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  • Writer's pictureJenny Hunt

10 Tips for Expanding your Business to Abu Dhabi

Updated 18th January 2024.

Gain invaluable insights into expanding your business into Abu Dhabi with Gateway Group's carefully curated list of top 10 tips. Drawing from over a decade of hands-on experience and deep understanding of the business environment in assisting companies to establish a physical presence in Abu Dhabi, these business tips are intended to guide you in:

  • Steering clear of common pitfalls

  • Optimizing your time effectively

  • Maximizing cost savings

  • Making well-informed decisions that propel your business forward for a quick ROI.

10 Tips for Expanding your Business to Abu Dhabi

TIP 1 - Conduct in-depth research about Abu Dhabi and the UAE

Embarking on a successful expansion into the thriving market of Abu Dhabi demands a comprehensive understanding of the UAE. Delve into the intricacies of the UAE's rich history to learn about it's cultural nuances, political framework, economic standing, and it's dynamic business environment. This understanding lays the groundwork for a smoother market entry and will help your company to navigate the unique challenges and opportunities of doing business in Abu Dhabi.

To stay informed about about Abu Dhabi's economy, trade and investment headlines, subscribe to our free weekly blog, UAE Weekly Business News. Receive the news you need to know in your inbox every Monday.

TIP 2 - Thorough Market Research is Key

Embarking on a new business venture is exhilarating, but with meticulous market research at the outset, you will be able to take calculated risks rather than diving in hoping for the best. Explore your target market. Assess the local competition. Evaluate the demand for your products/services. Understanding the dynamics of the market will help you to identify potential niches, pricing strategies, regulatory requirements, supply chains, local labour, potential clients and more.

TIP 3 - Prioritize Understanding Legal and Tax Regulations

Consider this tip as the linchpin of your business expansion strategy into Abu Dhabi. Familiarizing yourself with the intricate web of legal and tax regulations is essential. Ignorance won't serve as a shield if you inadvertently breach any regulations in Abu Dhabi (emirate level) or in the UAE (federal level).

Understanding commercial laws is paramount for determining the optimal legal structure and jurisdiction for your company. Explore our Abu Dhabi licenses guide for reinforcement. Delving into the specifics, will also help you to grasp the nuances of the corporate documentation required for establishing your business. For instance, documents originating from overseas require notarization, legalization at the issuing jurisdiction's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and stamping at the UAE Embassy in the home country. Upon arrival in the UAE, these documents must undergo additional stamping at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. If not initially drafted in Arabic, a legal translation into Arabic is needed, necessitating both time and financial considerations.

Knowledge of local laws ensures compliance, especially in matters related to staff employment, such as the UAE Labour law; WPS, the Wages Protection System, which is a mandatory payroll system for mainland companies; and Emiratisation requirements.

There may be the possibility of tax liabilities in your home jurisdiction, particularly for foreign branches.

As per checking on 18th January 2024, the UAE has 142 double taxation agreements in place.

The introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) in 2018 and the more recent commencement of Corporation Tax in the UAE, add further layers of complexity, necessitating the timely registrations for each, by your company. Contact us for further assistance with these registrations. Non-compliance with the tax procedures law carries hefty penalties, easily averted through proactive research.

Seeking assistance from specialists is prudent. For instance, the expertise offered by Gateway Group spans corporate structuring, securing the appropriate trade license in the right jurisdiction, processing visas and compliance.

TIP 4 - Seek Practical Assistance

Following on from the importance of understanding the legal and tax regulations highlighted in Tip 3, let's discuss a practical step to navigate this complex landscape – enlist professional help. While the prospect of engaging company formation specialists, lawyers, accountants, tax advisors, and similar experts may not be everyone's favorite, it's advisable to view it as an investment rather than a cost.

Consider these specialists as invaluable partners leveraging their expertise and experience to guide your company in making well-informed decisions and ultimately saving costs. Many professionals offer initial consultations free of charge, making the initial exploration into their services both cost free and risk-free.

At Gateway Group, we recognize the significance of practical assistance. Our commitment extends beyond traditional consultancy – we are on the ground in Abu Dhabi, poised to provide practical advice on expanding your business, navigating the setup process, obtaining licenses, and safeguarding your business interests. By tapping into our knowledge base, you gain insights that not only save time and money but also ensure compliance, protecting your business in the long term. Reach out to us and find out how we can help you with your business expansion.

TIP 5 - Choose Your Business Structure and Jurisdiction Carefully

In Abu Dhabi, navigating through a multitude of sales consultants promoting seemingly affordable business setups is a common scenario. However, the key to a successful venture lies in transcending the allure of the cheapest option. It is essential to have a clear understanding of your business goals and target market within the UAE, as these factors play a pivotal role in determining the most suitable jurisdiction for your business license.

Exercise due diligence in assessing all available options. The decision-making process should be meticulous, considering various variables that may impact costs, long-term strategies, and overall business dynamics. Be wary of business setup providers offering a one-size-fits-all solution, as this may not cater to the unique needs of your enterprise.

Explore our article titled "17 Questions To Determine If You Are Engaging The Best Abu Dhabi Business Set Up Provider" to help you evaluate the options and ensure that you choose the right path for expanding your business to Abu Dhabi.

TIP 6 - Explore Funding Opportunities

When the financial resources of your business aren't sufficient for its expansion into Abu Dhabi, exploring available funding options is worthwhile. Many governments extend support to homegrown companies venturing into international markets, offering grants, assistance through their networks of trade advisors, and training. For instance, British companies can leverage the support of UK Export Finance (UKEF), which is dedicated to preventing viable UK exports from faltering due to financial constraints.

