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Exclusive interview: Now is the best time to set up a business in the UAE

Owing to numerous new changes and updates to existing regulations and legislation, the UAE has become one of the premier locations in the world to start a business.

On this topic, we spoke to Meet Joshi, CEO of business setup consultancy Flying Colour, who shared some valuable insights regarding the business landscape in the UAE Joshi identified 3 major business sectors that have been at the forefront in the UAE in recent years The options when it comes to setting up a business can be overwhelming, but companies like Flying Colour seek to make the process much more manageable

For many years now, the UAE has become known internationally as the place to be when it comes to setting up a new business. From an ease in legislation and regulation, to new visa rules permitting extended stays or even permanent residencies for expat entrepreneurs, it is clear why everyone is clamoring to set up a business there.

Yet, setting up a business is always a daunting task, especially if the entrepreneur in question has no experience doing so. This is where Flying Colour comes in. 

Flying Colour is a management consulting firm that has been aiding entrepreneurs set up their business in the UAE since 2004, having accrued around 2000 clients since then. 

In an interview with their CEO, Meet Joshi, AMEinfo learned valuable insights about the entrepreneur field in the UAE and the trends that are shaping the business landscape in the country. 

Can you tell us a bit about your primary services? 

We started in 2004, founded by our Chairman. Our core business has always been the setting up of businesses in the UAE. People need our assistance because in the UAE there are different jurisdictions. There are mainland, offshore, and free zones, and they all have different requirements. We listen to our clients and what their requirements are, and then advise them as to which jurisdiction is best suited for their business. Once they’ve decided to go forward and form their company, we help them in the execution of the paperwork, liaising with the government departments, etc., basically helping them set up their business as fast as possible through our expertise. Once the company is formed, we remain in touch with our clients in terms of things like visa services, licensing, and more. We even have a department for accounting and bookkeeping. We also help our clients with that.  

At what point do you stop supporting a startup? Is it once it has matured past a certain stage?

We cater to any company that wants to form a business in the UAE – not just startups. The way we help any company is we advise them as to how they can cut their costs, or regarding the methods and procedures which they can follow through which they can structure a sound foundation for their business, while being a 100% compliant with the law. 

Another way we help startups and other businesses is we help them stay competitive in the market. Since we have been in the industry for 15 years, we have our connections that can help them in different industries. So we sometimes also assist them in things where we cannot usually help them, but instead might know someone who can. We provide that connection to contacts. 

We also have our own business centre where we can provide our clients with office spaces. 

Read: Four years & two million dollars later: Lessons from a failed startup

Can you share with us some insights and trends from the UAE startup market based on Flying Colour’s experience?

In the UAE, the major business sectors have always been tourism, trading, and software development. Tourism and trading have been there ever since we started. People choose to go to those sectors due to the location of the UAE. With tourism, you have a lot of people always travelling to and from the country. There are so many sights for people to visit [and things for people to do here]. 

As for trading, it’s purely because of location. The UAE is right in the middle of Asia, Africa and Europe. It’s a major trading hub.

Other than that, in recent years, there has been a rise in software development and IT companies. There has also been a major rise in consultancy services – corporate service provider companies. There has also been a huge rise in e-commerce companies. As the world progresses, everything is becoming online. 

Jurisdiction-wise, there is no front-runner – there is no mainland vs. free-zone – it always depends on the person’s business plan when it comes to choosing. 

Most of the companies are located on the mainland because mainland companies have no restrictions. They can do their business locally or internationally according to their activities. Free-zone companies are basically formed if the business is going to be majorly international in its trade. They often have little to do with local businesses. Free-zone companies are formed keeping that in mind. Free-zones are also the most cost-effective for startups as opposed to setting up on the mainland. Now, however, due to the many new rules, setting up in either almost costs the same, so now it more or less boils down to your business plan when making the decision. 

From your long experience, have you had any memorable experiences helping a particular business or entrepreneur? Any noteworthy success stories from your portfolio? 

We have roughly around 2000 clients within our portfolio, so we have helped around 2000 businesses start from scratch. The success story that I can see from my long experience is that many of these companies had started from one person and they have since grown to a team of 500 people. That kind of speaks to our success as well because we have been there for them from day one, and now they have grown to be huge companies. 

In terms of success, that is our major success: that we support and help our clients so that they flourish. 

Read: Advantages of setting up a luxury company in Dubai

What are the most common obstacles holding entrepreneurs back from starting their own business in the UAE, and how do you address them?A long time ago – and this has since been improved significantly from the government side – if you would go to some of the governmental departments as a layman, you would not know where to go, what to do or whom to speak to when looking to start your company. Some people get stuck when doing the employment visas, where they don’t know the correct procedures, overstay fines, etc. 

So these are a few of the obstacles that people face – the lack of information in terms of how to form the company, or how to go about the governmental procedures. 

This is where we come into the picture, where we tell them how it’s done, and assist them in doing so. After that they can relax and focus on their core business. The running around and governmental department work is done from our side. 

Since we have been doing it for a long period, we also get it done faster. The rules and regulations in the UAE always keep changing. That is another thing that businessmen are not always aware of. We always keep our clients up to date on these changes.    

These changes are always to make things better for entrepreneurs, such as the new visa rules. The economic departments changed many rules, cutting down the costs of employment visas and they have started allowing businesses to be formed even without an office for one year. These are a few moves which help new businesses start at a lower cost compared to before. Even when hiring employees, your costs have started decreasing now.  

Given the new visa rules, have you noticed a rise in expat entrepreneurs? 

Definitely. Ever since the new visa rules were announced – not even implemented yet, but announced – we received many inquiries from people locally and internationally asking about the new visa rules and regulations. Everyone was interested in forming a company here, not only due to the new visa, but obviously because the image that the UAE has built in the world economy – as an entrepreneur-friendly country. Now that people know that maybe in the future they might be eligible for a 5 or 10 year visa or a golden card, they’re more interested in starting up a business. 

Read: In a startup, the dream is not the problem; The dreamer is