Possibilities in ecommerce or other online-related ventures are what is drawing more women in the UAE to set up their own business. Special packages offered by free zones and other jurisdictions are helping them take those first steps. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Now could well be the best time for a woman to launch a business in the UAE, with free zones and other jurisdictions competing to come up with the most accessible ‘Women Entrepreneur Packages’.

Not just that, the cost of licenses for certain categories of business enterprise has also been reduced, in the hope that more women will be convinced to take on the role of a business owner. At the same time, the local licensing authorities are also giving them the flexibility to decide how they want to go about conducting their business.

“Many are veering towards ecommerce or some other online venture,” said Robin Philip, Director for Assurance and Business Advisory at A&A Associates. “Women are offered special packages to start their own business – this is helping many families with a dual source of income, especially if the lady of the house was not working earlier.

“Some free zones are even offering licensing packages for those who have lost their jobs or have had to close their business operations. The UAE Government and free zone authorities are extending full support to new entrants so that they can tap into opportunities and explore all the possibilities open to them.”

The UAE marks 'Emirati Women's Day' on August 28. 

  1. SHAMS (Sharjah Media City) Free Zone has come up with schemes that help interested women to start their business. A general trading plus ecommerce license costs Dh5,750.
  2. The Sharjah Research Technology and Innovation Park (SRTIP) offers trading licenses starting at Dh5,500. Their zero-visa package starts at Dh5,500 and a 1-visa package from Dh14,500.
  3. IFZA in Dubai offers the lowest business license package starting at Dh12,500.
  4. For mainland licences in Dubai, there are 'instant licenses' starting from Dh10,500. (The cost of establishment card. Emirates ID and status change costs separate.)

Summer of promotions

In recent weeks, various free zone jurisdictions have introduced special promotions to convince more wannabe entrepreneurs to go ahead and launch. Or at least apply for a business license. Masdar City’s free zone in Abu Dhabi set down a marker by introducing a package for Dh1,000.

“The pandemic has revolutionised the business set-up scene in the UAE, with new norms coming into play,” said Philip. “We are seeing a great surge in ecommerce businesses as the preferred option to start a new business. More than 50 per cent of the business licenses we are procuring cover ecommerce. It is also heartening to see women taking up the challenge and harness opportunities.”

Sticking to the mainland

It sure seems like it. As had happened immediately after the global financial crisis of 2008-09, the startup scene in the UAE was an immediate beneficiary as residents adjusted to the massive changes that came about in their professional lives. Someone suddenly finding themselves without a job would take those steps to launch something on their own.

Much the same is happening now, with the pandemic playing the role of change agent. And women are right up there when it comes to new business launches.

“Dip into your own savings or get help from the husband or other family members – that’s always the easiest way to get the funds,” said the owner of a newly minted business that designs and crafts furniture. “We leased space at a warehouse in Al Quoz – the drop in rentals for commercial property has also benefited new businesses immensely.”

Any which way one looks at it, this is about the best time to get into launch mode with a new business. Start planning...