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The Key to a Successful Muslim Business Community


Historically, Muslims in Singapore are a community of traders and entrepreneurs. That was only natural as many are descendants of Indian and Arab Muslim traders who travelled to South East Asia seeking profit and business expansion.

These traders integrated easily into the local business scene, which was already thriving due to the strong business culture of the local Malays and Peranakan Muslims as well as their spirit of gotong-royong (community collaboration). This merging of communities resulted in a thriving market environment which offered employment and services to the community.

However, it is a different story in today’s Singapore. Today’s Singapore is one of the richest countries in the world and a leader in global trade and commerce. Despite this, the Muslim community in the marketplace is underrepresented and underdeveloped.

With the exception of ‘Muslim-based’ businesses, most Singaporeans do not opt to buy products of Muslim businesses. Worryingly, even ‘Muslim-based’ businesses are losing their dominance in their niche industries. This is happening because Muslim consumers are buying based on merit – non-Muslim businesses tend to give a better deal, in quality or price, which shows a lack of development on the side of Muslim businesses.

They are even losing competition to non-Muslim businesses in previously ‘untouchable’ sectors, such as Muslim-Wedding catering.

The Paradox of the Muslim Consumer

The Muslim consumer, like any other consumer, is susceptible to falling to the prevalent, capitalist view that material possessions equal to success. The current materialist approach to life is a manifestation of this. Thus, workers become consumers that only work to spend, in order to satisfy their insatiable desire for worldly possessions. It is a vicious cycle that leaves workers unable to shape the culture and mentality of their society in a meaningful direction. This is the danger in having a Muslim community primarily made up of workers.

This is not to say that a working-class community is necessarily a bad thing. Work, when done in moderation and with gratitude, can be a form of Ibadah or worship.

However, the current situation of Muslim consumers in most communities do not reflect that. It is not rational to acknowledge that the source of all things is Allah SWT and that our Rizq (sustenance) is entirely dependent on what He had set for us, while simultaneously subscribing to the view that Material possession somehow defines success, and even worse, define ourselves. This is the paradox of the Muslim consumer. Our fundamental beliefs conflict with this fundamentally flawed valuation of life.

A Revival is Due

It is apparent that the Muslim community must be brought back to its golden age of commerce and have its spirit of entrepreneurship revived. To do that, we must return to doing business in accordance with Islamic principles. The universal good inherent in Islamic business practices and Muamalat has tremendous potential in recovering this depressed economy and reducing the widespread inequality present.

The Quran says:

‘And Allah gives provision to whom He wills without limitations.’ Quran 2:21

What we understand from the above verse is that Muslims should recognise that the pleasure of The Creator is the primary objective in any transaction, and we should act accordingly. Consequently, the profit motive will be demoted to its rightful place as a secondary priority, present only to incentivize efficiency and ensure long-term sustainability.

Encouragingly, there are some signs of positive change, notably the revival of Youth Entrepreneurship. This is largely possible because of the inclusive nature of the digital age. Thanks to technology and the connectivity brought by social media many traditional barriers to entry have been removed, allowing talented entrepreneurs to achieve noteworthy success. These businesses are often able to cross over from the virtual realm to thrive as brick and mortar businesses. This is indeed an encouraging development in the world of Islamic Commerce.

In the meantime, the entrepreneurial mind must also be developed so as to create entrepreneurs that are trained to view problems as opportunities. Fortunately, we see a wave of such youthful talent emerging, and we need to embrace them and support them.

What we need to do

Before embarking on reform, old, regressive habits must be discarded to make way for new, constructive ones. We need to go back to the roots of true Islamic Business spirit. We must do so by first identifying the main cause of our downfall in our business performance and how it has deteriorated to such an insipid state.

Subsequently, we need to come together and unite around shared goals. By doing so, we will be able to close gaps and strengthen as a group.

In short, we need Unity.

Unity is the key, missing ingredient that is setting us back. Likewise, in my entrepreneurial journey, I have found the common feature in various forms of success to be unity. This is true whether it is in the tightly-knit circles of Singaporean Chinese, to relationship and connections-based Indonesians, to protective family-owned Saudi Arabian businesses.

All in all, there is a need to refine our business culture by removing dangerous mindsets that discourage unity. Jealousy, greed, revenge, and distrust are crippling handicaps to the development of Muslim businesses. To remove these deep-seated problems, we must collectively acknowledge and face them. That in itself will bring about greater unity.

A United Muslim Business Community

A unified business community is crucial for survival in the modern, fast-paced marketplace. Consider Singapore, a global trade hub with a highly competitive market. Most businesses there face high costs and intense competition. Unless they collaborate, they will struggle to find their footing amongst the big businesses that dominate Singapore’s markets. They will need to leverage each other’s resources and competencies which will, in turn, enhance capabilities and lower costs.

One way to establish a United Muslim Business environment is through technology-enabled, joint-venture efforts of Muslim businesses.

A strong example of technology-enabled collectivism is in Crowd-funding, a concept where the community collectively invests or donates small amounts of capital to fund startups and businesses. Crowdfunding has been a tremendous success in the west and it is estimated that by 2025, global investment through crowdfunding will reach $93 billion.

The good news is that crowdfunding can be Islamic in structure and spirit. An example of how this can happen is by structuring it as a ‘Mudarabah’ (joint-venture), where the financier or the ‘rabb-ul-mal’ provides funding for the ‘mudarib’, who is the entrepreneur responsible for the full management of the business.

Some may view the idea of a United Muslim Business Community to be naïve, but I am convinced that it is, in fact, a necessary evolution that we need to embrace. The wisdom can be found in our own religious teachings spread by our prophet Muhammad SAW 1400 years ago and was practised by the Muslims of the past. It is time to come full-circle. Success is unlikely to come overnight though, as culture takes time and willingness to change.

Culture, however, is a matter of utilitarian dialectic, and the obvious benefits of being united will soon outweigh the irrationality of being divided, InshaALLAH!

