratis entrepreneurs – between 18-45 years old - where we look forward to burst those young entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial idea’s into the economic sector to enhance Dubai’s position in the global economic landscape.
“Once selected, the candidate is put through an incubator for one year with an appointed mentor and all the paperwork and legalities required to set up are taken care by us. The candidates get the advantage of getting guidance from the best and building on their idea and they come out more confident and focused about how they would like to function in the real world.”
How successful has the platform been so far?
“We have approved 42 commercial projects out of the 900 applications for participation and have launched 13 with more waiting to be launched since the inception of the Tejar Dubai. We support each and every one of them and are looking forward to their successful performance in the coming years.
“To date, the programme has organised 30 workshops and is supporting more than 500 Emiratis with mentoring and business advice while helping them to successfully establish their own small-to-medium-sized businesses. We would like to believe that by focusing on each one of them individually and offering tailored programmes, we have helped them make their projects economically feasible and come alive with a promise of a successful future which is a big source of encouragement for the participants as well as for us.
“For instance, we have Potential Nursery, which was our first project by a woman entrepreneur. Some 70 percent of the participants of the entrepreneurship development programme are female. Potential is a terrific new early childhood educational centre which teaches in three languages including Arabic, French and English and it’s absolutely tailor-made for the completely cosmopolitan life here in the UAE. With its own curriculum, the nursery treats every child as a unique individual and focuses on children with learning difficulties.
“Similarly, we have the Gravity Gym and Garden Depot, two other projects launched by us. All these three projects were financed by banks and Tejar Dubai played a major role in that.
“We recently launched the Mastiha shop café which is the second project of 2015 and sixth in less than a year launched by Tejar Dubai. All this reflects the commitment of the entrepreneurship development programme which supports young citizens in establishing their own business while helping them to enter and succeed in the competitive business world.”
What future plans do you have for Tejar Dubai?
“We are always open to new suggestions and building on our success. We might look at launching our own fund as we understand securing finances is a major concern for entrepreneurs.
“We are also looking at organising international conferences in Dubai and getting leading entrepreneurs to share their experiences and journey.”
What contribution has Tejar Dubai made to Dubai and the UAE in terms of business, national mind-set, and the future of entrepreneurship?
“SMEs contribute an estimated 40-46 percent of nominal GDP in Dubai and therefore, the government of Dubai has hence made promoting entrepreneurs and SMEs a top priority in its social and economic development agenda and a key pillar of Dubai’s regional and global competitiveness. Dubai is a gateway to new markets and an ideal destination for entrepreneurs to set up business.
“I believe we have played our role in filling the gap of lack of guidance and customised solutions for Emirati entrepreneurs. Through our various partnerships, we have not only helped entrepreneurs get finance but also opened doors to international organisations, so that they can interact and learn and get to know what entrepreneurs all around the world are doing.
“With our commitment to the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE vice president and prime minister and ruler of Dubai, which emphasises that entrepreneurship is the shortest route to a bright future, we have been able to find and train creative and commercially-minded youth and helped them turn their business ideas into a reality.
“Our focus is on innovation and creation and to build businesses which align with the vision of Dubai. Emirati entrepreneurs are on a rise and are extensively using social media to create awareness about their business.
“Entrepreneurs and SMEs will play a key role in the future development of Dubai and the achievement of UAE’s vision. It is clear that there is considerable opportunity for many stakeholders to contribute to the potential of the SME sector to contribute to the future of the country and wider region.”
Earlier this year Tejar Dubai signed an MoU with Emirates Islamic. How vital are partnerships in fulfilling Tejar’s potential?
“We will continue to look for partnerships in the future. As of now, we have partnered with the Youth Business International and have extended the benefits of this partnership to our entrepreneurs. These partnerships are extremely important to us because one cannot build businesses in isolation – you need the whole ecosystem to work together.
“We understand that securing finance is one of the biggest challenges and therefore we have signed a MoU with Emirates Islamic Bank. Under the agreement, successful participants of Tejar Dubai can apply to the Credit Guarantee Scheme at Emirates Islamic for finance of up to AED5 million ($1.36 million), at highly favourable terms including a profit holiday.
“We have also partnered with INJAZ for promoting entrepreneurship among the youth. So we have been working on improving and fine –tuning things and will continue to do so. We have a few exciting things in the pipeline.”
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