Invest UAE
Neha Thomas, Head of Marketing, Creative Zone, explains why timing is opportune to start a business in the UAE Image Credit: Anas Thacharpadikkal/Gulf News

Investing in the UAE isn't just a trend — it's a goldmine of opportunities, according to Neha Thomas, Head of Marketing at Creative Zone. Speaking at the fireside chat on Gain the Edge: Why Now is the Right Time to Launch your Business, Thomas exuded confidence about the unparalleled growth and ease of starting a business in the UAE. The fireside chat was a part of the Invest UAE seminar organised by Gulf News at the Taj Dubai, Business Bay.

"People are coming here from across the globe," she says. "If you ask me if today's the right time, I would say yes, even if you asked me yesterday or tomorrow. The UAE economy shows no pause in growth, especially over the last five years."

Thomas highlights the surge in real estate transactions and the streamlined process of obtaining business licenses. "It's so much easier to start a business now," she explains. "You can get your license in 24 hours, 12 hours, or even two hours. However, the trade license is just the beginning. What comes after that involves compliance, tax, accounting, banking, and visas."

The government’s numerous incentives and the presence of angel investors create a fertile ground for new ventures. "In my network, there are people ready to invest in promising ventures," Thomas notes. "It's about finding the right network and opportunities. Creative Zone focuses on creating an ecosystem and community."

At Creative Zone, Thomas believes they have cultivated a unique culture that supports new businesses. "You can sometimes tell in the first meeting whether someone will make it," she says. "Basic preparation is crucial. You should have a proper structure or business plan. There's a lot of investors out there. If you have a minimum viable product, you can pitch it to investors and secure funding. Entrepreneurship is not for the weak. Many businesses close within one or two years. You need grit, discipline, and commitment."

The company’s initiatives, such as the Startup Circle, provide mentorship and networking opportunities, crucial for navigating business challenges. "Speaking to like-minded individuals and mentors helps," she believes.

Thomas acknowledges that fear often holds people back from starting their own business. "There are a lot of 'what ifs.' What if I don't generate the required revenue? What if I end up in debt? It's easier to be an employee with a steady salary. As an entrepreneur, you face many challenges, from compliance issues to generating core business revenue. However, overcoming these challenges is key to success."

She highlights significant trends like AI, big data, blockchain, and sustainable businesses. "Free zones like DIFC offer incentives for startups to register here. The focus on new technology and green projects is growing. During Covid, we saw a surge in e-commerce, which is now balancing out."

With around 75,000 clients, Creative Zone has restructured its brand to offer a comprehensive platform. "Business setup is just the beginning. We provide services for visas, corporate tax registration, office space, media marketing, and more. Our goal is to create a community and network," Thomas says.

Creative Zone also places significant emphasis on female entrepreneurs. "We run initiatives such as She Leads, an accelerator program, and events such as She Talks, promoting networking and support for women," she explains. "We received around 300 business applications and provided intensive mentoring to shortlisted candidates."

"Creative Zone is committed to supporting all entrepreneurs. We provide a platform for collaboration and promotion, ensuring our clients can succeed and grow," she adds.