Top 9 Utility Apps for Android Users

Nowadays Android is considered as the most mature platform for the smartphones and Android devices are not bound to being communication devices. With the enormous computational power and the immense number of applications accessible for the platform, many people utilize their Android cell phones as a device for estimation, calculation and to screen a huge number of things.

That is not all; there are different applications and devices for Android, for example, an automation app or say a password manager that can make your day by day life a ton less demanding. After knowing this, if you have made you mind to make your days beneficial with your Android cell phone and you are searching for the best Android utility applications to do that, we have you saved your time.

Here we are listing the top 9 utility apps for Android users.

9. LastPass Password Manager

LastPass is a password management app that encourages you to make and recall passwords. The thought is that you can make incredibly complex passwords and afterwards LastPass will recollect them for you. Not every person is passionate about the organization being purchased out by LogMeIn.

Although, so far LastPass has stayed working quite recently like it generally has. The administration accompanies massive amounts of elements. LastPass Authenticator additionally includes another level of security for the individuals who are tired. You can enjoy the app on your Android mobiles free of cost, or you can pay $12 every year to use it on your other Android devices, including your PC. LastPass Password Manager is at number one in our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users.

8. Smart Tools

The most important application for everyday utilization is Smart Tools and it is at number two in our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users. Smart Tools application gives more than 40 DIY metering tools that can be extremely valuable, similar to a ruler, bubble level, auto speed screen, sound meter, Vibrometer, metal identifier, standardized identification/QR code scanner and that is recently the surface of it. Every one of the scales can be adjusted and it supports both metric and supreme unit formats. The application is free, yet accompanies the promotional ads. Note that a portion of the devices won’t work if your device doesn’t have supporting sensors.

7. Google Translate

The only application for all your language misfortunes. Helpful when you are travelling abroad or when you get yourself confined by the language boundary. You can interpret more than 100 languages by writing or utilize the camera to translate in a split second in 30 languages.

Disconnected languages can also be downloaded on the off chance that you anticipate going to some place where the web will be a touch of an issue. What’s more, since Google’s neural networks control it, you can expect a near human level precision. There isn’t a superior application than this in what it does. Google Translate is at number three in our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users.

6. ParcelTrack

ParcelTrack is an application that enables you to concentrate the greater part of your bundle shipments. It is at number four in our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users. You should simply include your tracking number and bearer, and the application will do the rest. This is an incredible application if you arrange a lot of things on the web. Thus, it’s additionally great if you transport a considerable measure of stuff also. You’ll additionally have a mailbox where you can send following numbers, and the application will include them naturally. You’ll get the many cool features for free with a couple of updates for premium clients. It should bolster most carriers too.

5. Any.do Calendar

Any.do is a perfect and simple to utilize cloud-based To Do List application. The application handles undertaking records, check records, timetables and note bringing with a rise to aplomb. Discourse acknowledgement enables you to stand up new passages only, a basic intuitive framework makes it simple to rearrange undertakings, time and area based updates make keeping track a snap, and errand sharing makes it reasonable for working with gatherings. Flexible and highlight pressed, while maintaining introduction perfect and simple, Any.do makes for a phenomenal expansion to your profitability tools and is at number five in our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users.

4. Mobile Hotspot Router

WiFi Hotspot router is an application that will share your mobile network via wifi it makes your phone a hotspot and you can use your mobile data on your other wifi devices like Laptop and Mobile. WiFi Tether application is also encourages you to know more about your Wi-Fi connection and also your nearby connections.

3. IP Tools: Network utilities

IP Tools: Network utilities is one of the essential apps for the IT professionals and is at number six on our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users. You can change and investigate any system you associate with. You can open your switch’s login page directly from this if you have to alter a few settings. This application takes a shot at Linux mode and can bring IP, SSID, communicate address, portal, arrange cover, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. To check if any system is alive or not you can run traceroute and ping commands to any destination. On account of these elements, you can utilize the application to examine and improve a system quickly.

2. ViewRanger Trails & Maps

Clients doing some course hiking and boondocks investigating can look at ViewRanger, a disconnected mapping, route, and guided trail application for Android devices. The application accompanies an assortment of open source outline, with point by point topographic maps from the USGS, Acuterra and others accessible as in-application buys. ViewRanger utilizes GPS and can spare your maps for disconnected use, with an arrangement for route guides, track recording, sports figuring details and area sharing. ViewRanger Trails & Maps is at number seven in our list of top 10 utility apps for Android users.

1. 3G,4G Wifi Hotspot Router

3G,4G Wifi Hotspot Router application that helps to share your 4G mobile data with other wifi devices can use your wifi network!

This App Broadcasting wifi from mobile network – GPGS/3G/4G free
By using Wifi Hotspot Router application you can make your phone a portable wifi hotspot and now you don’t no need to spend your money on expensive routers.

These were the best and most famous top 9 utility apps for Android users. Hope so you would like these applications. You can share this with your colleagues, friends and family.. SKA!

Why Is My Boss Ignoring My Vacation Request?

New employee asks for time off well in advance, but the boss isn't happy about it...

Workplace Referee is a new series designed to help employees and managers gain better insight into each other's points of view (POV). 

Employee POV: I'm a new employee. I've been with the company for six months. I put in my request for vacation time with HR three months in advance, per the employee handbook instructions. I did that because I'm going to visit my family and I need to buy the plane ticket at a good price. It's been a month and my boss hasn't approved my vacation request. I asked him two weeks ago if I did everything correctly, given it was my first time submitting a vacation request. He said "yes" and that he'd get to it. But, still nothing. Why is he doing this to me?

Manager POV: I am annoyed by how early a new employee is asking for vacation. She hasn't even been here six months and she is putting in for vacation three months in advance. Now I have to ask all the other employees to put in their time because I need to make sure we'll have coverage over the holiday. As the new gal, I had hoped she'd recognize she's the low person in rank and realize she should be available to work over the holiday, if needed. Maybe she's not as committed to the job as I thought. If she asks about her vacation request again, I'm going to be upset.

Who's at fault?

