Premium free zones and the UAE’s best business consultants: Paving your road to success

Noble Horvath

Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director. HFZA Image Credit: Supplied HAMRIYAH FREE ZONE AUTHORITY Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director What is HFZA doing to attract business from global players, especially in a post-COVID world? We are following a well-thought-out strategy to attract new investments and investors. Understanding the restrictions brought about […]

Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director. HFZA
Image Credit: Supplied

HAMRIYAH FREE ZONE AUTHORITY

Saud Salim Al Mazrouei, Director

What is HFZA doing to attract business from global players, especially in a post-COVID world?

We are following a well-thought-out strategy to attract new investments and investors. Understanding the restrictions brought about by the pandemic, we are fully utilising the digital media platforms in reaching out to new investors. We are continuously working to conclude many bilateral agreements with major countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and America to attract more investors in various sectors, and I must emphasise here that HFZA has seen many large companies joining the group of successful firms operating in the free zone during the pandemic.

This indeed reflects our full commitment to developing, upgrading and improving our infrastructure, and highlights the increasing attractiveness and importance of the free zone, which has become a starting point for many investors looking to set up a business or expand in the region’s markets, which eventually reinforces Sharjah’s position as an attractive destination for foreign investments.

SHARJAH MEDIA CITY (SHAMS)

Khalid Omar Al Midfa, Chairman

There’s a been a lot of buzz created around the recent partnership announced this month between Shams and the UAE’s first regulated peer-to-peer lending platform, Beehive. Please elaborate on how this tie-up came about and what it entails for small business?

Shams’ partnership with Beehive is testament to our commitment towards helping the entrepreneurial community in the region. We recognised the importance of funding for SMEs and how it can be a make-or-break factor for promising entrepreneurs in the UAE. Through this initiative, we will be able to lend a helping hand to such entrepreneurs and help them flourish.

What does the term creative entrepreneurship entail and how does SHAMS make this accessible to prospective clients?

Traditional entrepreneurship has mainly been focused on manufacturing and industrial products. Our focus on creative entrepreneurship stems from the need to support businesses which utilise their intellectual knowledge and skills to thrive. Businesses built on creative ideas are the ones with the potential to disrupt the market and change the way business is conducted on a day-to-day basis. At Shams, we fuel creative entrepreneurship by reducing their cost of entry into the market and by providing them a supportive ecosystem for them to thrive. Through various events and exhibitions, we also provide our startups a platform to showcase their business to potential clients, partners and investors.

There is a lot of dialogue around how the media industry in the region is in a state of flux, especially because of the pandemic. As the Chairman of one of the foremost entities channeling enterprise within the sector in Sharjah and the UAE, how do you read the changes being wrought within the media industry and how do you see it adapting in a post-Covid world?

It is the very nature of media to adapt and evolve as per the ever-changing circumstances in the market. The media industry has been improvising consistently, even during the pre-Covid era. However, the pandemic has pushed the industry into a direction where digital media is king, a reality most industries are gradually accepting aand dapting to the best of their abilities. The pandemic, whilst having an obstructive impact on traditional media, gave digital media the chance to shine.

Within Shams, we have witnessed a surge of entrepreneurs opting for our digital licenses, be it e-commerce, mobile-app development or digital advertising. Businesses with a strong digital footprint have been able to weather this storm and we are gradually seeing others following suit.

UMM AL QUWAIN FREE TRADE ZONE AUTHORITY

Shaikh Khalid Bin Rashid Al Mu’alla, Chairman

Please share some details on the recent tie-up between Umm Al Quwain Free Trade Zone (UAQFTZ) had with the Ukrainian Business Council and what it entails for SMEs?

We are actively promoting synergies with the international business community, proven by the recent tie-up with Ukrainian Business Council (UBC). This permits UBC members and Ukrainian businesses already registered with UAQFTZ to enjoy mutual business privileges. We partner with various organisations, industries, services and geographies to usher in a vibrant business climate in our free zone. Around the world businesses are exploring value-for-money business destinations to survive in a market that is price-competitive. Our strategic location helps SMEs to tap in on the logistic advantage by streamlining their supply chain operations too. This is where we can be a key contributor, by helping them reduce Capex cost and increase cash flow.

As part of our policy planning for business sustainability, we have introduced a phased incentive programme to help SMEs recover from the pandemic-induced slowdown. In the earlier months after the outbreak, we introduced innovative incentives which included rental holidays, license extensions and reduction in service fees, helping our investors to bounce back quickly. As there is a rapid shift to online platforms for shopping and services, we reworked our e-commerce license with more value to help SMEs explore omni-channel strategies.

