x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Ambition in UAE gets a kick-start

The Life: Emirates NBD launches the Al Tomooh Scheme, Arabic for ambition, which provides Emiratis with start-up funding for small and medium-sized businesses, has an aim to match its title.

Majid al Yousuf of Emirates NBD says the Al Tomooh Scheme encourages Emiratis to come up with creative business ideas.
Majid al Yousuf of Emirates NBD says the Al Tomooh Scheme encourages Emiratis to come up with creative business ideas.

Its name means ambition in Arabic, symbolising the drive that exists in every entrepreneur.

And the Al Tomooh Scheme, which provides Emiratis with start-up funding for small and medium-sized businesses, has an aim to match its title.

"Our objective is to encourage the UAE nationals to start their own businesses, to come up with creative business ideas, to be self-employed and reduce the dependency on jobs and expand the economy," says Majid al Yousuf, the deputy general manager and head of corporate banking at Emirates NBD.

"It's our contribution to the creation of a strong economy based on national owned and managed businesses."

The initiative, the brainchild of the bank's chairman, Ahmed Humaid al Tayer, provides up to Dh2 million (US$545,000) in funding to entrepreneurs.

Loans are interest-free for the first three years and can be taken over a maximum of eight.

Firms that receive funding also benefit from the support of government and semi-government organisations in the form of waived or reduced fees.

The scheme has provided Dh49m of finance to 119 projects across the Emirates since it was set up in 1998.

"We finance small national businesses and help the entrepreneurs to develop their ideas, so what we do is we try to give them the opportunity to start their own business and make this ambition become reality," says Mr al Yousuf.

All national-owned businesses are eligible for Al Tomooh financing, but entrepreneurs have to show they will be able to compete with existing companies.

"We look at the market status and market appetite," says Mr al Yousuf. "Some sectors now are facing very high competition. It's worth mentioning today that there are new markets coming up like the foodstuffs and services where there is high demand, so this changes from time to time.

"For example if the entrepreneur or the applicant has the knowledge, skills and a clear understanding of the business he is proposing or the project he is entering into, of course if that sector is high competition we expect some kind of uniqueness that will differentiate him from the others to be able to penetrate the market and also compete with the others. But we finance all types of businesses."

The scheme has provided capital for everything from agriculture projects to advertising companies, and even a "spa" for cars.

"Most of them come with creative ideas and uniqueness and they have a full knowledge of the business, which we really appreciate and most of the projects that we have financed are successful," says Mr al Yousuf.

"We guide and teach them through the implementation and we don't only look at the business, we also look at their competitors. We understand their competitors and the external environment.

"Very, very few projects face difficulties but we always work very closely with them to help them overcome those obstacles and medicate the weaknesses."

Only a handful of companies that received funding ran into difficulties and were unable to continue, and there have been many successes, such as N.Bar, which is aspiring to expand its nail bar salon into international markets.

Salem bin Dasmal, the chief executive and managing partner of The Grooming Company, which owns N.Bar, says the company partly owes its success to the support it received from the Al Tomooh scheme.

"Al Tomooh was there to assist us when no other entity or programme existed to support local entrepreneurs with their business idea," he says.

"That was exactly all we had, an idea, but Al Tomooh listened and backed us completely, enabling us to open our first branch of N.bar at Palm Strip.

"They continued to support us until we became too big and were subsequently transferred to their corporate banking division within the bank.

"We will always be eternally grateful for their trust in us and undying support."

business@thenational.ae