Like most workplace challenges, this one is the result of A) misinterpretation, and B) a lack of communication. Here are two key observations to consider:

1. The boss clearly has some perceptions about seniority related to vacation time during the holidays. However, it isn't a formal policy. As a result, the new employee has no idea her early request is creating frustration for the boss. Additionally, the boss clearly equates asking for vacation so early into a new job as a lack of commitment. Again, this is an informal policy in the head of the boss that the new employee knows nothing about. Thus, while the employee did everything right from a written policy standpoint, she unknowingly broke some unwritten rules in the mind of her boss.

This actually happens quite frequently. Bosses of new employees are always asking themselves, "Did I make the right hire?" And, "Will this employee prove loyal and valuable?" And, for good reason. It costs a company an average of 130-140% of a new hire's annual salary to get them up-to-speed in the first year (i.e. training, benefits, etc.). Thus, when a new employee does something that goes against what the boss views as proper commitment to the job, it creates concern in the mind of the boss that he may have made the wrong hire - even though new employees aren't mind-readers and likely don't realize their actions are giving off the wrong impression.

2. That being said, I do think the new employee should have gone to her boss before submitting the vacation request and explained why she was asking for the time off so soon instead of just passing it into HR. By sharing the fact that she wanted to visit family and needed to book a ticket at a low cost, she could have explained the early request. This (hopefully) would have made the boss more understanding and given him the opportunity to explain that he likes to wait until he gets all vacation requests in so he can make sure those with more seniority get their vacation time too.

What can both sides learn from this?

Employee Takeaway: Before accepting a new job offer, be sure to inquire about the process for vacation time requests and how they get executed. And, if you have a pre-planned vacation within the next 18 months, let the employer know and confirm you will still be able to take it. It's also good to ask if they have a policy on how many months you need to be on the job before you can ask for a vacation request. Having this dialog with a new boss before you accept the position enables you both to better manage expectations AND lets you find out if the company's vacation policies are more strict than what you are accustomed to.

Manager Takeaway: When a new employee does something that makes you question her commitment, step back and ask yourself what policy is being violated. Is it a written company policy, or an unwritten one that resides in your brain? If it's the latter, then you need to have a private conversation with the employee to educate her on your mindset and what behavior you would prefer. Employees can't read your mind. It's up to you to let them know what you expect.. SKA!

Ten Tips to Communicate More Effectively with Customers

Effective customer communication is the cornerstone of any successful business. Dealer personnel who are able to consistently and effectively communicate with their customer base enjoy stronger relationships and increased sales success. However, in today’s world with the multitude of communication channels available – telephone, email, texting, instant messaging, etc. – key effective communication elements are sometimes lost.  In order to maximize your ability to communicate with customers, remember these vital points.
 
1. Listen actively.  Effective communication starts with being a good listener.  Focus on what the customer is saying rather than formulating your response.  Use body language or small phrases, such as nodding your head or saying, “I see” to demonstrate that you are paying attention.  If you are with the customer, maintain eye contact. When the customer has finished talking, repeat what you think you heard to ensure you clearly understood their message before you respond.
 
2. Don’t interrupt. Interrupting your customers will not only upset them, but will limit your ability to communicate effectively.  Allow the customer to finish his/her thought before you respond.  It not only demonstrates respect, but it will also ensure you truly understand the point the customer is trying to make.
 
3. Use easy-to-understand words, not industry terms or jargon.  Using phrases such as “Turnover” or “the Desk” may seem obvious to any automotive professional, but to a customer, you may as well be speaking gibberish.  In order to effectively communicate, you need to use words and phrases that the customer will easily understand. 
 
4. Use professional wording, not texting terms when communicating electronically.  While you and all of your friends may easily understand acronyms like BTW (by the way) or TTYL (talk to you later), those terms may not be as obvious to a customer, thus leading to communication confusion.  Using these terms can also make you seem unprofessional.  As with industry terms and jargon, avoid using texting terms.  Clearly write what you are trying to say.
 
5. Demonstrate courtesy.  It’s very easy to ask questions in such a way that you command a customer’s response.  For example, asking “VIN?” is less courteous than “Can I have your VIN please?”  Although this seems like a simple change, asking questions in a polite and professional way go a long way towards demonstrating high-quality customer service.  
 
6. Use positive, not negative statements.  Customers want to hear what you can do to help them, rather than what you can’t do.  The way you phrase things can directly impact their impression of you, your department and your dealership.  Instead of saying, “I can’t give you your specific rate unless I run your credit,” say, “I can provide you with your specific rate if you allow me to run your credit.”  By addressing your customer with positive rather than negative statements, you can greatly reduce the number of roadblocks you may encounter.
 
7. Be aware of words or phrases that can lead to a defensive reaction. You also want to be aware of phrases that might inadvertently create a defensive or resistant reaction from your customer.  For example, avoid using the word “you” to often. Instead of saying, “You have to speak louder,” say, “I’m having a hard time hearing you.”  By changing the words from “you” to “I”, you help keep the customer in a positive mindset and the communication channels flowing.
 
8. Limit background noise and distractions.  Be aware of what’s going on around you when you communicate.  Are there a lot of background noises or events happening nearby that might distract either you or the customer from fully focusing on the conversation?  If you are in a noisy or busy area, move to a quieter location.  Whether you are speaking with a customer on the phone or in person, being in a quiet location where you can focus will benefit you both.
 
9. Don’t underestimate the value of snail-mail.  In today’s technology-driven world, it’s easy to discount the value of a handwritten note.  However, writing a handwritten thank-you note, mailing follow-up letter or even sending the customer a birthday card goes a long way in strengthening your communication channel with a customer, and in turn, your relationship overall.
 
10. Ask the customer how THEY prefer to communicate.  Finally and possibly, most importantly, ask the customer how they prefer to communicate.  While you may prefer email, the customer might prefer text messages.  Or the customer might have a limited texting plan on their phone, and actually get upset if you constantly bombard them with text messages.  At the start of your relationship with each customer, take the time to ask, “What is the best way to stay in touch with you?  Would you rather I call, email or text you?”  This simple question can go a long way in helping you communicate more effectively with your customers.

Why Start A Business In Bahrain?

