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Mon 2 Sep 2019 01:41 PM

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Opinion: can an American make it big in the UAE?

Oweis Zahran, an American citizen, has been an a successful business in the UAE since 2012

Opinion: can an American make it big in the UAE?
Oweis Zahran, CEO, OWS Automotive & Managing Partner, Rafid Automotive Solutions, a partnership project with the Sharjah Government.

As an American citizen running a successful business in the UAE since 2012, one question I am often asked by fellow Americans, or those looking to invest in the region, is about the ease of doing business in this country, or more specifically, what are the chances of achieving success here?

As a foreign investor, there are a significant number of commercial issues that influence the decision of embarking on a business venture in the Middle East.

With numerous investor-friendly free zones that allow 100 percent ownership, excellent infrastructure, minimal tax structure, low import duties and a strategic location, the UAE has always been a destination that attracts strong capital flows from across the Atlantic.

In this respect, the UAE also scores far ahead of its neighbours in the region, especially in terms of liberal tax regulations.

Another factor to consider is that the UAE has always focused on economic diversification in trade, logistics, banking, tourism, real estate and manufacturing, thereby providing opportunities for investment in various industries rather than just relaying on oil.

The country has welcomed traders since its inception and that’s what makes it a lucrative place for Americans to start a business venture and achieve quick success.

First impressions

When I first started out as an independent entrepreneur here in the UAE, I was overwhelmed by the warm welcome I received at every step of the way. I had come here with the single minded goal of doing business and while in the initial phase of ‘knocking on doors’, I was greeted with open arms right from the frontline administrative officials all the way up to the MDs and CEOs.

I believe this welcoming hospitality is inherent in the country’s DNA especially as the UAE is a melting pot of over 250 nationalities and I have witnessed how much tolerance and respect for all cultures are a hallmark of the people here. The government is also supportive of Western leadership practices especially if they add increased value to strategic thought principles. This acceptance of new ideas, insights and patterns of engagement creates a very conducive atmosphere for succeeding as a business entity in the UAE.

In addition, the fact that English is a widely spoken language here helps in breaking down the barriers of communication.

The UAE is a rapidly growing economy, and as such, provides an exciting opportunity for growth. Although competition is high, it cannot be compared to the levels of global competition prevalent in more mature economies like the US or Europe. In comparison to the cut-throat business environment that is dominant in New York, it is much easier to achieve success here if you have the right attitude and are ready to keep an open mind.

Location, location, location

Its strategic geopolitical location reinforces the UAE’s attraction as a unique trading hub, and supported by a world-class aviation infrastructure and established seaport network, the nation attracts increased inbound investment and trade movement. Operating out of the UAE, therefore, can create enormous economies of scale as it is easier to access the major emerging economies of Asia and Africa, and even beyond.

Today, the UAE ranks 11th place in the World Bank’s annual ease of doing business ranking thanks to its continuous and focused reform agenda that keeps the economy competitive. This has allowed businessmen, like myself, to expand and grow and this growth would have taken a lot longer anywhere else in the world.

While the UAE’s liberal and investment-friendly business policies and reforms have certainly aided in taking my business to new levels of success, I also attribute this success to the humbleness of the people here and their generosity in welcoming with open arms a foreign national into their fold.

Oweis Zahran is CEO, OWS Automotive & Managing Partner, Rafid Automotive Solutions, a partnership project with the Sharjah Government