x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Indian franchises seek passage to UAE

Companies from India see potential to cater for huge expatriate market in Emirates

Indian franchise businesses meet with potential investors at Franchise UAE in the Dubai Business Village yesterday.
Indian franchise businesses meet with potential investors at Franchise UAE in the Dubai Business Village yesterday.

The Emirates is home to a multitude of international brands, but lesser-known players from the Asian subcontinent are also set to make their mark.

The launch yesterday of Franchise UAE, hailed as the region's largest franchise and retail show, was dominated by Indian entrepreneurs looking to bring their brands to the UAE.

More than 50 businesses are exhibiting at the three-day event, in sectors including food and beverages, education and jewellery, with Indian concepts making up 85 per cent of the total.

Mana al Suwaidi, the commercial attache at the UAE Embassy in New Delhi, said the Ministry of Foreign Trade was trying to foster relations in business between the two countries.

"We want to bring entrepreneurs from India to directly meet entrepreneurs here and facilitate trade," Mr al Suwaidi said.

The UAE's leaders have placed strong emphasis on the need to build young business leaders, he added.

The country has a large population of expatriate Indians, a market many entrepreneurs at the event were aiming to capture, particularly as most of the brands in the Emirates are from Europe and the US.

Gaurav Marya, the managing director for Franchise Middle East, the organiser of the event, estimated nearly 60 per cent of the UAE population is from the Asian subcontinent.

"The business is Franchise UAE, so anything that is ready for this market we would like to bring in, but not necessarily just from India," Mr Marya said. "India is a strength area because there are large brands that are already established."

Gitanjali Group, listed on the Mumbai Stock Exchange and one of India's biggest jewellery companies, aims to bring its brand to the UAE through franchising.

The company runs a joint venture in India with Damas, the Gulf's biggest jewellery company, but it will not use that relationship in the UAE, said Karthikeyan Vishnu, the vice president for retail at Gitanjali.

Mr Vishnu said Gitanjali was looking for entrepreneurs to set up individual units, for investors in a chain of stores, or for joint-venture partnerships with large companies.

Gitanjali hopes to open 20 stores in the Gulf region this year, with at least five in Dubai's big malls, he said.

Abdul Baset al Janahi, the chief executive of Dubai SME, an agency of the Department for Economic Development (DED), said the UAE's new strategy was to promote home-grown brands and bring in other brands from the region and the Asian subcontinent.

"Part of initiative is to attract small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) franchises to Dubai," Mr al Janahi said.

"With beautiful ideas coming from India, it will help our entrepreneurs to find new business opportunities - opportunities that are developed, have been tested and are ready to be marketed."

Arun William, the business head at the Indian food retailer Colonel's Kababz, said despite being a relatively small business in Delhi, with just seven restaurants, the company wants to expand to the UAE.

"It's people from the subcontinent of Asia we are targeting," Mr William said.

"Primarily the cuisine is barbecue items from northern India, which has now become popular globally."

Franchisees using the Colonel's Kababz brand will have to pay 5 per cent of revenues a year to the company, with the initial investment varying depending on whether a take-away or restaurant is established, Mr William said.

rjones@thenational.ae