Bahrain was lucky. It was discovered and started refining oil long before most of its neighbours. Unfortunately, now, it is forecast that oil there will be the first to run dry and so efforts have been made to diversify the country's trade. Easy come, easy go.

Although Bahrain's economy stands in the shadow of its vaster neighbours, its diversity and openness continues to present a number of opportunities for starting a business or expanding a business. The Bahrainis have been systematically building up the sectors of tourism, metals, transport and finance, which, hopefully, will be able to take the economic weight once oil is no longer a viable source of income.

With highly developed transport and communications facilities, Bahrain is a fast-growing market at the heart of the Gulf. Bahrain has a stable government with progressive attitudes which has helped to mould the country into a well developed economy. There are numerous development projects underway around the country which makes the prospect of starting a business in Bahrain very appealing. Bahrain offers a variety of incentives to the prospect of starting a business and investing in Bahrain including its tax free economy and no VAT.

The Bahrain lifestyle is cosmopolitan and liberal, and there is a relaxed social environment which makes it a popular area with tourists from the region. It's an essentially Arab culture, adopting many of the traditions and cuisines from across the region, an eclectic mix of fascination and intrigue.

Bahrain has many feats to overcome in the near future, but if it the past is any kind of precedent, it will continue to thrive as impressive little economy and investor market.

Economic Overview

Bahrain has benefitted from strong economic growth in recent years and now holds a prosperous economy, albeit small. Its central location in the Middle East enables good accessibility to the world's business market.

Their trade routes to worldwide markets through fast and efficient access by air, sea and road are a big attraction for businesses. Bahrain is also seen as a gateway to the Gulf which has a market of over 100 million people.

Bahrain has the freest economy in the Middle East with a free trade agreement with the US (the US and Bahrain are close allies and Bahrain is the home to the US Navy's fifth fleet) and bilateral trade and economic agreements with 43 other countries. Trade between the UK and Bahrain has increased in recent years. Bahrain's major trading partners are Saudi Arabia, the US, the UAE, Japan, Germany, UK and France.

Bahrain has less dependence on oil than other gulf states and has turned to petroleum processing and refining, as well as transforming itself into an international banking centre. However, despite efforts to diversify, oil and gas are still important to Bahrain's economy and provide much of their exports. In fact, 60% of Bahrain's exports are oil and petroleum. The majority of food is imported with Saudi Arabia as the main trading partner.

Bahrain is home to many multinational firms and the government strongly encourages foreign investment. The emphasis on the development of infrastructure shows the commitment of the government in creating a good base for business. The islands of Bahrain are interconnected by a causeway which makes trade and business very easy and accessible. The highly developed telecommunications also account for Bahrain's success in the business and financial sector.

As a tax free economy, net income is generally more than other European countries; an incentive very appealing to many people thinking of starting a business in Bahrain.

Aluminium-smelting, banking, financial services, ship-repair industries and oil refineries have all been well established in Bahrain. Bahrain has one of the world's largest aluminium smelting plants, and its duty-free industrial areas offer opportunities for all manufacturing industries.

Due to its central location, multi-national companies such as American Express, Citicorp, Investcorp, and Gulf International Bank have all established offices in Bahrain. The real estate market in Bahrain is also becoming more established due to a strong investor demand which is helping the Kingdom's rapidly growing economy. In the Gulf region, Bahrain is regarded as one of the most developed countries in the real-estate sector.

Free Trade Zones
Bahrain Logistics Zone
What are the essentials to know?
Prohibited Activity

The following business activities are prohibited in Bahrain:

Gambling
Alcoholic drinks manufacturing
Narcotics manufacturing
Weapons manufacturing
Cigarettes manufacturing
Import of all waste and treatments
storage and dumping of radioactive materials and toxic waste
Import, manufacturing and dealing of asbestos
Import and industrial use of restricted chemicals
Import of automatic cigarette vending machines
Letter post
Pearl culture
Drilling artesian wells
Internet exchange
The following business activities are only permitted for Bahrainians:
Press, publishing and distribution
Car and motorbike rental
Fishing
Foreign manpower supply
Gas bottling and distribution
Cooker re-filling and repairing
Gas cylinder distribution

What is the business climate like in Bahrain?

Bahrain has a well-trained workforce and English is the business language.

When doing business with Arabs, there is a lot of hard and expert bargaining involved therefore you will need to be very confident about your agreements and contracts. If there are gaps or flaws in your business propositions, Arabs will find them and exploit them. Arabs never offer a direct 'no' to a proposition, if the response is 'leave it with me' or 'I'll think about it', there is a good chance that the proposition will go nowhere. However, you can be assured that Arabs will meet their business obligations fully and the foundations of doing business with them are built on trusting relationships that will continue.

Labour and workforce

The Labour Law stipulates that every employer is required to offer priority of employment to the citizens of Bahrain and then to Arabs next.

It should be noted that employers are not permitted to hire migrant workers or expatriates without valid permits.

Useful Contacts for Setting up a Business in Bahrain

A crucial place to obtain any information regarding setting up business and moving to Bahrain is the Bahrain embassy in the UK:

Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
30 Belgrave Square London SW1X 8QB
Tel: 020 7201 9170 Fax: 020 7201 9183
E-mail: information@bahrainembassy.org.uk
Other places that will provide helpful information are:
The Economic Development Board
PO Box 1129

MANAM
Tel: 973 53388 Fax: 973 531117
Bahrain British Business Forum
PO Box 10051
Manama Bahrain
Tel: 973 229889 Fax: 973 224385

British Embassy Manama, main contact
British Embassy 21 Government Avenue P O Box 114 Manama 306 Bahrain

Telephone + 973 17574100
Fax (Programme / Political Affairs) +973 17574161
Fax (UK Trade and Investment) +973 17574101
Fax (Consular/Corporate Services) +973 17574101
Fax (Press and Public Affairs) +973 17574101
Fax (Visa Application Centre) +973 17215639