– Shaikh Khalid Bin Rashid Al Mu’alla, Chairman, UAQ FTZ

SMEs are exploring new modes of business setup for a post-Covid world. How is UAQFTZ helping SMEs in this regard?

As part of our policy planning for business sustainability, we have introduced a phased incentive programme to help SMEs recover from the pandemic-induced slowdown. In the earlier months after the outbreak, we introduced innovative incentives which included rental holidays, license extensions and reduction in service fees, helping our investors to bounce back quickly. As there is a rapid shift to online platforms for shopping and services, we reworked our e-commerce license with more value to help SMEs explore omni-channel strategies. Our low-cost e-commerce licenses saw a surge in sales in the last quarter as it offered the best benefits in MENA for businesses that wanted to gain market share by adding e-commerce fronts too. More recently, we announced our LYTE packages that entail an exclusive government subsidy for setting up.

As one of the leading free zone bodies in the Northern Emirates, how do you see the free zone sector evolving to meet the needs of future entrepreneurs?

The evolving market environment has demanded that free zones stay focused on innovative strategy and inventory planning, and reinvent value through a multitude of finance options and discounts to express solidarity with entrepreneurs.

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Syam Panayickal Prabhu, Founder and Managing Director, Aurion Business Consultants
Image Credit: Supplied

AURION BUSINESS CONSULTANTS

Syam Panayickal Prabhu, Founder and Managing Director

What are the challenges the firm faced during Covid, how did you circumvent them?

The Covid pandemic was an unexpected catastrophe that shook the business world. The skills of business leaders were put to the litmus test. As a manager, it was the time to prove my mettle and instill confidence in our team. We beat Covid by taking all precautionary measures and also abided by the instruction of authorities. Our team gave confidence to clients and worked relentlessly from home to address all their issues. As the saying goes: ‘When the going gets tough, the tough get going’.

The SME sector is seeing a tectonic shift in operations during the Covid era. How do you read the market in the next couple of years?

Free zones were quick to take the decision of registering companies remotely and this gave new impetus to the licensing process. Utilising technology, SME businesses can be managed more effectively spending less time and money. The market has already adapted to the new normal.

How do you chart Aurion’s growth trajectory in the coming five years?

We are already in discussion with intermediary consultants in a few countries for the issuance of franchises and sought for their compliance with our standards. We presume that a perfect deal will be executed with at least 50 consultants in different countries within a span of one year.

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Hatem El Safty, CEO, Business Link UAE
Image Credit: Supplied

BUSINESS LINK UAE

Established in 1999, Business Link is intrinsically linked with the UAE’s entrepreneurial quotient. How do you read the change in entrepreneurial initiatives over the past 2 decades?

The UAE has grown rapidly from an economy dependent to being one of the Middle East’s most important economic hubs. Undergoing a period of great social, political, and economic transformation, the UAE today is a burgeoning hub of commercial innovation and entrepreneurship. Service providers as global giants enter the UAE market through acquisitions, joint ventures, or direct entry. Now we are in the midst of an uplift of digital entrepreneurship in MENA. In terms of its support for entrepreneurship the UAE has been active on many fronts, there has been encouraging progress with entrepreneurial and SME policy, support for innovation, the financing of entrepreneurship. Startups got many funding opportunities.

There is a lot of interest among local entrepreneurs to set up business in Saudi Arabia with markets opening up in the Kingdom. How is Business Link helping facilitate new businesses set up shop in Saudi Arabia?

Saudi Arabia has emerged as a vibrant destination to do business. You can establish your branch company in SAGIA if you already have an established existing company or sole establishment which is not less than one year old. It will take up to 10 to 15 working days to complete all the formalities from the day we receive all the required original documents. Our KSA business setup package costs 44,000 SAR including license fee and all government portals registrations, plus one year virtual office and P O Box.

Are there any expansion plans for the firm?

For sure! We are planning to expand our business setup services all over the MENA within the next three to four years.

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Ayub Ahmed Sait, Managing Partner and CEO
Image Credit: Supplied

CAPITAL INTERNATIONAL GROUP (CIG)

Ayub Ahmed Sait, Managing Partner and CEO

What are the main benefits that CIG offers prospective clients looking at setting up business in the UAE?

