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Wed 29 Mar 2006 04:00 AM

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Work the Web

There is a multitude of valuable business websites based in - or upon - the Middle East region. Windows cuts the wheat from the chaff, so you don't have to…

|~|Click-for-care---m.jpg|~|From a UAE standpoint then, the Living Section at http://guide.theemiratesnetwork.com/ is a good starting point for budding business owners.|~|In the beginning, a business must of course be set-up. To this end, most countries in the region have government websites packed full of information to help you understand what must be done. So, whether you're already here in the region and thinking of jumping ship from your current employer, or you're reading this online before you will arrive in the Middle East, finding the desired data is easy.

The UAE is perhaps the easiest country for an English-speaking foreigner to set-up shop in, in that almost everyone speaks English and the government encourages investment. Saudi Arabia is also of interest to many, due as much as anything else to the size of its potential market.

From a UAE standpoint then, the Living Section at http://guide.theemiratesnetwork.com/ is a good starting point, as it features lots of information on starting up a business (covering legalities, sponsors and so on). For the official Dubai government line on such matters, try www.dubai.ae.

The most useful site Windows knows of that is related to Saudi Arabia specifically, is www.saudia-online.com. This is packed full of hard facts on how to go about getting started. Specifically, click through to the Business Guide section and then on to Regulations & Procedures.

If Bahrain is of interest, try www.newarabia.net/
business_in_bahrain.htm, which includes both info and a huge list of relevant links. Also check out the Kingdom's Economic Development Board - at www.bahrainedb.com.

For a geographically wider guide to starting your own operation in other Middle East territories, you'll find further easily digestible data at www.arab-business.net.

Keeping up-to-date

Whether you're in IT, banking, retail or teaching, being aware of the latest developments and industry news can be crucial to staying one step ahead of the competition. And of course news is one of the areas in which the internet beats traditional media, due to news pages being instantly and continuously updated.

Let's start by blowing our own trumpet then and explaining that ITP's very own web portals offer industry-specific news that is updated live by teams of specialist journalists. Unlike regional competitor www.ameinfo.com, which is updated regularly but republishes press releases rather than offering in-depth analysis, ITP's content is only uploaded once it has been thoroughly checked by our editorial staff. This means the news you see can - and should - be trusted. You'll also find a whole host of related features online, derived from our full range of leading business publications.

If I.T. is your bag, try www.itp.net first. For other business news and features, head for www.itp.net/business and click on the relevant vertical sector in the left-hand list (you'll find everything covered here, from construction and interior design through to oil, gas and retail).

ITP's internet team has also recently added RSS functionality, which makes getting the news you want easier than ever before.

Described as “information that moves your business”, Zawya (at www.zawya.com) focuses on market related news, such as share prices, profits and losses, and project movements. If you work as a sales, marketing, research or investment officer, it could be worth you subscribing to the site's premium content, as this ensures access to the site's database of 10,000 business contacts, its full news centre, stock market prices and macroeconomic statistics and analysis from the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) covering 19 Middle East countries.

If media is your game, www.strategiy.com offers a great deal of news on the media and advertising industries in the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Making new business

Tenders, leads and contacts don't just fall out of the air, but that doesn't mean they can't be easily found. Several Middle East sites are fine sources of such information.

Let's start with Tejari, which is one of the Middle East's main online business-to-business marketplaces. The site lets registered buyers and sellers transact and share information about a wide range of goods and services in a secured online environment. It offers a single point of contact for a whole community of buyers and suppliers, permitting for instance spot-purchasing and on-line auctions, and therefore giving you real-time access to new markets and the chance to reduce your costs. Take a look by surfing across to www.tejari.com.

www.tradearabia.com meanwhile features a full business directory covering the Arab countries, trade news, trade job vacancy details, classified ads, and premium content (which costs US $400 per year).

This sum buys you access to in-depth industry information about daily tenders, project information, and exclusive industry interviews. It also includes access to the site's extensive archives and its advanced search facility.

Last but not least, while the news on www.meed.com tends to be pitched at a national industry level (and is, often as not, political in nature), the site's paid-for subscription content is where the real nitty-gritty business data lies. It includes for instance tenders by country and contract/project details.

Pull together

Now you know where to find business online, you'll need a full, strong team of staff to help you make a success of it. Luckily, the Middle East region is awash with professional recruitment sites and services.

More trumpet blowing first then; if looking for IT contractors or senior secretarial staff, check out ITP's recruitment site at www.itpconsultinggroup.com/rec.htm. Here you'll find links to www.thecontractorme.com (the first IT contracting portal of it's kind in the region) and www.itpsecretaries.com.

As far as other recruitment agencies with a professional online presence are concerned, here's our recommend list of top clicks:
www.bayt.com (Gulf wide and Pakistani positions)
www.bacme.com (Gulf wide-executive positions)
www.careermideast.com (covers the Middle East and North Africa)
www.iqselection.com (Gulf-wide positions)
www.clarendonparker.com (Gulf-wide positions. The firm claims other websites have been masquerading as Clarendon Parker and charging candidates to register their details online so be aware that Clarendonparker.com is the only real Clarendon Parker site and does not charge such candidates to register their details).

Once you have the staff you need, you'll want to make sure you're managing them right. To improve your skills in this area, track down some relevant training by heading to www.iirme.com. Once trained up yourself, the site also details training courses for your now-motivated employees, covering everything from health and safety to technology. Just make sure you keep all your processes and working practices legal.

The site you need for this is http://gulf-law.com. Here you'll find information on general and corporate law relating to the Arab Middle East, with a slant towards the Arabian Gulf and GCC States. Details on Islamic or 'Shariah' law are also included.

Stay safe

Whatever your line of work, you'll likely be using IT infrastructure to do it. (If you aren't at that stage yet, take a look at our 'Hunting out Hardware' guide on www.itp.net/features. Meanwhile, if you're in the process upgrading your kit and want to make some cash by selling your old products, check out last year's most interesting launch, the UAE and Jordan aimed auction site www.souq.com).

Whether using new or old technology, nothing is more important than keeping your systems and their respective software bug and threat free. In addition to your running and updating anti-software and employing a firewall, there is plenty of extra help and information available online.

Trend Micro Middle East's site for instance - at www.trendmicro-middleeast.com/smb/ - includes not only company and product info, but details of the very latest viruses, a 'Learn More' section (covering viruses, pattern files, scan engines explained) plus Trend Micro's own 'Virus Map'. As part of the firm's current SMB-aimed 'Worry-Free Computing' campaign, interested companies can also sign up for a free Worry-Free Solution CD.

Symantec meanwhile has added details of the latest viruses a feature called ThreatCon, which describes the current global virus, spyware and adware threat level. Its small business removal tools also help dump specific threats from your systems. Head to www.symantec.com.

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