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How (And Why) To Start A Tech Business In Dubai, UAE

Embark on your entrepreneurial journey in the UAE’s most thriving tech ecosystem with our introductory guide on how to start a tech business in Dubai.

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how and why to start a tech business in dubai uae
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Just like plants, great business ideas can only thrive in the right environment. And when it comes to tech businesses, no other place in the world offers more fertile ground than the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Dubai, a city known for its architectural wonders and bustling markets, recently topped the rankings as the world’s fastest-growing venture capital (VC) ecosystem. According to PitchBook’s analysis of data from the third quarter of 2017 to the second quarter of 2023, Dubai boasts a VC ecosystem growth score of 72.8.

This remarkable achievement places it ahead of renowned tech hubs in Europe and the United States. These figures are a testament to Dubai’s strategic initiatives and conducive business environment, which have collectively fostered an unprecedented growth trajectory in its tech sector.

If you’re among those who would like to leverage Dubai’s booming tech landscape, there’s never been a better time to start. In the following sections, we’ll provide you with the essential information you need to bring your tech business vision to life in the UAE.

Why Should I Base My Tech Business In Dubai?

Dubai hasn’t become the tech hub of the world for no reason. The government has made starting a business in the city remarkably straightforward and efficient by setting up over 40 Free-Trade Zones (FTZs).

These special business zones offer such highly attractive benefits as 100% foreign ownership, 100% repatriation of capital and profits, 100% exemption from corporate and income taxes, and 100% exemption from customs duty for goods and services moving in and out of the Free-Trade Zones.

Tech giants like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google have already taken advantage of the prime commercial office space available in Dubai Internet City (DIC) FTZ. In addition, businesses in Dubai’s free zones benefit from simplified accounting requirements, adding to the ease of doing business.

Enhanced privacy is another key feature of Dubai’s business landscape. The free zones do not maintain publicly visible company registers, so they provide an additional layer of privacy that many business owners value.

The city’s global appeal and diverse population ensure that businesses can easily find the right mix of skills and expertise to meet their objectives. At the same time, Dubai’s infrastructure, including reliable internet, telecommunications, and state-of-the-art office spaces and facilities, provides a solid foundation for tech companies to operate efficiently and effectively.

Last but not least, Dubai’s banking system is notably business-friendly. The presence of numerous international banks and a smooth process for financial transactions ensures that businesses can manage their financial operations with ease and assurance.

Who Can Start A Tech Business In Dubai?

Think Dubai’s tech scene is only for the big players? Think again. It’s a land of opportunity for anyone with a vision and the drive to see it through, including:

  • Entrepreneurs: If you have a unique idea and the determination to make it a reality, Dubai’s tech ecosystem is the perfect place to start. The city provides not just the technological infrastructure but also a supportive community to guide and nurture new entrepreneurs.
  • Startups: The city’s dynamic market and forward-thinking policies create an ideal environment for startups to grow and thrive. Plus, with numerous networking events and startup accelerators, young companies can find the support and resources they need to reach the next level.
  • Established Companies: The city’s global business environment and access to a wider market can propel established companies into new realms of success without turning their accounting into a complex maze.

Regardless of which of these categories your tech business falls into, Dubai offers a conducive environment for growth and innovation.

What Do I Need To Start A Technology Business In Dubai?

The beauty of starting a technology business in the United Arab Emirates is that it doesn’t take much effort to complete the process. Here’s a quick overview to get you started:

  1. Identify your business activity: First, you need to decide on the nature of your tech business. The UAE free zones offer various types of business licenses based on your business activity, ranging from e-commerce to innovation, and including options like Commercial Trade, Consultancy Services, and more.
  2. Decide your company’s legal structure: Your business can take one of three legal forms in the UAE free zone: Free Zone Limited Liability Company (FZ LLC), Free Zone Company (FZ Co.), or Free Zone Establishment (FZE). This choice will depend on your business’s specific needs and the nature of your activities.
  3. Register your trade name: Choosing a unique trade name is crucial. It should not only be distinctive but also comply with certain terms and conditions, like not containing inappropriate words or the names of rulers or government agencies.
  4. Select your business location: With over 40 free zones in the UAE, pick one that aligns with your business activity. As we’ve already mentioned, most tech businesses are located in Dubai Internet City, so that’s probably the right choice for you as well.
  5. Obtain initial approval & pay fees: Getting initial approval involves fulfilling specific requirements and submitting necessary documents. Commonly required documents include:
    • Completed application form: The official form for registering a new business.
    • Business plan: A detailed document outlining the business’s goals, strategies, and operations.
    • Passport copies of shareholders and appointed manager: Identification documents for the business’s key personnel.
    • Notarized Registry Identification Code Form for the manager: An official, notarized document verifying the manager’s identity.
    • Specimen signatures: Official signature samples of the company’s key personnel.
    • Letter of Intent: A document outlining the intentions or plans of the potential investor or business owner.
    • Financial reports or bank reference letters, if required: Documents showing the financial health or credibility of the business or owner.
    • Registration application: The form used to apply for a freelancer or professional license.
    • CV or profile: A resume or professional profile detailing experience and qualifications.
    • Bank reference letter: A letter from a bank vouching for the individual’s financial reliability.
  6. Pay registration fees: Now you just need to pay the required fees to complete the registration. These fees vary depending on the type of business license and the specific free zone you choose for your company.