The time we live in is highly dynamic. It requires immediate reaction, flexibility, and critical and, at the same time, creative thinking. At CIG we give customers more than an idea on the easiest and most cost-effective ways for new incorporation. We also advise on the optimal way for company registration. Our customers find valuable information regarding business set up and all other aspects of doing business here.

Are there any exclusive Covid related packages that the firm created to boost confidence among entrepreneurs?

CIG launched three different packages during the time, catering to all areas mandatory for incorporation with multiple payment options and 0 per cent easy instalments plans from leading UAE banks. Even as we as an enterprise tries to figure out a way to come out of this crisis, we continue to remain committed to supporting the start up entrepreneurial ecosystem, and thus are eager to help our community of entrepreneurs, startups, and SMEs navigate a way out of this coronavirus pandemic, together with us.

Please share some information on the Serviced Office Solutions that CIG provides. Also, what is the Virtual Office all about?

The Capital’s Luxurious Private and Serviced offices are a class above the rest, and customers can choose from a selection of more than 85 plus offices that come fully furnished and serviced. Each independent desk space has built in storage units and includes all modern set up and amenities making it an ideal work environment. We offer additional benefits, included with all the office rentals. The Capital’s Virtual Office Services are the smart and cost effective solution for managing business registration and administrative requirements. We worry about the details while customers get on with the business of expanding their company without expensive overhead costs.

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Lorenzo Jooris, CEO
Image Credit: Supplied

CREATIVE ZONE

How does Creative Zone act as a one-stop-shop for entrepreneurs to set up and grow their business?

Setting up a business doesn’t end with just acquiring a license, there are multiple procedures, and checks one needs to fulfil. For example, opening a business bank account can often get complicated depending on the nationality of the investor, jurisdiction of the license, and more thereby making it crucial to gain the right advice straight through the initial stages. Similarly, it is only months into a growing business that the owner may realise the importance and necessity to having a good business address and telephone number for business cards, tax and accounting services, insurance requirements, recruitment of staff, media and marketing solutions, and more. Creative Zone focuses on solving these unforeseen concerns by creating an ecosystem that helps and supports entrepreneurs from start to end through an array of solutions addressing every business need with its extended partners.

You joined Creative Zone as its CEO in the beginning of the year, just before the pandemic struck. What are the challenges the firm has faced in the last few months and how have you dealt with them?

The pandemic caused much uncertainty, triggering several other challenges. However, I believe the key to good management, especially in a crisis is to set priorities, maintain clear communication with employees and clients and set short-term goals.

Having helped an astonishing 36,000 firms set up business in the UAE over its history, what are the main challenges you’ve seen entrepreneurs face when setting up business?

Opening a bank account is increasingly getting difficult, according to a survey 65 per cent of entrepreneurs find opening a bank account a challenge, this is due to the increasing regulations banks are posing, plus finding a reasonable office space is another problem startup owners face.

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Mariben Eustaquio, Managing Director
Image Credit: Supplied

DECISIVE ZONE

Mariben Eustaquio, Managing Director, Decisive Zone

How has Decisive Zone incentivised SMEs during the pandemic, what were the special packages offered?

During the pandemic, Decisive Zone has waived all its processing fees for both free zone and mainland companies for new licenses as well as license renewals. Furthermore, seeing how the pandemic has impacted lots of SMEs in the region, Decisive Zone has rolled out a package to support Dubai mainland entities for free first-year local sponsorship on new license and free 1-year local sponsorships for existing companies looking to cut down their sponsorship costs and moving their sponsorship.

What are the challenges you see SMEs facing in a post-Covid world and how can Decisive Zone help them manage the same?

As SMEs lack the resources and financial stability of larger companies, they are the ones most impacted by the global slowdown. This vulnerability to disruption within the economy is the SME’s biggest challenge. However, depending on industry, there is an opportunity in every challenge and this is where Decisive Zone comes in. We can assist existing SMEs review and cut their operating costs in terms of licensing as well as assist them with their outsourcing needs such as providing accounting, marketing and PA services. Furthermore, we are here to support aspiring entrepreneurs in making their business ideas a reality by giving them proper, unbiased, and sound advice on setting up their company, with the goal of supporting SMEs in focusing their limited resources (be it time or money) to what is most important – growing their business.

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Mamta Raj, Managing Director
Image Credit: Supplied

FLYING COLOUR

Mamta Raj, Managing Director

What incentives did Flying Colour offer SMEs to set up or continue running business during the pandemic?