12 Tips for Doing Business in the Middle East

Global economic uncertainty is causing some businesses to put the brakes on their overseas expansion plans. But it is precisely this hesitance, combined with the unique business climate of the GCC, which makes now an ideal time to establish your presence in the Gulf region. (Editor's note: the article below was written in 2010.)
The revelation by Dubai World in November last year that it may have to default on some $60 billion worth of loans sent shockwaves through the business world. Dubai, considered a cosmopolitan symbol of new Arab ambition and wealth, was transformed overnight into a castle made of sand in the eyes of the public. Some executives, wary of the possible knock-on effects of a real-estate crunch, shelved plans to expand into a region that is still, in the twenty-first century, something of a mystery to the western business mind.
Rightly so, no one can be totally effusive about the situation in the Gulf, given the publicity around the problems in Dubai. However, it is important to understand that Dubai is one of seven emirates that comprise the United Arab Emirates. The real powerhouse of the UAE is Abu Dhabi - the more conservative, wealthier elder brother to the more adventurous and gregarious younger sibling -Dubai. Following Dubai's financial problems, it was Abu Dhabi that came to Dubai's rescue. Dubai captured the heart and imagination of investors during the glory days of 2002-2007. Although Dubai's economy was built on the back of the oil industry revenues from oil and natural gas account for less than 6% of the emirate's revenues. The emirate's share in UAE's gas revenues is about 2%. Dubai's oil reserves have diminished significantly and are expected to be exhausted in 20 years. When you compare this to Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s large hydrocarbon wealth gives it one of the highest GDP per capita in the world and Abu Dhabi owns the majority of these resources – 95% of the oil and 92% of gas. Abu Dhabi thus holds 9% of the world’s proven oil reserves and almost 5% of the world’s natural gas. Several businesses that established themselves in Dubai over the last decade have now relocated to Abu Dhabi to take advantage of a more secure, yet still dynamic and attractive business climate. Where you choose to start your business operations in the Gulf region depends on what you sell and who you target customers are.
When assessing whether or not to 'go for it' in terms of doing business in the Gulf region, another important indicator to consider and in fact a question many investors and business people ask is, "how easy is it to do business in the Gulf?" The vast majority of expatriate business professionals in the Gulf will recommend investing time and effort to understand the social and business culture across the Gulf. Each of the six GCC countries is unique in their own way, despite several commonalities. Simply transplanting western business practices (however successful you may have found them to be) in the Gulf will not yield dividends. Religion plays such a big role in all aspects of life across the Gulf region and wider Middle East, so spend some time to learn about Islam. Spend some time with Gulf Arabs, pick their brains, exchange ideas and get to feel the pulse of the business and social environment first hand. This will certainly make doing business in the Gulf less challenging. The World Bank also ranks the GCC economies on the ease of doing business by taking a close look at the regulatory reforms that have taken place in the country that make it more business friendly:
EconomyWorld RankGCC Rank
Saudi Arabia131
Bahrain202
United Arab Emirates333
Qatar394
Kuwait615
Oman656

