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Dubai sees a small fortune in the SME sector

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Dubai sees a small fortune in the SME sector
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The Dubai Government is stepping up its efforts to help Small and Medium-sized Enterprises that are seen as the backbone of the Emirates economy.

More than 90 per cent of companies operating in Dubai fit the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise, or SME, category.

Aref Abdulrahman Ahli, Executive Director of Budget and Planning at Dubai's Department of Finance, told Target Dubai that the percentage of employment opportunities from SMEs had grown from 42 per cent in 2009 to 53 per cent.

“This proves the importance of SMEs and the big role they play in the economy of the Emirates,” he said.

SMEs have been identified as one of the most important strategic drivers to support productive sectors, according to the UAE Ministry of Economy.

With that in mind, the government recently announced a set of measures to help stimulate SMEs. They include paying them within 30 days instead of 90 and reducing insurance costs – helping them to continue to thrive in this busy business city.

Dubai is also encouraging start-ups. The annual Step Conference is the largest of its kind in the Middle East, hosting some of the best entrepreneurs, creatives, and digital enthusiasts with more than 250 companies showcasing their ideas.

Fadi Ghandoor, Chairman of the Wamda Group, said Dubai is excelling in this field because it understands the importance of the sector and “makes it happen”.

“Dubai thinks strategically,” he said. “Other cities need to learn. It’s a decision-making process. There is vision and they basically promise something and deliver on it so people come here.”

Younger start-ups make up nearly half of the companies in Dubai, which has helped the city establish itself as an international centre for entrepreneurship.

One such firm is NorthStart, a recruitment company set up to increase workforce inclusion levels for people with learning disabilities across the Middle East.

They offer training and guidance on placements in conjunction with iCademy Middle East.

Co-founder Ricky Mearns told Target Dubai: “There are no other organisations in Dubai doing this. My background is in inclusion across the board and communities and education.”

Another company making waves is Aquabrade, which has designed flotation aids for children learning to swim.

They were developed by a British paediatrician and use unique technology.

Founding partner Amanda Gordon said: “They’re easy for the parents to put on and difficult for the kids to get off and they keep the children floating in the water and the kids are really comfortable with them.”

The company has just done its first big deal with Jumeirah Water Parks.

“I think what makes us different as entrepreneurs is that we’ve done it all off our own back,” Ms Gordon said. “We don’t have any big investors, we haven’t got any bank loans, we haven’t done anything that every other small business is doing. For a product like ours, tourism is perfect and Dubai’s built on tourism.”