If government schemes aren't viable, the conventional options are bank loans or credit facilities. Alternatively, third-party investors, such as angel investors, offer a potential avenue with no repayment schedule impacting cash flow, and may instead taking an equity stake as the business matures. Private equity and venture capital investors might align with your company's long-term goals, taking an active role in the business, potentially leading to an eventual buyout.

In the UAE, Etihad Credit Insurance (ECI) is the official credit export company.

Emirates Development Bank (EDB) finances initiatives which contribute to the UAE's manufacturing, healthcare, renewables, food security, and technology development. It has a number of solutions aligned with key initiatives in the UAE, such the Make it in the Emirates programme, Startup finance, and AgriTech loans.

Accelerators and Incubator funds in Abu Dhabi

AIM Congress

AIM Congress (Annual Investment Meeting) is an investment platform in the Middle East. This year's event is happening 7th-9th May 2024 in Abu Dhabi.

The realm of funding is diverse. Understanding the various options and their conditions is vital for companies needing to secure funding to support their expansion.

TIP 7 - Human Capital Strategy

Evaluating your human capital strategy is a pivotal consideration when expanding into Abu Dhabi. While managing operations from overseas or deploying international staff is a common approach, it often results in slow progress due to the lack of market familiarity and local connections. It isn't uncommon for deployed staff to get distracted from their role of developing the business to become a 'jack-of-all-trades', as they are the only company personnel on the ground, which negatively affects the speed of achieving return on investment. Conversely, companies that invest in building a local team typically hit the ground running, provided they've made good hires.

Gateway Group understands that assembling the ideal team extends beyond skills and experience. It involves a holistic approach, considering factors such as behavior, values, driving forces, and acumen. Identifying individuals whose attributes align with your organization's ethos is instrumental in accelerating your business in the Abu Dhabi. Contact us to find out how, with our expertise, we can assist you in pinpointing the most suitable employees who will not only contribute to your success but also integrate seamlessly into the dynamic business landscape of the UAE.

TIP 8 - Safeguard your Abu Dhabi venture

Ensuring your business is adequately insured is a paramount consideration when expanding into Abu Dhabi. Take the time to comprehend the specific insurance requirements pertinent to your operations. Notably, for onshore companies in the UAE, providing health insurance for expatriate employees is mandatory. When obtaining health insurance for Abu Dhabi visas, it's crucial to engage with an Abu Dhabi-registered insurance provider; relying on a pre-existing worldwide policy will not suffice.

Moreover, many free zones are aligning with this practice, making health insurance a prerequisite for all visas.

Understanding workers' compensation obligations is equally vital.

Additionally, when vying for projects, be attuned to potential commitments necessitating specific insurance coverage.

To navigate this complex landscape, it's advisable to seek the expertise of a registered, local insurance broker. They can provide tailored advice, ensuring that your business is comprehensively covered and compliant with the evolving insurance requirements in the UAE.

TIP 9 - Plan business banking alongside your company setup

Opening corporate bank accounts has become a meticulous process, with heightened due diligence requirements, anti money laundering compliance, and extended timelines. Investigate business banking options as part of your initial research.

Whether you opt for an international bank or one of the local banks in the UAE, scrutinize all the details, such as fees, minimum balance requirements, and the documentation necessary for account opening. The more groundwork undertaken in advance, the more streamlined the account opening process becomes when the need arises.

TIP 10 - Strategic Networking

Networking is a catalyst for success. Abu Dhabi's transient market, with a constant influx of individuals, emphasizes the importance of networking upon arrival and sustaining it over time. Connecting with fellow business professionals and establishing meaningful connections is an opportunity to identify potential collaborations and synergies, build a reciprocal support network and stay informed of current trends and industry happenings.

Abu Dhabi hosts a plethora of business groups and industry associations, providing ample opportunities for you to engage. Dive into these forums and participate actively. You never know when a chance meeting could alter the trajectory of your company. It takes just one connection to reshape the fortunes of your business forever.

Expanding into Abu Dhabi - Conclusion

It might surprise you to know that many companies jump in, not doing any research or due diligence when expanding their businesses to Abu Dhabi. They are subsequently forced to make changes, taking additional time and money, or have to put up with the consequences of their poor decisions.

We hope our tips provide you with practical suggestions to help you successfully establish your commercial presence in Abu Dhabi. You don't know what you don't know!

qr code scan to contact me Awais Chughtai General Manager Gateway Group Abu Dhabi company formation

Start your business in Abu Dhabi.

Whether you're a fledgling startup or international company eyeing expansion, the key to your success lies in expert guidance for your business setup.

Look no further than Gateway Group – the trusted business setup services provider recommended by the Abu Dhabi government. With a proven track record since 2014, Gateway Group has been instrumental in helping companies establish a strong foothold in the vibrant capital of the UAE.

Our friendly and experienced team is dedicated to streamlining the business setup process, ensuring your trade license is issued in a matter of weeks, not months. We take care of the legwork, allowing you to focus on bringing your vision to life.

Why choose Gateway Group? Because we understand the nuances of Abu Dhabi's business landscape, and our reputation as a recommended service provider speaks volumes about our commitment to excellence.

Ready to embark on your Abu Dhabi business setup journey? Scan the QR code to connect with our General Manager, Awais Chughtai, on Whatsapp. Let's turn your business aspirations into a reality – start your Abu Dhabi venture with Gateway Group today!

First published on 12th September 2019.

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Written by Jenny Hunt

Founder, Gateway Group, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, United Arab Emirates

FORBES' Top 100 Most Influential Women in the Middle East

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