It is quite surprising for those of us who have first-hand experience of doing business in Saudi Arabia to see it perched at the top of the GCC list in the ‘ease of doing business’ stakes. While government reforms have substantially reduced bureaucratic red tape in recent years, doing business in Saudi perhaps more than any of the other GCC countries is about planning, influential connections and above all, patiently working the deal. The real challenge newcomers to the Saudi market face is actually closing deals. The typical sales cycle in Saudi Arabia compared is protracted in comparison to the rest of the GCC and one must be patient. Newcomers to the region can protect their interests in the context of an unfamiliar business environment by a) becoming as familiar as they can with Gulf business culture and ethics; b) acquiring a basic understanding about Islam; c) thoroughly researching the companies they do business with in the Gulf (in particular, the company's track record in dealing with foreign companies); d) securing a reliable local partner or intermediary to guide you early on; d) seeking appropriate legal advice when working on your first few deals.
A cursory examination of the playing field reveals a promising picture of the GCC’s financial climate in 2010 and beyond. Predicted growth of 5.2% by the IMF is well above that of most western countries still recovering from the global financial crisis. Oil prices, the foundation of the Gulf economy, are expected to remain above $75 a barrel throughout the year compared to $30-40 in early 2009, and new initiatives such as the Bahrain Chamber of Dispute Resolution are typical of a region keen to bolster investor confidence and encourage innovation across all sectors. A prime example of this ambition is the opening in January this year of the Samsung Medical Center in Dubai, a state of the art facility that adds health tourism to the great and growing list of sectors in which the GCC now competes at the highest level.
There are two main factors that make the GCC an attractive market for expansion in 2010. The first is that in a time when most banks are still throttling lending, the liquidity provided by rising oil prices gives companies operating in the Gulf more freedom to maneuver. The second factor is decreased competition from cautious competitors in superficially uncertain economic times. Every business leader worth their salt knows that the best time to be bold and invest is when your competitors are hesitating, allowing you to grab a larger slice of the market.
This is surely the view of South Africa’s popular ‘Spur’ chain of steakhouses, currently stealing a march on their competition in a crowded field of franchises by launching their first GCC restaurant this month in partnership with local experts AMA General Trading. No less than four new malls are set to open in Abu Dhabi this year, catering to a growing tourism industry and rising numbers of ex-pats settling in the region, and those folks will need somewhere to eat. They will also be safer than ever thanks to the Abu Dhabi Police Department’s recent deal with Canadian security tech firm EmerGeo to supply emergency and crisis management software. EmerGeo are one of many hi-tech companies enjoying fruitful relationships with local GCC partners, in this case Atlas Telecom. Atlas also works with EADS, Ultra Electronics, Marais Group and Harris in bringing international expertise to GCC markets.
High-tech, logistics and professional services in particular are all booming markets in the GCC, where the rapid expansion of businesses in so many diverse sectors is creating a need for much more developed infrastructure, support services and supply chains. As much as $150 billion has already been committed to infrastructure development in the GCC, which will in turn propel substantial growth in logistics, legal, accounting and other supporting fields of expertise.
For those considering filling that need this year, and indeed anyone contemplating expanding their business into this flourishing market, the most important thing to remember is that in the GCC, it’s not what you know that is important so much as who you know. Connections make or break deals in this part of the world much more than any other. If you have good friends working with you in the region, you can find that the normal rules of business are bent or broken to accommodate you. If, on the other hand, you approach the GCC markets from a strictly formal business perspective, you may find that doors which should logically be open are well and truly locked.
I remember one of my first business experiences in the region, when I worked solidly for months putting a deal together only to have it snatched away at the last moment and handed on a plate to the cousin of the General Manager of my prospective client organization. I had done all the hard graft and developed the entire blue-print of the solution my client was looking for. Little did I know that was just lining someone else’s pockets. Naïve, inexperienced Western business professionals can easily fall into this trap. In the Arab World, all business is personal. Once you have stepped onto the playing field in full awareness of this truth, you can actually use it to great advantage.
With this in mind then, I offer you my twelve top tips for doing business in the GCC:
1. Be careful when selecting and managing local partners. Gulf Arabs are charming to the core. The idea of signing a strategic partnership or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which is a regional favourite, with a foreign company is very appealing, and thus several less reputable Gulf-based companies will readily agree to become your local partner without necessarily thinking about your expectations of them and the drive to help and support you sell your products and services. Whilst there are several benefits to working with local partners and it is in fact compulsory in many places, do not rely on being flooded with leads and new orders. Local partners can be difficult to manage and generally high maintenance. The best way to approach a partnership is to look for commercial synergy between the two organizations and intellectual synergy between the people from both parties. How does your business compliment the local partner company and what difference will it make to the local partner to be aligned with your firm? What are the incentives for the local partner to help and support you and are these incentives considered a big deal? Can your would-be local partner really open doors for your and do they have the resources and intent to flex their political muscle (if any), or leverage their contacts and market position to help secure new business for you? Have you clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of both partners and is there a clear buy-in from the senior most management tier in the local partner company? Be sure that the people you will be working from your partner company are like-minded individuals with a clear understanding of their operational roles and responsibilities. Always maintain regular contact with the senior most management team in the local partner company. Keep them up-to-date with progress and inform them of good news as well as bad. If you confronted with bottle-necks, give them an opportunity to remove them. The likelihood is that the news they are getting from the inside is that all is hunky-dory. You must ensure you secure and maintain mindshare with the management at all times. You do not want to be working with middle-managers and other staff who you are finding difficulties in working with. It is in your interest to spend some time establishing a rapport with key contacts and stakeholders both personally and professionally, so that you’re confident the partner is someone you can definitely work with before you sign anything. If a Gulf-based organization comes recommended by a foreign company, lawyer or law firm or somebody you know professionally and trust, that’s a good base to work from.
2. Business and personal friendships are one and the same, and Arabs generally prefer to do business with people they know and like. Small talk is more than just a courtesy; it is a way of finding out whether you would be a suitable business partner. Engage in conversation freely and enthusiastically, and have a few stories in your back pocket to break the ice.
3. Gulf Arabs are exceptionally proud of their language, which is a strong, uniting bond right across the Arab world. Learning at least a few words of Arabic is an easy way to demonstrate that a relationship is personally important to you rather than just another business deal. Your effort will be greatly appreciated.
4. Gulf-based organizations can be many-tiered and difficult to penetrate. If you don’t have a business associate or influential friend who can help you find a way into a prospective customer, consider hiring a professional intermediary with clout to save you time, money and frustration in identifying and reaching the real decision makers you want to target. If you can contact one of your prospect’s existing suppliers/vendors or an individual they have done business with in the past, form a ‘sales taskforce’ in order to clinch a deal and avoid bottlenecks, so much the better. Teaming up with experienced, local business people and firms to close a big deal makes a lot of sense.
5. Decisions can take a long time, probably longer than you’re used to. Don’t be impatient, as this will reflect poorly on your character. Be flexible and prepared to accommodate shifting schedules. In fact, patience is the most valuable virtue you can demonstrate throughout your business and social life living and working in the Gulf. You can learn to demonstrate this most precious quality in the most frustrating of business situations, you will surely reap the rewards.
6. Body language is just as important as the spoken word. Your opposite number may be telling you with a raised eyebrow, reclined posture or tone of voice that it’s time to change tack. Your instinct will usually be enough to guide you provided you’re on the lookout for non-verbal signals.
7. Arabs will often speak in vague terms, generalities, stories and metaphors during negotiations. This is not a calculated effort to irritate you, but rather a method of dialogue that allows for communicating ideas without causing anyone else around the table to lose face. Insulting potential business partners through blunt demands or rejections can be fatal to a deal. Be subtle and always promise to consider requests. Likewise, you’ll need to make double-sure everyone in the room understands exactly what is on the table. Arabs may not ask for clarification for fear of losing face, so it’s up to you to make sure every angle is covered. Nobody will sign a deal they don’t fully understand. I recall a key business presentation I delivered many, many years ago in Saudi Arabia. I came out feeling on top of the world hoping to get a Purchase Order the close of the quarter. This was sometime in February. To my dismay, I discovered that my counterparts were expecting to get back to me by the last quarter! The moral of the story is don’t be fooled by several faces seemingly nodding in agreement with you. Avoid overloading senior Gulf Arabs with information. Keep it short and simple, delivered in bit sized pieces. Take extra care and time to ensure you have been understood.
8. The best way to communicate is always face to face. If this isn’t possible, make a phone call. The written word is considered less personal and less important, and you could find your letters and e-mails go unanswered for some time if you don’t at least follow up by phone. This is certainly the case with email. Some countries, like Saudi Arabia, don’t really do serious business by phone with Westerners, so a personal visit is your only option.
9. Know your host. The GCC countries share a common history and culture, yet there are also many differences in terms of their social outlook and approach to business. Treating all Arabs alike smacks of arrogance, and coming across as arrogant is just about the worst thing a western business person can do in this part of the world. If in doubt, err to the cautious and take your cues from the locals. It is always worthwhile hiring an intermediary to help guide you. Local chambers of commerce in the country you are in or a reputable local law firm can always help you out. The trade office of your homeland embassy will also be a smart port of call.
10. If you’re just starting out in the Gulf region, it’s a good idea to put together a few small, quick deals to see which companies are serious about doing business with you. If you want to do business with a particular company and see immense potential for significant business, just hang on before you go and pitch for a mega project. Aim for the low-hanging fruit first. Suggest pilot projects or try and close smaller deals. Once you have established a true meaningful relationship with the client, and have got them to part withsome money, you can be more comfortable in spending your time and resources on the more strategic, high-value deals. Remember the story I told above about negotiating a time-consuming deal, only to have it snatched away at the last moment due to favoritism? Working with local partners to grab some ‘low-hanging fruit’ is a great way to get an accurate view of the landscape and enable you to better target your energies in pursuing bigger prizes.
11. Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security by warm hospitality and civilized negotiations. Arabs can drive as hard a bargain as anyone else, so you should be prepared to be tough, yet respectful. A senior dealmaker will often demand concessions from you in order to demonstrate his authority, so be prepared for plenty of give and take even at a late stage in negotiations.
12. Saudi Arabia is the Golden Goose, but Saudi is a challenging place to sell your wares and deal making in general. Business visas can be difficult to obtain, issued at the discretion of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Saudi Arabia and also local Embassies and Consulates. You may think you have all the paper work in place for a 6-month multiple-entry business visa and end up with a 30 or 60 day visas stamped when you open up your passport! Letters of Invitation now come through electronically via the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs web site. Invitations must originate from reputable companies in Saudi Arabia. Officially backed companies tend to face fewer problems getting people into the Kingdom. Once you can get into the Saudi market, the wealth of opportunity is well worth all the jumping through hoops.
If your business plan is solid, you’ve done your homework and you’re prepared to embrace a unique social and business culture, 2010 is shaping up to be a great year to take the plunge in the ambitious, rapidly-expanding economic zone that is the GCC.