Flying Colour provides various business support services creating an ecosystem, allowing business owners to not only sustain but also grow their businesses. The UAE Government has displayed exemplary resilience to Covid-19 and designed concrete action to combat the situation at hand. Flying Colour in line to support UAE business owners has taken multiple steps. The intricately designed systems and processes in the company allowed smooth functioning during the lockdown scenario and work was delivered to business owners without any hassle. Our team is in close communication with clients, giving them a sense of comfort and they know that we are in the same boat.

Incentives to support businesses during the pandemic that we initiated include communicating to our clients the various incentive schemes announced by the government for businesses during the pandemic. This was done in a timely manner so that they could take advantage. We also introduced flexible payment options with cost effective company structures, providing clients a platform to kick start their new venture effectively. There were also complimentary services on offer and we also digitalised the process to avoid visits during the pandemic.

Throw some light on the exclusive package that Flying Colour offers its patrons, with special emphasis on facilitating a Mainland Professional License and the cost of free zone setup.

Having founded and operated since 2004,the company has been a reliable and trusted partner for startups and entrepreneurs setting up their business in Mainland & Freezone. Flying Colour has always focused on providing researched advisory to start ups and entrepreneurs that would allow them to grow their business without any structural defects in the long term. Having said that, we accordingly suggest the most suitable company structure which is aligned to the business needs and cost effective. Our mainland package starts from Dh16,000 however we cannot generalise the costs as it would depend entirely on the business activity of the entrepreneur. Likewise, many free zones offer lucrative freelancing options starting from D6,000, allowing entrepreneurs to start work with minimum capital investments. Given the fact that we have successfully registered companies in the field of trading, manufacturing, education, real estate, healthcare, ecommerce, delivery services, restaurants and more, it is pertinent to note that the costs needs to be systematically determined & derived as per the business model of the client.

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Farina Ahmad, CEO
Image Credit: Supplied

MAKE MY FIRM

What is the USP that Make My Firm offers entrepreneurs planning to set up business in the UAE?

Make My Firm is among the fastest growing business setup consultants and advisory firms in Dubai. We always try to ensure a deep commitment and timely execution of our work with all compliance and technical guidance on business set up for clients. Mainland companies are registered under the Dubai Economic Department with the benefits of quick issuance of business license in three hours on fast track basis and easy opening of bank accounts with options of non Usage and physical office requirements. Our key services include Mainland Company Formation with commercial or professional license; company incorporation documents drafting and execution; assistance on UAE nation partner or service agent as per the license category; residency visa issuance for investors, employees and family visas; PRO services and more.

How diverse is your service portfolio?

We are glad to introduce our expertise on business set up services in several areas that include everything from helping provide professional and commercial licenses, real estate company formation and educational Institutes with KHDA approvals, to bsiness set up services for health care consultancy firms, medical services and trading license and architectural engineering consultancy as well as other allied services.

TRADE LICENSE ZONE (TLZ)

Karl Hougaard, Founder and Managing Partner

Please share a brief history of the group.

Launched about two years ago and as the new kid on the block, our absolute focus is on doing things differently for our clients by offering personal service, trusted guidance and affordable solutions. We are a one-stop-shop for business setup in the UAE and offer guidance and support with free zone and mainland license and visa applications as well as a range of other business support services. In addition to company setup services, we offer a full suite of office solutions, including co-working space, dedicated fully-furnished offices, meeting room facilities, reception management and allied services.

With numerous partnerships with free zones throughout the UAE, we are able to offer the latest streamlined and cost-effective business packages on any day. At present, this ranges from special media licenses to subsidised Woman Entrepreneur packages. I would have to say, however, that the most popular business activity currently is e-commerce, being the main reason we recently launched eBorderless.com to support those startups.

– Karl Hougaard, Founder and Managing Partner, Trade License Zone

Could you shed some light on the latest promotions being offered by the brand?

With numerous partnerships with free zones throughout the UAE, we are able to offer the latest streamlined and cost-effective business packages on any day. At present, this ranges from special media licenses to subsidised Woman Entrepreneur packages. I would have to say, however, that the most popular business activity currently is e-commerce, being the main reason we recently launched eBorderless.com to support those startups.

What are the future plans for the brand?

We just about doubled in size over the last year and now serve our clients from our two branches in Dubai Media City and Jumeirah Lake Towers. We will be opening a third branch in Business Bay soon and are well into the planning stages of opening several international representative offices by early 2021.

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