For more comprehensive information, check the website of the UAE Ministry of Economy.

Dubai Tech Success Stories To Inspire And Motivate You

The following success stories showcase the immense possibilities when entrepreneurs harness the power and potential of Dubai’s thriving business ecosystem.

Anastasia Denisova, a 23-year-old Russian expat, is a shining example of youthful ambition meeting opportunity. As the CEO of a Dubai-based AI property portal, she has steered her company to generate an impressive $1 million every month since 2022. Denisova’s journey is remarkable for her focus on personal well-being and work-life balance, proving that success doesn’t have to come at the cost of personal happiness.

The story of Rabih Bou Rached, a Lebanese expat, is an inspiring tale of evolution. From waiting tables as a teenager to running a drone company in the UAE, Bou Rached’s journey underscores the transformative power of perseverance and vision. His entrepreneurial path, which began in the food and beverage industry, took a pivotal turn with his introduction to drones, leading to the successful establishment of a commercial drone service provider in Dubai.

There’s also Charbel Nasr, who transitioned from a banker at age 21 to the head of a payment platform at 33. According to the Lebanese expat, his shift from a secure banking job to the world of FinTech in Dubai wouldn’t be possible without the city’s ability to foster innovation and encourage entrepreneurial ventures in diverse fields.

Conclusion

Dubai’s position as a global tech hub is firmly established, and there’s nothing stopping tech businesses from around the world from joining it and reaping the numerous financial, operational, and strategic benefits it offers. We hope that our concise guide has illuminated the path for your own entrepreneurial journey in this thriving city and the United Arab Emirates as a whole.

Bonus: Check out our comprehensive guide on how start an online tech business in Dubai.

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Guides

Top E-Commerce Websites In The Middle East In 2024

Discover the top e-commerce websites shaping the Middle East’s online shopping scene in 2024 in our roundup of market leaders and emerging platforms.

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The e-commerce landscape in the Middle East is thriving. Whether you’re on the hunt for the newest gadgets, fashion, or home goods, our list of the top e-commerce websites in the Middle East provides an essential overview of the biggest and most influential sites that make online shopping a breeze. And if you’re on the selling side, you should be able to discover at least one platform where your products can easily reach a vast and engaged audience.

Quick Summary Of The Top 11 Best e-Commerce Platforms In The Middle East:

Website: Monthly Visits: Founded: Headquarters: Product Category:
Amazon.ae 24.9M 2019 Dubai, UAE General
Noon 16.6M 2016 Riyadh, KSA General
Daraz 12.4M 2012 Karachi, Pakistan General
Desertcart 3.8M 2014 Dubai, UAE General
Digikala 3.6M 2006 Tehran, Iran General, Digital Goods
Namshi 2.7M 2011 Dubai, UAE Fashion, Footwear, Beauty
Jumia Egypt 2.4M 2012 Lagos, Nigeria General
Mumzworld 1.4M 2011 Dubai, UAE Mother, Baby, Child Essentials
The Luxury Closet 924K 2012 Dubai, UAE Pre-Owned Luxury Goods
OUNASS 616K 2016 Dubai, UAE Luxury Fashion, Beauty, Home
Sivvi 132K 2014 Dubai, UAE Fashion

The Middle East Is Fast-Tracking E-Commerce Growth

In recent years, the global e-commerce market has skyrocketed, with Deloitte projecting a leap to $6.35 trillion in revenue by 2027. The Middle East, previously taking baby steps in this digital domain, has caught up at an astonishing pace, thanks to better internet, the rise of smartphones, and a newfound love for the ease of online shopping.

The pandemic played its part as the catalyst of MENA’s online shopping boom. With shopping from home becoming the new norm, the Middle East saw a dramatic pivot towards e-commerce, leading to a surge in demand for all things deliverable. Today, the sector is blossoming, set to hit a staggering $50 billion by 2025. The UAE market, a star in this digital constellation, is projected to grow from $10.37 billion in 2023 to $13.93 billion by 2027.

It’s clear that the e-commerce scene here is on a meteoric rise, backed by what has become near-total internet penetration and a digital payment preference shared by 70% of MENA consumers. While it’s difficult to predict who will emerge as the market leaders in the years to come, given the fast pace of technological innovation and shifting consumer habits, we know which e-commerce websites are leading the charge right now.