20 Best Small Business ideas & Opportunities in Dubai UAE

What are the best small business opportunities in Dubai? Are you interested in starting a business in Dubai but you don’t know the best business to start? Do you want to know what it takes to do business in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)? Then read on.
The United Arab Emirates is a business hub. Its commercial capital, Dubai, offers easy access to the 1.5 billion consumer markets situated in Africa, West Asia, CIS countries, Eastern Europe, as well as the neighboring Middle East countries.
Dubai and Qatar are some of the Arab countries people are trooping to now because of the favorable economy and job opportunities there. However, this article is not about finding a job in Dubai; it is about starting a business and creating jobs in Dubai. Now who should start a business in Dubai and why should people be encouraged to start a business in Dubai?
Well, running a business is definitely not for everyone; whether you are setting up in Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc. if you lack the guts, initiative and passion to run a business, you will never succeed regardless of where you find yourself.
Why You Should Start a Business in Dubai
  • Dubai is one of the topmost destinations for business people and investors in the whole of the Middle East. The government policy and the state of the art infrastructures support the growth of small businesses, as well as large corporations. Business opportunities in Dubai are not just open to the citizens of United Arab Emirates, but also to foreign investors as well. As a matter of fact, the foreign investors are wooed into Dubai because the presence of foreign business is a major boost to the economy of Dubai.
  • There are many free trade zones in Dubai and that is why commerce and trade is at its peak in Dubai. People come from far and wide to shop in Dubai simply because they tend to get cheaper goods there.
  • Setting up a business in the UAE is very easy and straightforward. With progressive, forward-thinking policies by the government, the UAE encourages foreign investors to invest in the oil-rich country. In the UAE, investors are granted incentives and the procedures for setting up new businesses have been simplified by the government.
  • Another reason why UAE – Dubai, in particular is a fertile ground for businesses is that taxation is minimal and mostly non-existent. Only three sectors are significantly assessed in taxation – oil, banking, and tobacco processing.
  • The government of Dubai has a long-term plan that focus heavily on growing new businesses. In this way, their economy will be supported for years. They have business laws that are really favorable. The tax-free environment is ideal for new and emerging businesses.
So if you are looking to invest in the UAE, then you will have no problems in terms of setting up your business. But there’s a need to know the best markets to invest in. without wasting time, below are the top 20 business opportunities in the UAE that will guarantee investors quick returns and long-term profit:
20 Best Small Business ideas & Opportunities in Dubai UAE
1. Construction
New buildings and structures are being erected in the UAE with each passing day. This opens a huge door of opportunities for engineers and other professionals in the building and construction sector. Similarly, investors can set up businesses that manufacture or sell raw materials used in building and construction.
2. Oil and gas
This has been the mainstay of the country’s economy for several years. And much of the riches presently enjoyed by the UAE can be attributed to the country’s oil sector. Despite being exploited for years, the oil sector still has enough room to accommodate new investors. Interested entrepreneurs can start their own businesses from scratch or partner with existing businesses.
3. Financial services
Because there are many large-scale businesses in the UAE, there is a proportionately huge demand for professionals that offer financial services – such as accountants, bookkeepers, and auditors. If you have a solid background in any of these financial specialties, you will make lots of profit by starting a business that offers financial services to businesses in the UAE.
4. Foods and snacks
Food businesses thrive everywhere and at all times. And the UAE isn’t an exception to this fact. There’s always a high demand for foods and snacks. So, you can make lots of cash in the UAE by starting a business that sells fast foods and snacks.
5. Healthcare
Like in other developed countries, the people of UAE are health conscious, and they show great concern for their health. This trend has led to an increase in the demand for professional healthcare service providers and facilities. If you are a healthcare professional looking to start a private business, the UAE is a very good place to establish it in.
6. Security
Even though there are less security concerns in the UAE than we have in most other developed countries, individuals and businesses aren’t taking chances with their assets. This has led to a rise in demand for security guards as well as security devices.
If you don’t have what it takes to set up a business that renders private security services, you can still make money in the security sector by selling security devices such as alarm systems and surveillance cameras.
7. Transport
There are huge opportunities in the transport sector because of the ever-high demand for transport services. Investors have the option to start a local taxi service or a trans-city transport services company.
8. Environment
Due to the rapid growth palpable in the UAE, various activities such as construction and industrialization are causing huge damage to the environment. And the people are becoming more aware of the benefits of protecting their environment. So, there are huge opportunities in the UAE for green living advocates as well as businesses that offer various environmental protection services such as waste recycling.
9. Tourism
Dubai is one of the world’s most preferred vacation destinations. And this explains why there are many five-star hotels in the city. UAE hosts several thousands of visitors every year, and this opens huge opportunities for businesses that cater to tourists in one way or another.
10. Energy
While there are enough players in the UAE’s energy sector, there are opportunities for businesses that help to maintain the various energy generation facilities available in the country. So, if you are looking to invest in the UAE, energy facility maintenance is one option you should consider if you have the required expertise and capital

