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  • Writer's pictureJenny Hunt

What Comes First, Company Setup Or Winning A Contract?

15th September 2014

It is illegal to trade or operate in Abu Dhabi without a Commercial License. However, one of the most common things I hear from people keen to expand into the UAE, is that they want to win a contract first and do the business set up afterwards.

This is a typical chicken and egg situation. Setting up a company in the UAE involves initial investment and ongoing financial commitment, which can be expensive. Building connections and winning business can be slow and take time. Its very easy to understand why foreign companies aren’t keen to commit to investing until they have a contract signed.

However, from experience of working in the UAE, to be successful and really hit the ground running, you really need to have a presence here and be continually seen here. Local companies want to do business with other companies that are set up here, rather than with executives flying in and out. Also, this is where understand the local culture plays a significant role – meetings will generally be held over a period of time to build the relationship and generate trust before contracts are awarded. Also, local companies, and particularly government entities, like to see that foreign parties have committed to setting up here.

Its common to see companies visit Abu Dhabi, participating with exhibitions and trade delegations and subsequently returning for a number of visits, scouting for business and following up on leads; but its generally the companies that make the initial investment in setting up in the Abu Dhabi that thrive a lot more quickly here.

It isn’t to say that you won’t win work whilst you don’t have a trade license and you don’t have a commercial presence here, this does of course, happen; but nothing beats being here and having your finger on the pulse!

How can Gateway Group help your organisation to enter the Abu Dhabi market?

Gateway provides concierge company formation and a unique selection of local sponsor packages to foreign companies expanding to the UAE. Gateway protects its clients’ businesses and their profits. It provides foreign companies with the peace of mind their business is secure, they have full operational control, their profits are protected and their local sponsor is responsive whenever they might need support doing business in a new market. We can also assist with ongoing compliance requirements, such as visas processing and trade license renewals. Furthermore, from a human capital perspective, we can help your organisation to ensure you have the right people in place, appropriately motivated and maximizing productivity - ideal for getting your multicultural teams to work. To get started with expanding your business into the UAE, email us:

Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & CEO

Gateway Group Of Companies, Abu Dhabi & Dubai, UAE


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