#1- Amazon.ae (Formally Souq)

amazon united arab emirates

🌐 Monthly Visits: 24.9 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2019
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: General

Amazon.ae became what it is today thanks to the acquisition of Souq.com, once the largest e-commerce website in the entire Arab world. The US tech giant spent $580 million to integrate Souq.com under its banner. This move not only expanded Amazon’s reach but also upgraded the shopping experience for millions in the Middle East with its vast product selection.

Just like Amazon.com, the UAE-specific website offers everything from the latest tech gizmos to fashion finds, home essentials, and beauty products, and more. If you can name it, Amazon.ae likely has it. But it’s not just about the range; the platform is renowned for its user-friendly experience, reliable delivery, and customer service that’s got your back.

#2- Noon.com

noon website

🌐 Monthly Visits: 16.6 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2016
🏒 Headquarters: Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: General

With roots in the UAE and a reach that extends into Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Noon is a homegrown marketplace that brings a diverse array of products right to the doorsteps of the Middle East. Launched by business tycoon Mohamed Alabbar and backed by the hefty support of the Public Investment Fund, Noon has quickly made its mark since its inception in 2016.

The site is a bustling hub for electronics, fashion, home goods, and even groceries. In August 2022, it expanded its fashion footprint by acquiring Namshi, further cementing its status as a full-spectrum lifestyle shopping destination. For sellers, Noon.com offers its Seller Lab and Fulfillment program, which simplifies logistics and order fulfillment so businesses can focus on what they do best β€” selling quality products.

#3- Daraz

daraz pakistan

🌐 Monthly Visits: 12.4 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2012
🏒 Headquarters: Karachi, Pakistan
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: General

Daraz might have started as a modest online fashion retailer in Pakistan in 2012, but don’t let its humble beginnings fool you. This platform has quickly evolved into a leading e-commerce powerhouse in South Asia, serving not just Pakistan but also Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. With the backing of tech giant Alibaba since 2018, Daraz has widened its catalog and sharpened its technological edge.

What’s remarkable about Daraz is its keen understanding of the local markets. It’s more than a shopping site; it’s a community builder, connecting over 34,500 sellers to millions of customers. From the busy streets of Karachi to the remote valleys of Chitral, Daraz makes sure that no matter where you are, you can buy or sell just about anything. And with a young, tech-savvy population that’s rapidly embracing digital payments β€” Daraz is at the forefront of shaping a digitalized Pakistan.

#4- Desertcart

desertcart

🌐 Monthly Visits: 3.8 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2006
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: General

Established in 2014, Desertcart has become a go-to e-commerce platform in the UAE, known for sourcing products that locals might struggle to find. At its core, Desertcart’s approach is all about simplicity and service – think of it as a hybrid of Amazon’s expansive inventory and a personalized shop-and-ship solution, topped off with attentive customer support.

When the pandemic hit, Desertcart’s relevance soared, with the platform tripling its business. This surge was driven by its effective system that simplifies the complexities of international shopping. For customers looking for products from across the globe, Desertcart stepped in to streamline the process, managing the logistical hoops of shipping, customs, and after-sales service, which proved to be invaluable, especially when international supply chains were disrupted and local availability limited.

#5- Digikala

digikala e-commerce

🌐 Monthly Visits: 3.6 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2006
🏒 Headquarters: Tehran, Iran
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: General, Digital Goods

Digikala has etched its name as Iran’s premier online marketplace, offering a one-stop-shop for an array of products, with a sweet spot for electronics and digital goods. It’s the brainchild of two brothers, Hamid and Saeid Mohammadi, who, fueled by their frustrating experience trying to purchase a digital camera, decided to create a solution. With just $10,000 from their savings, they launched Digikala in 2006, and it’s been on an upward trajectory ever since.

Key to securing customer trust are Digital’s consumer-centric features, like a 7-day return policy and an express delivery service. The platform has adopted various innovative strategies, including a pay-per-sale commission model, to stay afloat during economic downturns and continue serving millions of Iranians, even in the most remote villages.

#6- Namshi

namshi

🌐 Monthly Visits: 2.7 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2011
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: Fashion, Footwear, Accessories, Beauty

Namshi has been turning heads in the Middle East’s online fashion scene since its inception in 2011. Based in Dubai, this e-commerce platform has made a name for itself as the go-to destination for those looking to spruce up their wardrobe with the latest trends.

Namshi has smartly leveraged technology to simplify operations and manage the hefty traffic it garners, especially during sales and seasonal promotions. Because of its success across all fronts, Namshi was acquired by Noon in 2022, but it continues to operate as a distinctive brand within the e-commerce landscape. This acquisition has allowed Namshi to leverage Noon’s extensive regional infrastructure, enhancing its reach and operational capabilities.