Best Small Business Opportunities in Dubai

11.  Trading
Traders from around the globe usually meet in Dubai to exchange goods and services. The phrase “exports and imports” is very common since the people’s major source of income is from trading. You can actually export or import any marketable products such as dried fruits, textiles, fashion materials and accessories, plastic goods, and vehicles.
12.  Business Franchises
Business franchising is a new concept in Dubai. Due to a huge expat population as well as mixed preferences of the people living here, this concept is working really well for some years now. You can get a business franchise in the fast food industry as this is one of the fastest growing industries in Dubai.
13.  Travel Agency
Since Dubai is one of the major tourist destinations in the world, a travel agency is a good business to start. Millions of tourists will be going to and from Dubai annually. The total population of the place is also heavily packed with expats from various countries.
14.  Jewelry Making and Retailing
Dubai is known throughout the world as the “Mecca of Gold” and the so-called “Dubai Diamonds” are always sought for. You can setup shop as either as a jewelry maker, bead maker or jewelry merchant.
15.  Specialty Schools – Since Dubai is full of expats of various nationalities, specialty schools are needed. You can think of any kind of granular specialty school and make some money out of it. This is a business opportunity that you can consider now.
16.  Childcare Facilities
Majority of the population in Dubai are working class professionals. Now when both husband and wife are working professionals, they usually turn to a childcare facility to care for their youngsters. You may contemplate on this one, too.
17.  Real Estate
Dubai was once a desert but not anymore. Believe it or not, real estate is one of the biggest industries in the country. Construction firms often race for projects in various segments including housing, industrial, and logistics among other construction project categories.
18.  Bars, Entertainment houses and Night Clubs
Dubai is a country is full of busy people and what do they do when the afternoon bell rings to signal the end of the working day? They spend some time together to have a drink or two to get rid of the stress from the daily grind. You can setup a night life entertainment scene especially for expatriates.
19.  Job Agencies
Another hot business opportunity in Dubai are job agencies specifically for skilled laborers. With a fast growing economy, a lot of skilled employees are needed to keep industries in various sectors going. The country is in terrible need of accountants, IT experts, nurses, engineers, and construction personnel among many others.
20.  Multi-Level Marketing – There are tough laws against pyramid schemes in Dubai. But once you acquire the government approval on your business, the opportunity is unlimited.

Starting a Business in Dubai UAE – Important Facts You Must Know

In as much as starting a business in Dubai is considered to be very lucrative and rewarding, it is also a risky venture especially if you are a foreign investor. Being a foreign investor means that you would need a citizen to partner with in Dubai before you can be allowed to float a company and the citizen (partner) will own the lion share of the business.
If you intend starting your business in Dubai, then you must ensure that you play by the books or else you will lose your investment. There is little or no room for shady business to survive in Dubai. Over and above, you stand the chance of making huge returns on your investment in Dubai if you follow the right channel before establishing your business. Here are some steps you need to follow if you want to start your business in Dubai;
a. Conduct Your Feasibility Studies
No doubt Dubai business environment is open to people of all races and culture, but nevertheless, it is important to follow due process before setting up any business. One of the most important steps that you need take is to conduct your own feasibility studies; you must have a good knowledge of Dubai if you intend maximizing profits. Just ensure that you conduct your market survey, study your competitors and design strategies that will help you survive as an investor in Dubai.
b. Write Your Business Plan
Investing in a foreign country is serious business; hence you would need a viable business plan. As a matter of fact, your business plan will not just survive the purpose of providing guide for you, but also it will help you attract foreign partners. You would also be required to submit your business intention to the regional governing body in Dubai for approval before you can be granted business license to operate.
c. Seek for Local Business Partners (Citizen of UAE)
Before establishing in a business in Dubai as a foreign investor, you are required by the law to have a local business partner; a citizen of UAE or a local company in Dubai. Besides having a local partner, the law also ensures that the local business partner owns majority of the share.
So, ensure that you scrutinize various local partners before making your choice. Local partners can end your business anytime they so desire especially if they are greedy and selfish. The rule of thumb when sourcing for local business partner is to go through the local chambers of commerce (Dubai Chambers of Commerce and Industry). This is one of the laws that are under serious review because it is not encouraging to foreign investors.
d. Raise the Required Startup Capital (Financial Commitment)
Before you can be allowed to invest in Dubai, you will be required to show the government of the region that you have the minimum amount required in your account. The required amount ranges between $10,000 and $50,000 and this is subject the review by the different fee zones in Dubai.
e. Leverage Free Zones
There are various free trade zones in Dubai and these areas are favorable to foreign investors. If you setup your business in a fee trade zone in Dubai, you will be granted exemptions from import and export duties, commercial taxes, land tax, building and property license fee and restrictions on the transfer of capital invested in the free trade zone.
f. Register Your Business
You are expected to have fulfilled certain requirements before approaching the ministry of commerce in Dubai to register your business. If you are not clear about what to do, you can consult an attorney who is specialized in helping foreign investors register businesses in Dubai. There are loads of them there and their fee is moderate compare to what is obtainable in New York, Milan, Tokyo and London, et al.
g. Promote Your Business
If you are able to successfully start a business in Dubai, then you would have to promote your business via all the available platforms. For example if you own a hotel in Dubai, then you should take advantage of tourist magazines and relevant online medium to advertise your hotel.
Doing business in Dubai would be one of the greatest achievements you may have attained when you follow through on these tips. Be sure to stay current by always researching ways to horn your business skills for the better.