Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Many small Chinese firms are based at Dragon Mart, a shopping emporium that houses about 4,000 Chinese businesses. Paulo Vecina / The National
Many small Chinese firms are based at Dragon Mart, a shopping emporium that houses about 4,000 Chinese businesses. Paulo Vecina / The National
Many small Chinese firms are based at Dragon Mart, a shopping emporium that houses about 4,000 Chinese businesses. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
Many small Chinese firms are based at Dragon Mart, a shopping emporium that houses about 4,000 Chinese businesses. Jumana El Heloueh / Reuters
Pritam Mirchandani, the head of business finance at RAKBank, left, has helped a number of Chinese traders gain financing including Qun Zhao of Sky Land, right. Jeff Topping / The National
Pritam Mirchandani, the head of business finance at RAKBank, left, has helped a number of Chinese traders gain financing including Qun Zhao of Sky Land, right. Jeff Topping / The National

Dubai magic for dragon economy expats

Building Brics: China's small businesses are presenting a lucrative opportunity for the UAE's banks, who are cashing in on a need for loans and yuan-denominated corporate accounts.

Qun Zhao's first-floor office in Deira is stacked to the rafters with treadmills, massage chairs and barbells in boxes and plastic coverings.

Top Sky Land General Trading - a wholesaler of gym equipment with a yearly turnover of Dh20 million (US$5.4m) - is the kind of small business that operates with little fanfare but which has thrived in Dubai.

Such businesses are presenting lucrative opportunities for UAE banks, too. As more Chinese firms arrive, the opportunities for the banks that service them are growing rapidly, says Pritam Mirchandani, the head of business finance at RAKBank.

The number of Chinese businesses has grown from a handful of clients when RAKBank first began targeting small businesses, to about 10 per cent of the bank's portfolio.

"This is one of our best segments, [it] has grown very fast," says Mr Mirchandani. "Most businessmen would go to China and buy from there. We saw there was a large number of such customers and they had a need for banking solutions, so we set up a very small Chinese business centre with about four Chinese-speaking staff members."

Until Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) established operations in Dubai in 2008, no Chinese banks had a presence in the Middle East. But since 2010, banks including HSBC, Standard Chartered and Mashreq have all targeted Chinese businesses with yuan- denominated accounts.

Ms Zhao set up the UAE arm of her family business with her husband in 2001, the first unit of the company outside mainland China.

But she says she and her husband faced an uphill battle in convincing retailers that goods manufactured in China were of equivalent quality to those produced by western brands.

It was not easy, requiring offers of free home delivery, one-year warranties and access to service technicians to change minds.

"After one year, they felt it was very good - Chinese quality they can trust," she says.

Often the problems were relatively minor, such as failing to plug in equipment or removing security tags. But the first few years of dealing assiduously with customer complaints quickly presented another challenge: the language barrier, given Dubai's many expatriate residents.

"If students have good language skills, they don't become technicians," she says.

But from small beginnings, the company has grown to a staff of 30, with customers including Sharaf DG and Carrefour.

In many cases, their purchases from Sky Land's factory in Zhejiang province, just south of Shanghai, were the first they had made directly from a Chinese company.

"We felt that Dubai was an international city, so it can connect quickly with north Africa and south Africa," she says. The emirate's ease of shipping goods was also an attractive quality."

And compared with the difficulty of doing business in Europe - as a result of the continent's economic quagmire and difficulties in gaining entry - Dubai is seen as a more welcoming business destination for companies from China.

Many small Chinese firms - including Sky Land - are based at Dragon Mart, a shopping emporium that houses about 4,000 Chinese businesses and which is in the midst of an expansion drive that will see it double in size.

ghunter@thenational.ae

 

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Would you like it in blue? An Afghan shopkeeper shows a burqa to a customer at a bazaar in Herat. (Aref Karimi / AFP /  April 13, 2014)

In pictures: Best business images for the week to April 24, 2014

Here are some of the best business images for the week to April 24, 2014.

 Room with a view from one of the 21 duplex penthouses located in the Gate Towers sky-bridge. The sports courts and swimming pools can be seen below. Courtesy Alda

In pictures: Aldar’s Gate Towers Penthouse Collection on Reem Island

Aldar launched its Gate Towers Penthouse Collection at Cityscape Abu Dhabi. The launch features 21 penthouses spanning the skybridge, with each having a private indoor pool and incredible views.

 Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2014 will run until April 24, 2014. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National.

In pictures: Cityscape Abu Dhabi 2014 opens
at Adnec

Key developments and master plans are being unveiled at this year’s property exhibition in the capital.

 Marina Square apartments Reem Island: Q1 2% rise. Studio - Dh65-68,000. 1BR - Dh75-95,000. 2BR - Dh110-145,000. 3BR - Dh170-190,000. Q1 2013-Q1 2014 no change. Sammy Dallal / The National

In pictures: Where Abu Dhabi rents have risen and fallen, Q1 2014

Find out how rental prices in the prime locations in Abu Dhabi have altered during the first three months of the year and the current rates you will pay according to data provided by Asteco.

 The Wind, Energy, Technology and Environment Exhibition takes place from April 14 to April 16. Above, the Dewa showroom during last year’s Wetex. Jaime Puebla / The National

April corporate and economic calendar for the UAE and overseas

From Cityscape to Wetex to stock-market holidays to nations reporting first-quarter GDP figures, here is our helpful calendar of April's business events in the UAE and internationally.

 Get the latest information on credit cards, bank accounts and loan products in the UAE. Mark Lennihan / AP Photo

Rates report: Latest on UAE loans, accounts and credit cards

Souqamal.com brings you the latest interest rates on banking products in the UAE.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National