#7- Jumia Egypt

jumia egypt

🌐 Monthly Visits: 2.4 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2012
🏒 Headquarters: Lagos, Nigeria
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: General

Jumia Egypt, part of a broader Pan-African e-commerce pioneer, launched in 2012. It’s like a bustling digital marketplace that brings together a variety of sellers and products, ranging from tech gadgets to fashion, and everything in between. As a tech company, Jumia has knitted a complex web of logistics and payment services, simplifying the online shopping process for millions. While its roots are in Nigeria, Jumia’s branches stretch across the continent, with Egypt being one of its biggest markets.

Behind the scenes, Jumia is continually refining its technological backbone. In 2021, the company ramped up its tech center in Egypt, aiming to supercharge its services across Africa. And when COVID-19 hit, accelerating digital transitions, Jumia Egypt was ready, providing a lifeline to both consumers and entrepreneurs, including a substantial number of women who run businesses on the platform.

#8- Mumzworld

mumzworld

🌐 Monthly Visits: 1.4 Million
πŸ“… Founded: 2011
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: Mother, Baby, Child Essentials

Mumzworld offers a huge selection of baby and childcare products to Middle Eastern shoppers. Founded in 2011 by a team of experienced parents and entrepreneurs, the website quickly established itself as a comprehensive one-stop online shop for everything a parent might need β€” from newborn essentials to toys for toddlers and gear for pre-teens.

At Mumzworld, the focus is on variety, quality, and the ease of having it all in one place. It’s got a clear edge with its extensive product range, hosting over 120,000 items from more than 600 top global brands. Whether you’re after a bottle that’s just right for your baby or the safest car seat for your growing toddler, Mumzworld offers it all, coupled with insightful customer reviews and competitive pricing.

#9- The Luxury Closet

the luxury closet

🌐 Monthly Visits: 924,000
πŸ“… Founded: 2012
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: Pre-Owned Luxury Goods

This Dubai-based platform, launched in 2012, has quickly risen to prominence by providing access to coveted high-end brands at significantly reduced prices. In 2021, The Luxury Closet successfully raised $14 million to expand its reach and solidify its position as a leader in sustainable luxury commerce. Here, fans of luxury can indulge in the likes of Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Rolex, brands that are renowned for their reluctance to discount their wares. The Luxury Closet makes these aspirational labels more accessible, offering an average discount of 60% off retail.

Beyond the allure of savings, The Luxury Closet is driven by a mission to extend the lifecycle of luxury items, promoting a sustainable approach to fashion that resonates with a growing base of eco-conscious consumers. It’s a place where the past prestige of designer items meets the present desire for value and virtue.

#10- OUNASS

ounass e-commerce

🌐 Monthly Visits: 616,000
πŸ“… Founded: 2016
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: Luxury Fashion, Beauty Products, Home Goods

Since its inception in 2016 by the Al Tayer Group, OUNASS has become one of the go-to destinations for luxury fashion, beauty products, and home goods in the Middle East, offering over 300 opulent brands.

OUNASS promises 2-hour delivery within Dubai and same-day dispatch across the UAE, so shoppers with deep pockets don’t have to wait to wrap themselves in the luxury they’ve purchased. This level of service is complimented by potential savings, as OUNASS often features deals that allow for a more accessible foray into the world of high fashion without the steep price tags.

#11- Sivvi

sivvi e-commerce

🌐 Monthly Visits: 132,000
πŸ“… Founded: 2014
🏒 Headquarters: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
πŸ›οΈ Product Category: Fashion

Born in 2014 and now powered by the e-commerce giant Noon, it’s quickly become a high-traffic destination for fashionistas in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Sivvi dishes out a mix of high-street and luxury brands, serving up the latest trends and wardrobe staples for women, men, and kids alike. With over 2,000 brands under its belt, the platform delivers everything from casual tees and denim to designer dresses and activewear, not to mention accessories and beauty products to tie your look together.

With an intuitive app, shopping is a breeze, offering personalized recommendations, easy-to-navigate categories, and a wishlist to bookmark those must-have items. And if you’re impatient for your fashion fix, Sivvi’s got you covered with fast delivery options, including same-day service in Riyadh and next-day in many KSA and UAE cities. What seals the deal are their customer-friendly policies like free returns within 14 days and a range of payment methods.

Conclusion

Our exploration of the top e-commerce websites in the Middle East has highlighted everything from sprawling generalists like Amazon.ae and Noon.com to online stores such as Namshi and Sivvi. As the region continues to embrace the digital revolution, with a young, tech-savvy population and increasing internet penetration, e-commerce is set to flourish even further.

Note: Traffic data for the e-commerce websites listed comes from SimilarWeb.

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